Some would suppose that descending into the dark, pitiless depths of the airless sea, to the crushing limits of a dented, leaky vessel, led by a frothing madman to face an enormous creature renowned for its cunning and murderous intensity – the Kraken, no less! – would give pause to 5 mortals even if they were not to be fully dependent on twisted hoses for their life-giving air, while the beast would be at home in its very lair. But our band had frankly faced poor odds many times, and by now we had the confidence of immortals. We just shrugged our shoulders and went forwards as usual.
The Captain was mad all right, obsessed as he was with Wizard Island, and with the great sea beast that frequented the waters nearby. He swore – and as a sailor, he knew well how to swear! – that the kraken must shelter in an underwater cave near the cliff side of the island, probably more than 100 feet deep, since he and his men had already searched every crevice shallower than that. So we set out, the first voyage in a submersible for each of us, and we gazed in wonder at the inventiveness and audacity of the ship, since it seemed mostly engineered, not brought into existence through a spell.
After evading a storm, which only disturbed the surface of the water, we arrived at the cliffs, which we of course premembered. (Long story, told elsewhere) The crazy old salt started descending past his previous limit of 100 feet even before we had been given the breathing helmets and puny spearguns with which he imagined we would fell our giant quarry. Everybody held their breath, for if the ship were to break apart, it would take us with it, nowhere but down.
At 130 feet the ship began to creak.
At 150 feet the portholes showed debris floating by, which we swore were bones, but who knows what sea life looks like down here?
At 180 feet the first rivet popped, and ricocheted past our heads.
At 190 feet we feared the worst.
At 200 feet watery hell broke loose as water began to pour in through multiple openings!
The Captain blew out ballast to stop the descent, Barrick dwarfed the pumps, and Z’alden and Rift cast spells at the ship, until soon we had steadied the craft.
Luckily we had no need to descend further. A cave loomed nearby in the murk, and the Captain, sensing the creature that he had hunted for so long, bade us don the breathing helmets and investigate. Varis, who seemed as at home in the water as he did everywhere, which is to say proficient and efficient but somehow distant, swam a line to the cave and connected it so that the rest of us could pull ourselves over.
This cave was actually a tunnel-like entrance, and after a short distance, down a little then up again, we came to a much larger cave, and there we saw it, lazing in the center of the cave, the hideous Kraken, pulsing red under a blue-green light, all ten arms wiggling, two much thicker and longer than the others.
With grim faces under our helmets, we lost no time attacking, and for a while it seemed like no contest. A wallop of a punch from Varis, a lightning blast from Barrick’s new axe, a weakening spell from Z’alden, a poisonous spell from Tira, lightning bolts from Rift, and soon the goliath was thrashing in its inky pain. It grabbed everyone within reach, but we all know ways to escape from the clutches of monsters: a spell here; an axe strike there; teleporting as a last resort.
The Kraken’s attacks had little effect on our hardy band, until it realized that our tethers were important to us. It pulled out Z’alden’s and Barrick’s air hoses, and had it been able to do the same for all of us, our bones would have joined those floating about outside. Yet clever as this denizen of the deep was, Rift was more clever, and she cast a spell to stop time for everyone but her, so that she could float over and reattach the hoses. Then, she displayed her signature power by banishing the beast briefly to a parallel universe, giving us time to gather ourselves for a last flurry of attacks.
No sooner had the Kraken reappeared in the cave, but each of us attacked it with full determination, Z’alden and Tira with particular viciousness, and the beast expired!
After the mighty Kraken had been put down, Varis showed the others that the light coming from above actually led to a grotto. We left behind our helmets, sure that the Captain would give up on us eventually, and leave us for dead. Above, we found enough air, but also four Kobolds with clown faces. These attacked us immediately, then disappeared! Following corridors, we encountered them again and again, taking damage but dealing out more of it, killing them one by one – until two more popped up! Tiring of this painful game, Varis dispensed quickly with these last two. We were left in a hall than contained 6 rows of three consecutively numbered floorstones in what felt like a second trap, after the Kobolds, which had certainly been enchanted.
A trap it turned out to be; step on the wrong stones, and an attack would be triggered. Varis tried teleporting past, but was dealt a colossal blow for his efforts. Tara took multiple hits and was left stunned in the middle of the grid.
Each of us being tough enough to survive these attacks, we experimented in turn until we had a safe path going through numbers 2-5-7-11. But, the attacks were gaining in intensity with each new row, and two rows were left. Z’alden healed us as only he can, but who knew whether the last row would deal a fatal blow?
Luckily Barrick remembered the sequence of numbers from his days learning dwarven building traditions. Every young dwarf memorizes the first 10 “Dwarven Friends” in the number sequence 2,3,5,7,11,13,17,19,23,29, as handed down from the great dwarven builders of old. The dwarves believe that, when using repetition in a building project, only these numbers should be used, and each of them should be used for no more than one purpose in a structure. If you repeat an archway five stones wide somewhere in a building, it is OK to then repeat an archway on a higher level seven stones wide, but never four, or six, or 12.
Barrick always thought this to be an ancient superstition, but seeing the same pattern playing out now, he wondered whether there could be some reason behind the sequence. See how 2 was the only number in the sequence that described the world of dwarves, with their two hands and two eyes and two feet? And 3 was the only one that described the number of options a dwarf always had (stay here, go forwards, or go backwards). And 5 was the only one that counted the number of fingers on a hand or foot. No other number in the sequence (and Barrick, who had worked on large buildings, actually knew more than the 10 taught to every dwarf) counted the number of fingers on any number of hands! In fact, no number in the sequence counted the number of any other number in the sequence, no matter how many! There was something there all right – but what it was, Barrick couldn’t quite grasp.
“Thirteen” he announced, though his insight did not come before he had stepped on #14, and suffered 3 poison darts. Sure enough, the adventurers got out on 13, followed by 17. Salving their wounds and gritting their teeth for the next trap, they came to a door saying “Home Sweet Home”. They knocked … and a voice said simply, “Come In”.
To be continued …