'Well she's just the friendliest out of the group, isn't she? Regular beam of sunshine.'
Vitus commented dryly.
The trip had been rather uneventful, save for the two of them nearly getting jettisoned from the cart when the orc sat down. One of the downsides to being a small child; it was way easier to knock them around or launch them like a catapult...which didn't happen frequently
, but once was too much for his liking.'And you're not bored already? Half of this thing isn't even here.'
Liv chimed. The initial view of the site was exactly what she'd expected. A shipwreck. On land, it seemed. At a distance, she could really only come up with one word for the entire endeavor. Boooooring. Regrets over the mission choice had been quick to form, but a few key things had managed to catch the warrior's attention. Drag marks. Footprints.
Very, very not human
footprints. 'If we don't getta nice fight outta this...''Then I'd say everything went according to plan.'
Vitus interrupted.'According to plan? What kind of boring plan is that?!''The boring plan where I don't have to spend a thousand souls regrowing an arm.'
Despite her best efforts, Liv couldn't restrain the small huff of indignation at the thought of doing a job that was literally just scavenging for lost goods. The girl did nothing to pretend that it wasn't directed toward their temporary mentor's flippant behavior, but still did as they were commanded. After all, they were on a job, and if she
came across some hostile entities first... A faint, predatory smile seemed to grow at the thought. "Guess it could be worse than this."
Korgath dropped out of the cart, grunting as his legs popped from sitting in the constrained space. Landing beside Kitty in the soil bordering the sandy portion of the beach, the wagon whined in protest, briefly wobbling at the weight difference. After a few days of travel outside of the city and with a good meal of venison captured just two nights ago, the orc felt like a new man.
Truthfully, he had lucked out on that deer. He still couldn't believe that the entire city was closed, food production-wise, right after he had said he would cover a meal for the group. There were times when Kitty was a touch unreasonable, but this time she was an absolute blessing. After all, what is a Pack that does not eat together?
His traveling companions were strange ones, though they had not exactly had much time to talk. Kitty seemed to like the small employer man, which was enough for Korgath for now. He didn’t seem like a hunter or warrior, but he was paying, which meant the fluffy one did something that served somehow or another. The other ones, though… they were odd. The girl with scale armor seemed to be named Liv, but she struck a bizarre chord. It was like she was never entirely there, and that unnerved the hunter. The male, Alexander, seemed to be confident enough, but was cold and did not speak too much. It would not matter so long as he did his job, but it did seem to make campfire meals slightly awkward, at least as far as Korgath could tell. Finally, everything about this Leonore woman seemed to rub Kor the wrong way. She did little, she looked too fancy for what she was, and her sword was a toothpick. Blech. Still, maybe she was hiding something. After all, near as he could tell, Iron Rose was a place based on merit, not nepotism. Surely she would be lower than B-rank if she couldn't handle herself?
The orc ignored the posh woman as he stepped down from the cart, the entire affair turning slightly to the side before rocketing past its original position. Truthfully, it didn’t seem like it was built to handle the weight of two adults, the weight of two children, and one fully grown orc. Regardless, he walked over to the steer and briefly rubbed him down, massaging the creature's muscles as Kitty paced nervously beside them both. The wolf had only helped the group hunt a single deer in the last week. She was ready for some action, and the steer was ready for some rest.
Clearing his throat, the orc turned towards the group, his husky voice low as he glanced towards the bluff. “So, strange tracks. I see no blood, but no corpses either. Fluffy employer, do we know how many days ago this ship crashed? Also drag marks from crates, but not boots. Monsters, do we think?”
His hands hovered over armor in the back of the cart, considering the chain shirt. At this point, he was already wearing the leathers and iron knuckles, not to mention sweating profusely. The sun was much stronger here in the Southlands."Maybe. Maybe not."
