"No!" cried Faith, running to Ardan and checking him. With relief she found he was still breathing, but shallowly. "He's not dead."
Twila had run further up the passage to check on Thysmac.
"He's still alive," she said with relief. "What about Compel?"
Before Malut could answer that he didn't know how to check and see if a warforged was alive, they heard a great scrape and a splash from the room behind them. They turned to see a huge sahuagin emerging from the water. He looked around at the bodies of his minions, then roared.
"You will feel the wrath of Kiv Nerl!" he shouted. "These were my people; you shall be punished! No one shall honor your bodies by eating them, as there will not be enough of you left to consume!"
Faith recognized the voice who had yelled at them when they were protecting the Cannith Crystal. It was the same sahuagin.
Twila, Malut and Faith were forced to leave the bodies of their comrades and defend themselves against the huge sahuagin. He was a seasoned warrior and a powerful fighter but there were three of them and only one of him. Twila stabbed with her rapier but he backhanded her, hitting her wounded arm. She cried out in pain as she fell back against the wall. Malut swung his greataxe again and again while Faith tried to remember her lessons on dodging attacks while still trying to land blows.
Suddenly Kiv Nerl stiffened and let out a roar of pain, then fell over dead. Twila pulled her weapons from his back, showing no emotion.
"Sneak attack for the win," she said grimly.
They returned to the hallway to see Compel sitting up but not moving.
"Thank Dol Arrah you are ok," said Faith.
"I will be," Compel said slowly. "Warforged who are not killed outright usually will regenerate enough to revive. Please, help the others."
Twila remembered her bracers of aid, quickly tapped them then touched Thysmac. His eyes fluttered open.
"I'm ok," he said weakly.
"You'd better be," Twila warned him. "I can't believe you got knocked out so easily."
"I was just napping," joked Thysmac. "I knew you wanted all the glory. Seriously though, we were attacking Jacoby and backing up as we cast our spells, Ardan was shooting him with his bow. Jacoby took us down one by one. He was tough. Is everyone else OK?"
Malut touched his wrist, then Ardan. Ardan's eyes opened slowly.
"Mama?" he said. "I'm going to sleep in, I"m not feeling well today..."
"You're ok, little buddy," said Malut who then hoisted the halfling onto his shoulder. "Let's take you to the shrine."
The statues with the glowing flame and moon were just up the hallway and everyone but Compel and Thysmac used the shrine this time.
"Don't you want to use the shrine to feel better?" asked Faith.
"I have used it already," answered Compel. "The magic that rejuvenates us has to recharge so it's not available for Thysmac or I yet. Don't worry, we'll be fine when we reach the tavern."
"Have some of this," Malut offered, slopping up another ladle full of stew.
"My friend, you have got to be kidding," said Thysmac, peering into the cauldron. "Not even thrill-seeking Twila is going to take a chance on that muck. What is that smell?" He made a face and pulled away from the ladle Malut was pushing towards his face.
"Smells good," said Malut, putting the entire ladle into his mouth, then gulping down the steaming contents. "Second helping for me."
Ardan had hopped up after resting and had run down to the cavern at the end of the tunnel. He returned with a report.
"There's another water passage down there, no doubt. It also looks like possibly a hole in the roof that leads to somewhere out in the Korthos wilderness area, but I couldn't really tell where it might come out. There's a wood grate blocking the water tunnel. I imagine the mayor will send someone down to investigate that soon. How's about we see what's going on up on the topside?"
The group retraced their path and soon found themselves back in the Wavecrest. Sigmund, Askel and Gunnar Bauerson were cleaning up the tavern, taking out all the broken wood and tables and sweeping. The sounds of fighting outside were gone.
"What'd ya find?" asked Sigmund. "Did you get that weasely Drexelhand?"
"Drexelhooey is dead," Malut reported.
"Your tavern cellar is the end point of one of the longest sahuagin tunnels we've seen yet, Sigmund," Compel informed him. "We killed some sahuagin and cultists down there as well as Drexelhand and a sahuagin he was waiting for who called himself Kiv Nerl."
Sigmund whistled. "Kiv Nerl, you say? I've had a few run-ins with him back in the day. Can't say that I'm sorry to hear that one has passed on."
He moved around behind the bar and put out steaming bowls of soup for them.
"How is the rest of the village?" asked Ardan. "Did the gates hold?"
"Aye, they did," answered Gunnar. "Most of the sahuagin came up out of the harbor this time but we routed them pretty well. I can't imagine there's too many of them left out there that want to take us on anymore. We've turned the tide, I do believe."
"You all have some food and stay here as long as you need until you feel better. It's safe for you to return to your huts and get some rest for however long you need. I overheard Master Garant say lectures and training for tomorrow would have to be cancelled. I'll make sure Master Garant knows about the passage and your work so that you get credit for advancement."
"Thanks, I've eaten," Malut informed Sigmund. Twila shuddered.
