“He was like, ‘you can’t fire me, I quit,'” Harry said of our long-departed bard. I was in the water, Helli was on the deck with Harry, and Felegum had abandoned ship shortly after Awk became Big Toad-Awk. Suddenly, Zeno’s decision to step into the mouth of the water beast seemed less impulsive and more like good strategy.

The Wind’s Pride had cracked in two under the assault of a pair of giant water tendrils freshly emerged from the lake, and with its slow sinking seemed to also go any hope we had of rescuing the ship.

Harry drank a healing potion and Helli stabbed the water before hiding and trying to make herself look small. It seemed pretty effective.

Dronie, meanwhile, continued to slap the water where the water tendril had been. The little dude did not even seem to notice that the thing was gone. Which, fair– it wasn’t like you could really tell that water apart from regular water anyway.

As pointless as getting back aboard a sinking ship seemed, I had to try. I had priorities. Unfortunately, the boat also had priorities of being really slippery and impossible to hold onto, and I fell back into the water. The tendrils continued to attack Harry and the boat, and the dragonborn drank another healing potion as Helli stabbed the water once more and I finally, managed to crawl into the boat.

I was going to call out for the lizard, but I didn’t need to. It was already running on its hind legs toward me and scurried up my leg back on my shoulder. This was good, because it made it easier to grab and force the Potion of Water Breathing down its throat. Not like, the whole thing, but a lizard-sized mouthful.

If the ship was going down, this lizard was not about to go down with it.

And it’s not like I could’ve left it on shore. I don’t think it would have even let me.

Anyway, it looked like it had gotten something and then I drank the rest of the potion. Here we go.

“Dronie, your master is dying!” I tried my most convincing voice. “Go get him!”

The monodrone continued to slap the water with his little sword.

“Well, that was worth a shot,” I muttered to the lizard. I guess we’d just have to get Dronie… later.

The water splashed on the deck again but Dronie and I were able to avoid it. It must not have been trying very hard because Dronie was really not putting much effort into anything other than attacking that one spot of water.

I cocked my head and thought about it.

“It’s so slippery here!” Helli called as she crossed the deck.

“I know,” I said, as Harry was once again consumed by a water tendril and drank his Potion of Water Breathing. Somewhere on the other side of the ship, a weirdly conical piece of ice bobbed up.

Yikes. I had a feeling I knew where that came from.

Helli and I exchanged a look, the mutual rogue expression of “shit has gone sideways and it is now time to blow this turkey leg stand,” before she cannonballed into the water. It was unfortunately not very impressive, even for a little gnome.

I glanced at the lizard. We were the last ones on the Wind’s Pride and it seemed sadder, emptier. How many other ships and crews would have been willing to take us out to the middle of the merpeople-human disputed territory? They knew ships had been destroyed before and they didn’t think it would happen to them.

An apothecary shop, colored bottles gleaming on a window. Herbs dried from ceiling rafters, and child played with dust motes on a woven rug. Everything was bright and clean, a house of illnesses defeated.

No one ever thinks it’s going to happen to them.

The lizard blinked at me, expectant. I shook it off. A lot of people did stupid things, that was all.

“Hope this works,” I said.

Then I stepped off the side of the ship as cavalierly as possible. What, it’s not like the water tendrils were going to give me crap about it later. Besides, sometimes I like a bit of flourish. I didn’t get this athletic for nothing.

On the way down, I tried to grab one of Dronie’s appendages– ideally one that wasn’t waving a the sword– and couldn’t. I just stepped out into nothing.

And to add insult to injury, instead of looking cool, I landed on my face. Swearing in a string of bubbles, I shook off the pain. Something was definitely wrong with the water here. It was broken, there was no other reasonable explanation for why everything kept getting messed up.

Underwater, it was difficult to see as much. Dronie somehow ended up in the water with me and the lizard, despite me not pulling him in, and he seemed to be descending at a rapid rate. Maybe Felegum had summoned him back after all. I could see a dark shape that looked Harry-like that appeared to be attacking water, and then something that could have been Toad-Awk, but you never knew.

Dronie’s descent slowed, which was good, since it almost seemed like he’d been–

Something grabbed my leg and pulled.

Bubbles escaped my mouth. Of course, the tendril monsters would still be under here. Could this day possibly get any worse?

But I’d danced this dance before. Pulling free, I checked on the lizard. Still here, still looked normal, though maybe it was too soon to tell. We kept swimming.

I watched a shadow that I assumed was Big Toad-Awk carry crew members to the surface–to what, I have no idea, I assumed the ship was lost at this point–and Harry continue to pound on water that was probably a tendril monster.