Alexander replied, as he suddenly appeared behind the orc, looking at the trail. As the cart arrived to its destination, while Leonore was being ignorant of the surroundings, the green haired girl, who apparently was named Liv, along with Korgath, was busy examining the track, Alexander had already finished overviewing the wreck. Immediately, he knew that something wasn't normal. For a normal shipwreck sight, it was just too abnormal.
The disappearance of the treasure was pretty predictable, as the trail of footprint, and the dragging in the sand made pretty solid connections. What made the scene so abnormal was the ship itself. The ship definitely wasn't a small dinghy. The wooden frame size wasn't very large, but definitely wasn't small and for the entire ship to get stranded on land was a strange sign. Moreover, half of the ship was gone. Alexander hadn't taken the liberty to examine the water, but from the looks of it, the disappearance of half the ship was all in all strange. There should have been some traces of wood in the water to not catch his attention"I'm not sure about the official record of the day the ship crashes, but judging by the broken wooden frame of the ship, which is not layered in heavy moss. Its density can suggest us the time of the crash. I would suggest around a week or less."
Alexander then bent down to look at the footprint. It's littered all over the place, and its shape and sizes were very irregular. The marks left on the sand had the shapes of the W letter, or like the front of a cow's footprint. But within all those littered footprints were a recognizable pattern. That there wasn't only one creature, but many of them. And they had indeed spent some times examining the ship, walking around it for a while before actually taking their treasures.
So it could mean that the creatures had taken it to the lair, which was led accordingly to the trail left behind. But there were a few details that could be worrying. That trail. The footprint. It looked very familiar. Alexander could tell for sure that he had come across such creatures in his book, but unfortunately, his memory was limited. But he could tell for sure it was from the book Senreku, written by Siune, about creatures of this region. But which exactly, he could not remember...
The rocking of the cart after Korgath jumped out shook Ahnci awake from having been sleeping off the fish stew and potatoes he'd gorged himself on back at the guild hall. Annoyed stirring after being abruptly woken up quickly gave way to confusion and redoubled distress as he noticed the scene.
Ahnci vaulted from the cart and ungracefully collapsed for a moment before quickly recovering and rushing out ahead of the group with his arms outstretched in exasperation. "Eit vahs just a day or two ago! How...?"
he barked in frustration, noticing the ship. "Zee ship, too? Come on!"
he continued, arms falling back to his sides with a groan. Looking back over his shoulder at the group, he pulled his hood down to better take in the scene. In truth, he'd lost track of time and was not completely sure how long it'd been since he washed up on shore, but it certainly did not feel like long ago. "Grr, fine...eit cannot be helped"
Ahnci sighed, pacing and running fingers through his hair as he looked over the scene, taking time to kick down a small impression of sand from where he had awoken. It was up the shore a short ways, farther than what the tide could have carried him as if something had carried him to that spot. "Iz...monsters, ah?"
he asked, mostly stating the obvious though keying in on a likely useful detail. "Zehy ver...green, e-ehn like fish?"
he offered, having gotten a good enough look at the beasts while being chased off with stears and nets."This does not sound like people to me."
Korgath shoved his axe into his belt, sheathing Skinner-Gutter and leaving the chain on the cart. "Employer Ahnciel, why not tell us exactly what you remember? That way we know what to fight, and Observer Leonore can be rid of us sooner.""Fish?"
Alexander jerked his head. As if something clocked inside him.'You don't say...'
His mind spoke.
Obviously, there was no way Ahnci was going to tell them everything as it would make him look like a thief. Questions about what he was doing on the ship and where he was from could land him in trouble...or that was at least what his paranoia insidiously whispered of. "Eit...ah...eit vahz early evenink-" I sat up, surprisingly sore from the pressure of a section of rubble having landed on a series of bruises. After recomposing myself upon the conclusion of heaving sea water from my lungs, I had an inelegant cheering fit. FREE! I was free! I was free and they were dead! I did it! I was never going back to that hellhole and nobody could make me, not in a million years! I would kill whoever I pleased if they even whispered a notion of such lunacy.
