The Ship Graveyard
emerge from the archway of broken masts to find myself standing on damp, muddy ground. It is so gloomy in here, especially after the bright sunshine of the road. The air is cold and dreary, suffocating me like a blanket. A cold, clinging fog twines about my ankles as I move away from the tunnel. Peering out through the murk, I see green lights far-off, little whirling specs of flame darting to and fro. I make out the faint outlines of some huge hulking objects, partially shrouded in the distance. I carefully move towards the nearest object, my breath coming quickly in the cold, my skin prickling with anticipation of an attack. As I draw near, I recognize what I'm looking at. The huge thing is a ship, a broken, splintered wreck, rotting in the mud.
I circle around the vessel, trying to make sense of what I'm seeing. Yes, there is some water on the ground, but how could this enormous vessel have arrived here? And those other shapes in the gloom -- are those ships as well? This thought plays through my head for a few moments, before alarm replaces everything. Something is moving inside the hull before me, something animated with a strange, pulsing blue glow.
They come at me silently, shimmering brightly in the dim light. Three walk abreast, wreathed in some sort of magical energy that blurs their features, making them incorporeal, almost transparent. But I know cold steel when I see it, and the nearest of the fiends grips a wicked cutlass in its withered hand. For a time, the only sounds are the clash of weapon on shield, and my cries of effort. The three undead corsairs -- for that is what they certainly are -- attack relentlessly, swinging their weapons with deadly speed. For a while, my blows fall harmlessly off the glimmering field that surrounds them, filling me with terror and desperation. Then, finally, a sweeping cut cleaves through the barrier, striking firmly into the bone and dry sinew beneath. My stroke shears the thing's arm off at the shoulder, but that does little to slow its attack. Only when I have cut my foe in two is it finally stilled.
The energy protecting my other two assailants wanes away as I press them backwards against the nearby hull. Without their shields, they are as frail as a common skeleton, and soon I am rifling their corpses for anything useful. With the corsairs defeated, I creep carefully through the thick mud of the ship graveyard, my ears pricking at every creak of ancient wood around me. This is surely a cursed place, the end of journey and life for countless sailors. I continue Eastward, pulling my cloak around my shoulders as a scant barrier to the chill winds gusting through the place. I have to fight my way through some old enemies, a nasty pale version of the bird beasts from the mud flats, and even a few slimy Sirens.
I spy another rock wall rising ahead, beckoning me onward. I also see what appears to be a waterfall, a beautiful formation that looks oddly out of place in such a grim environment. But I'm thirsty from my labors, and filthy as well, so the water of the pool is inviting. It's certainly a welcome change from the brackish stew that's been soaking my boots for the past hour. Reaching the wall, I drop to my knees and bury my face in the pristine water, drinking deeply. Alas, my enthusiasm for refreshment makes me neglect a lesson I've learned so many times already here. Never let your guard down in Wraeclast.
My instincts, honed from many hours of struggle on this island, are the only thing that save me. I catch a faintest glimpse out of the corner of my eye, a shimmer on the water. Then I duck low, twisting around, and I see a blur of crimson flash mere inches in front of my face. As I stagger backwards from the pool, heart pounding, I see something that must be impossible. The water is boiling and seething, forming into a pulsing column, sprouting two hideous arms in the process. One of the thing's arms is a long, serrated red tentacle. The other is jointed and knobby, ending in a wicked crab-like claw. The entity rises to a towering height, and then with claw snapping, it glides smoothly over the edge towards me.
I've faced many foes on Wraeclast so far, but none like this. It does not move swiftly, but my attempts to harm it prove fruitless. First I slash at the thing, watching my blade cleave through without effect. Then I bludgeon my attacker with a mace, splashing its surface, but also causing no apparent damage. I retreat some distance as it oozes along, firing a volley of arrows into its churning center. These also have minimal effect, for while the water creature recoils slightly from each piercing shot, it doesn't slow its pace. While I fight, I notice three more columns of water coalescing and rising out of the same pool. I had best find a solution to this enemy soon.
I retreat again, gaining some distance on my foes, and I stoop to rummage in my belongings. It is then that I recall the words of Annessa, spoken so long ago at the shore encampment. "Use these wisely, for they are no mere trinkets". Without another thought, I grab a hold of the largest of the stones she gave me, a shimmering Sapphire, and ram it into a blue socket on my sword. Immediately my hands begin to tingle, and I watch with disbelief as a warm yellow flame licks about the ends of my fingers. I raise my hand at the nearest foe, focusing my will, calling for its destruction. With that singular thought, a crackling ball of flame bursts forward from my outstretched palm, and roars across the short distance between me and my enemies. Where steel had no impact, fire rings true! The blast disintegrates its target, blowing the Elemental apart in a shower of steam and droplets. The thing's two arms flop to the ground, twitching, but harmless.
With foes once again bested, I turn to the South, and am elated to find a narrow passage in the mountain, once again moving to the East. I stand at the mouth of the passage, breathing deeply of the crisp sea air gusting upward from it. Then I pad down the gentle slope, crossing from mud to sand, awaiting the next leg of my journey.