I was just about to experience a moment of gratitude that I’d escaped it when something in the water grabbed me again and I was once more pulled into that thrashing mess of water. This time, with Dronie.

It was nice to see someone familiar, but I didn’t want the lizard getting stabbed by the monodrone’s blade, which Dronie was continuing to slash at nothing with.

As I fought to get free, a very familiar voice echoed from far below us. “YOO HOO!”

Except that it wasn’t just a single “YOO HOO!”– it was an unending chorus of “YOO HOO!”‘s and if anything could have compelled me to get out of an invisible tendril, it was 1) the threat of immediate danger to my lizard, who had done nothing to deserve this, and 2) an extreme desire to find Zeno and exercise whatever force I needed to in order to make him end this torment.

For a second time, I broke out of the water tendril. The lizard had not enjoyed the experience anymore than I had; its little claws were digging into my neck as it held on for dear life, terrified. It hurt, but it was good to have the feedback that the little guy was alive.

Slowly, I swam down farther and this time I was able to see Helli swimming a short distance away. The incessant “YOO HOO!”ing stopped, thankfully. My wings were still present and emitted a gentle glow, and below me Zeno, Felegum, and Harry all rolled around in weird unison near the lake floor.

Harry punched out wildly and hit Zeno instead of the water thing. I shook my head at the lizard.

Felegum froze another block of water into ice, this time on the tendril, and the cube floated slowly upwards to the distant surface.

Harry looked up and saw me. “I punched a dude!” He burbled, then pointed up questioningly.

I pointed around to our other party members around us, remembering after the fact that Harry was the only one of us who couldn’t see in the dark and probably had no idea why I was pointing everywhere. I sighed and landed next to Harry.

“Do not fear, Quincy,” Zeno said to the captain, “the heavens have sent you a guide.”

I sighed in an explosion of bubbles and dismissed my wings. Then I cast Light on my back so that Harry could see where we were going, because I wasn’t a total asshole.

A giant toad appeared and Zeno put a hand on his heart in mock-horror. “That’s not a mermaid!”

Toad-Awk was no longer Big Toad-Awk, but he was still a very large toad. Zeno apparently had spent his extra underwater time well and found a cave, so we went in that and found some dry land. Quincy informed us that there were extra potions on the ship should we need them, and wanted to know if his crewmates were okay.

Awk tried to do a frog thumbs-up. It sort of worked.

Helli looked out at the wide stretches of water ahead in the cave and sighed. “I’m pretty tired of swimming.”

She had not, apparently, had much trouble on the way down.

“I would like to make sure my crew is okay,” Quincy said, nervously looking back toward the cave entrance.

“Are you okay to do that?” Helli asked. She had an excellent point– he was looking well and truly worse for wear.

“I have to be,” Quincy replied. Felegum decided that he would swim back up to the surface to bring down six more of the potions for us, since it was likely we’d need them to get back, as well as accompany Quincy. Awk went along too, still a toad.

It seemed like they had an uneventful time up there–just a lot of helping to heal people as the crew made rafts out of the wreckage.

While we were waiting for Felegum to come back, we noticed that the sand floor here was completely devoid of shells. Weird. You’d think that maybe there’d be some accumulation of sea (lake?) detritus here, but it was completed picked clean.

Anyway, Felegum came back and distributed potions. “Did you get our payment?” Helli asked.

“Well,” Felegum said, “we’re not done. Dronie, time check.”

Dronie rattled off some sequence of beeps that made sense to Felegum, I guess. The potions were good to work for about an hour, and it sounded like we had around forty minutes or so left. We swam through some water, onto some dry spots, and then came to an open area with two barrels, a spout, and then four statues of merpeople with a chalice between them.

We swam over and read the inscription. It wasn’t written in Common but we could still understand it: That which is offered must be drunk to gain entry.

Felegum inspected various things for magic. The barrels, inscription itself, and probably the chalice. Zeno inspected the spigot and, thanks to his worldly knowledge of beer manufacture, was able to determine that this was a relatively uncommon setup for brewing a mixture of spirits.

Felegum and Helli tried walking through the passage to get to the chalice surrounded by statues, but instead about halfway through a set of magical blades materialized and sliced both of them in the water. Once across, Helli attempted to find a physical aspect to the trap so that she could disarm it.

“Hey folks,” she said a short while later, “can’t fix it.”

Zeno dumped what remained of his wateskin out, put it to the spigot, and filled it. Then, he took a drink. “Tastes like a good double,” he said appreciatively and stepped up to the hall of blades.