However, this was quickly broken by sounds growing from down the shoreline. I just barely had time to turn and notice the monsters crawling over rocks before a harpoon sailed right by me. They were rapidly approaching and I grabbed what I could before hurrying off. Between myself and the hideous fish people was the master's bow! It was mine! I earned it, but...the number of those creatures were growing by the second. There was no doubt they would catch me if I went for it. I was forced to abandon my prize...
"-Ehn I saw the wreck. Zehr ver bodies and boxes...ehn zeh horrid fish people eating corpses and dragging off crates. I left vehn zehy noticed me" Ahnci lied, having not actually seen any corpse-eating take place but expecting something of the sort from the ugly beasts. The lack of bodies was convenient in this lie, though surely such activity would have left a mess unless the tide came in to clean up. He looked over to the trail of cargo being dragged over in the direction of the distant rocks. "So much iz missink, zehy must not reside too
far away" Ahnci mused, resting his hands on his hips.
'Fish people? Gross.
' Vitus remarked, going over the situation in his head. Er...their head. There was something that didn't quite make sense to him about the whole situation.How the hell does anybody steal an entire half a boat? That seems like a lot to steal.
The W shaped footprint. Fish people. That only fit one certain species.
A part of Alexander was relieved that they weren't especially dangerous. Theoretically. They were only C-ranked, that meant that the group would be able to fend them off easily. But a part was still confused. The shipwreck. How come half of the ship was still missing?
But still, there was still a task at hand: recovering the supply. Figured that the entire group would have to barge into their lair for this, Alexander decided that it would be best to gave them a brief description of the creature."The guy here had reminded me. I knew these creatures. They are a certain scavenging species known as the Sahuagin."
He began. "To my readings, they are...well, scavengers, and are not much of a threat unless we are breaching into their realm. So it is pretty much confirmed that they had taken the goods on this ship. But the problem is that to retrieve it, we must enter their territory."
He placed a hand on his chin as he looked to the trail's lead."I don't know about their weaponry, tactics or cooperation, but I know that they are C-ranked threat within their cave, so we should be able to handle them well. And since they are fish, expect them to have scales or bones as weaponry."
The orc stepped back up to the cart, reaching towards the weapons on his belt. His mouth curled into a frown and he cocked an eyebrow, the same expression a noble's daughter, fresh onto the scene, would wear when unsure of how she should feel about a glass of wine. "Scholar Alexander, they are people? I am confused, and this is needed information. I would not be rude to them."'Fish monsters? That doesn't sound like something we can eat.'
Liv gave a mental frown, matched only by the traces of a physical one that formed at the information that they were receiving. Only C-ranked, if Alexander was right, meant that they weren't going to be a particularly long or good match. The only upside was that if, if
they ended up having to storm through some monster territories, surely there would be at least one or two fresh, newly departed souls to add to her--goddamn it, their
. "Kiiiiind of have t'be a little rude if we're going to get the job done."
Understatement of the century. A little
rude implied that they were going to try and be diplomatic about the entire situation. That, Liv acknowledged, was unlikely. "I don't take it our scaley friends will wanna share."
A pause as Liv glanced over the wreckage again. No corpses. Apparently eaten by said scavengers--a little odd, considering they took the time to go ahead and steal half the damn ship. The entire
ship. "Lookin' at this shit, must be plenty of 'em. Got pretty much everything and half the ship too."'I wonder hoooow many of those we'll be able to add to our collection. Or how those monsters taste. Hmmm....' 'Probably most, and probably not great. Monsters don't tend to be a good source of eating, or there would be a lot less of them.'"Sounds like fun.""Not all are monstrous size, but generally, they won't be friendly. But don't go all the way and kill them all. They are a species after all. Nevertheless, if they go too far..."
Alexander didn't want to finish his point to Korgath, but if it was a necessity to the common goal, it had to go through.