They all thanked Sigmund, ate their soup and headed off to bed, feeling exhausted but victorious. Faith remembered their was something she was supposed to do... Kaja. She had to tell Kaja that Lars was not in the crypt... she would do it first thing in the morning...
Faith awoke to a sharp rapping on the door of her hut. Twila was already on her feet and pulling the door open. The bright light of late morning streamed in, temporarily blinding her. There was a lot of noise outside, people moving and voices and other things Faith couldn't quite process yet.
"I'm sorry to wake you; Pa told me not to," Kaja's voice came from the door.
"Come on in," said Twila, stepping aside to let Kaja in and the two of them sat on Twila's cot.
"Something terrible's happened, but I have to know about Lars," Kaja's face was a mask of apprehension. She wanted to know, but she didn't want to know.
Faith shook her head. "Nothing, we didn't find him or any trace of him."
"But that's good news," Twila encouraged her. "It means he might still be out there. There is still hope."
"I know," Kaja agreed slowly. "It's so hard not knowing."
"It is, I know," Faith tried to sound comforting.
"Well, honestly, that's neither here nor there anymore is it? The big news today, besides the sahuagin attack and all those tunnels you all found last night is that more people have gone missing! The sahuagin must have taken people right outta their beds! Gives you the heebie jeebies, doesn't it?"
Faith and Twila nodded, shocked looks on their face. "Who was taken?" asked Faith.
"Well, the sahuagin that are left on the island aren't messing around anymore. They took the mayor's daughter, Arissa Storr and that halfling lady that showed up here yesterday. Her bodyguard is real upset about it, doesn't know what to do. Mayor Storr got a note that says they'll kill his daughter and the dragonmarked lady as well as their other hostages if he doesn't unlock the gates by midday tomorrow. The note says we're all to get off the island or be killed."
"That's terrible!" exclaimed Faith. "What's the mayor going to do?"
"He is so upset, he's ordered us all to evacuate. That's all the noise out there, people packing up. Thing is, there's not enough ships to take everyone off the island by tomorrow. Captain d'Thuranni is looking for nearby islands he can drop people off at for a spell since he doesn't have time to take people all the way to Khorvaire or Xen'drik. But if I leave here, I may lose all my chances of seeing Lars again." Kaja moaned.
Faith and Twila were moving about the small hut, getting dressed and gathering their things.
"I've got to go help Ma secure the storerooms, but I thought you ought to know," Kaja rose and headed for the door. "Good luck if I don't see you before we head out."
Faith gave the girl a quick hug. "You'll see us," she promised.
Faith and Twila hopped down from their treehouse hut and knocked on Malut and Thysmac's door. Faith guessed it was close to midday. Thysmac opened the door and inside they saw Kal leaning over a faintly green-skinned Malut. The inside of the hut smelled rotten.
"Good afternoon," said Thysmac with a charming smile, as if he hadn't been cleaning up half-orc vomit all morning. "How are you ladies feeling today?"
"Better than him, apparently," Twila answered. "What's wrong with Malut? And what's that smell? "
"Not feeling well, I'm taking a look at him," said Kal. "He's been very sick this morning, but I think we've cleaned it all up now."
"You look bright-eyed and bushy-tailed today Kal, considering the state you were in last night," commented Twila.
"I'm a dwarf," he answered. Then he turned back to Malut. "Now what did you say was in that stew you ate?"
"Dunno, but it smelled good," Malut groaned.
Thysmac, Twila and Faith all made a face and shook their heads at Kal. He nodded.
"You know what sahuagin eat, don't you?" he asked Malut. Malut shrugged weakly. "People! They eat people."
Malut turned a deeper shade of green and shoved everyone out of the way as he staggered to his feet and rushed out of the hut. He made it to the nearby cliff edge before all the stew came back up and went into the sea. All of it. Everyone turned away; watching half-orc get sick can make you feel queasy yourself.
"Was probably just fish though," Kal told the group. "They usually eat their people raw. But he needed a little motivation to get it out of his system."
Thysmac found this to be very funny indeed.
"Have you guys heard about the evacuation order?" Faith asked.
Kal nodded. "It's crazy to negotiate for hostages, but if I was in the mayor's position, I'd probably do the same thing. Of course it's not making a lot of the villagers happy as their loved ones were taken as well, many have been gone for quite some time, and no one made this huge of an effort to get them back."
"We've got to do something!" Twila insisted. "We can't let this happen."
Kal shrugged as Malut groaned and heaved again. "Afraid I have a patient to tend to today, I might be able to help later. I think he'll be fine but it things get worse, I'll need to get him some more powerful healing."
"Ugh, really?" exclaimed Twila. "Malut, I told you not to eat that!"
"No, you asked if I was gonna eat it. And I was. And I did. Ohhhh...." he leaned back out over the rope fence, face down towards the sea. The perpetually falling snow started to get a little heavier.
"OK, sorry Malut, feel better! We're going to the Wavecrest to see what we can do," Faith called to him. "We'll check in on you guys later."