“No, don’t do it.” Helli waved her hands.

“It’s okay!” Zeno called back. “I drank the pee.”

Unfortunately, this did not seem to be enough– the blades still came out and sliced him. Harry tried another method and also got hurt. Awk, and I exchanged looks. He was still a toad.

Awk made to do a keg stand, so I turned the valve for him, watching as his stomach filled up. It…did not make me enthusiastic about trying to get past this after him. Even more disheartening, the blade trap also sliced and diced him, though Toad-Awk didn’t seem to mind as much. He bleched out all the water in his pelican-like toad throat-punch in Zeno’s face, but Zeno didn’t seem to mind.

“I’m engulfed and it’s heavenly,” the bard said. Meanwhile, Felegum tried to concentrate the rest of the expelled toad-beer over the chalice. It didn’t seem to have an effect, but I was proud of him for trying. He also froze the areas of the water where the blades kept appearing in an effort to maybe mitigate the pain.

Zeno strode over to the massive door beyond the danger-blade area. “Yoohoo, I have drunk your drank! Let me in!”

Nothing happened. I headed over to the barrels and checked out the table in front of them. On it was another, regularly-sized chalice. I picked it up, held it as best I could under the spigot, and turned the valve. This was all happening underwater so I wasn’t really sure how much beer was going into the cup, but I drank it anyway.

Given Zeno’s comment earlier, I was expecting it to taste really bad, but it actually seemed fine. It was…actually pretty good.

Really good.

“Guys,” I called out, “have I told you how awesome my lizard is?”

Oh, and that blade thing? No problem. I sailed on through. No slicing, no dicing.

Harry was there on the other side of the blades and then I felt a little bad since there he was, just getting beat up in the dark. I cast Light on him too, right on his chest. “I’ll be your light.”

He gave me this weird look, but whatever. Now he could see! He couldn’t before! This was me, solving problems.

Then Felegum wanted to go back across the slicey part with me, so we did that and it was fine. Helli was shouting something to me about needing to fill the cup up again and bring it back, which was a lot of stuff to remember, especially since it was hard to get any of the beer into the cup to begin with.

Since I was taking a little while to figure out the cup thing and Felegum was impatient, he got his magic beer water first and then crossed back through on his own. As I filled the chalice, deeply concentrating on this important task, the sound of ice being cut into tiny cubes filled the water.

Felegum swore. Once I was done, I managed to walk through with no problem. All the little ice pieces floated upward through the water around me like small cold, geometric fairies. “Wow,” I said, admiring them, “look, no blades keep coming out! Wonder why.”

Helli seemed super insistent that I pour the magic beer into the chalice, so I did that after Felegum had finished pouring the contents of his waterskin in. It all got sucked in and there was a lot of weird rock shifting.

“Yoohoo,” I called to the door, and it opened. “Guys,” I said turning back, “did I tell you my lizard has a name?”

Helli smiled patiently. “What’s your lizard’s name, Set?”

I laughed. “I can’t tell you because it’s a secret.”

Then the doors finished opening and three giant mer-creatures with huge tridents and sour expressions greeted us. Zeno tsked. “Where are all the beautiful ones?”

His bagpipes actually sounded pretty good under the water though.

“Guys, watch this!” I yelled and swam next to one of the giant dudes, lighting him up with a Thunderwave.

“Great,” Harry said, “now we have two Awks.”

Felegum kept up his ice kick, Awk tried to toad-bite one of them, and I got tridented, but whatever. I got to zap another one and Zeno was like “we didn’t pay the ten hit point cover to come in here and see you uggos” whatever that meant. Harry breathed out some bad stuff and Awk bit again, and Helli was cheering and you know, it was just good. We did a great job.

We had one mer-dude left and Helli was debating what dagger to stab it with. “I wish I had magic,” she said.

“Helli, use the Nasty Dagger!” I yelled and flashed her a thumbs up. “Do it! Do it!”

“I don’t know what it does yet!” She called back.

“Why do you even have the Nasty Dagger if you don’t use it?”

“It’s okay, it’s fine!” She stabbed it with a different one and whatever.

Then Felegum emitted a tiny ray of frost.

“More like ray of frostee,” Zeno said and then mocked the enemy dude for missing hitting the giant toad. Harry punched it, I sliced it, and then Awk swallowed it whole. Like 100% horked it down, one gulp and donezo. The only thing left was its trident.

Moment of silence.

“Dude,” I said reverently to the giant-ass toad, “that was metal.”

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