He returned to the cart and placed a few of his books back into his bags, and left it there. All he brought with him was his prestigious one-handed crossbow."I'm ready when you are.""...I will take my tools just in case, then."
Korgath stepped away from the cart, buckling the final touches of his armor on. From the sound of things, the Sahuagin weren’t people nor beast enough for the etiquette to matter. Then again, things were strange and different here in the Southlands. Better to be safe than sorry.
While the hunter struggled with the etiquette of the kill, Kitty sniffed frantically along the beachline, something obviously piquing her interest. Whatever it was, she had a decent scent on it, and was ready to go. Korgath could get behind that. “The longer we wait, the more cargo rusts and rots. Come. Observer Leonore, is it within your powers to protect our cart? Or is that also part of our job, not something you will do?"
Leonore didn't respond. Rather, she shrugged and lifted her hand. A strange fire emerged from the tips of her fingers as a ball of fire seemed to take form in front of her. The ball quickly dropped to the ground, rolling around the cow and cart. In its wake, it left a scorched circle. The charred ground seemed to burn and flake as if it was embered. Just by looking at it, one could tell that it would be a bad idea to cross the line. As the ball dissipated, the flames on Leonore's fingers dulled. She walked over a large rock overlooking the surf and leaned against it."Well, have at it,"
she said. She had expected them to leave a lot earlier. After all, Sahuagin had a rather nasty reputation for eating things that weren't food.
Ahnci looked lost as the human gave a name to the things he saw after landing. Details of their tendencies were interesting, though lent little to the actual goal of retrieving the salvage...salvaging the salvage? Who knew how much of it could be ruined by now, but something would certainly pay for a very specific article if it was damaged.
Though he felt such heat, the motions of Korgath donning his armor and Alexander arming himself put it into perspective. This was no simple smash and grab, the crew was going to war. For a moment, Ahnci's hopes rose in favor of Leonore by her light that burnt a ring around the cart and its beast of burden, half expecting her display to hint that she had intentions of being useful. "Killink?"
Ahnci asked, taking a few steps to follow the tracks and watching Alexander for confirmation. "Zehy are beasts, but...I szought..."
he began, unsure of what he had thought. The way the 'sow-hog-in's were played up made them seem unagreeable at best, and known to be a pest with little redemption. Still, enough blood had been spilled for the damn crossbow, already...though this was obviously becoming about more than just a crossbow. There was no way or reason Ahnci had to explain the point of the task without seeming selfish and base. It was a catch-22 that he couldn't back out of, but thankfully had 'heroes'
to do the heavy lifting.
It did not
sound fun in the least, but surely it would be interesting.'I really don't like her.' 'More fun for us though, right?'
Stretching herself out, Liv glanced between the preparation of the others, fingers tracing lightly over the space where her soul gem rested, lingering just beneath the scalemail. It wasn't time yet, but the girl felt a sense of warm comfort wrap around her as she delved just beneath the surface of the waiting souls. Familiarity at the motion and the feeling of magic coursing up and through her veins like blood as the warrior started walking, her pace slowed to give ample time for the others to start their motions too. So much talking
and not enough doing
. Ugh.'God you're impatient''C'moooon, we just have to follow the tracks, right?''Some of us don't like walking into strange situations blind. Surprises are less fun when they start lopping your arms off.'"Can we walk and talk about that? I, for one, want to have something to salvage."
Korgath shook his chain shirt once, secure in his armor before following Liv along the tracks. "We do not have to kill them all, just some. Then they will understand. Or not. But probably yes."
Kitty walked beside him, hackles raising as they made their way to the bluff jutting from the beach.
Expecting that everyone had finished their preparation, Alexander simply followed the group down the track. It didn't really take long before the group reached the cave, and by the time he reached it, the iconic and fishy smell had rushed to his lungs. A clear sign that they were about to trespass into new and potentially very unpleasant land.
Slowly, the group approached the cave entrance, ears and noses perked, weapons ready. It was time for some spelunking.