Deep in the dark half submerged cavern, hope sank in the hearts of the four surrounded pirates as they steadied their feet on the broken deck of the abandoned ship, The Devilish Duchess. The brykolakases and their lacedon servants heaved their cheap rotting bodies over the ship’s shattered railings and readied themselves to attack en masse. Howls of cannibalistic glee erupted from the waterlogged jaws of the flesh hungry ghouls. They gnashed their crooked teeth in eager anticipation as the four circled up and readied their weapons, waiting for the inevitable rush of disease ridden teeth and claws, the light from their magical swords playing over their enemy’s glistening grey skin. They cursing their bedevilled luck as they came to the sad realization that their ploy of seeding the waters outside with the corpses of other dead ghouls didn’t draw all the fiends from their lair.
“Well, darn,” Captain Ozzi, the young cleric ponderously clad from head to toe in heavy mail and metal plate, grumbled from behind the grill of his spiked full helmet, “Really thought that would of worked.”
His female companion, Captain Renza, didn’t respond but instead cast a spell. Her heaving tight black whale bone corset, loose frayed skirt that flared dramatically around her ghostly white thighs and wild purple hair that crown her flawless desperate face where now surrounded by many illusionary copies of herself that shifted around within a confusing pattern. She tried to find a place to stand and cast more of her defensive magic before the disgusting dead surged towards them. All she wanted right now was more time.
The elf, Captain Ryrun, adjusted his expensive indigo coat with a sigh as he readied his beautiful curved blade. It was bad enough that they were fighting these wretched fiends in such dismal surroundings but now their stinking juices were going to ruin the fine fabric of his clothes. Luckily, the stains could be removed but that still meant that, even for a short while, he would have to wear a coat splashed with the overripe corrupt blood of the ghouls. Although, as his eyes counted the teeming mass of evil pollution that was pulling itself from the briny water, he might soon be too dead to even care. “If you have anything inspiring to say, Admiral,” he said over his shoulder, “Now might be the time speak up.”
Admiral Sandy Foundling knew, in his heart, that the undead surrounding them was an immediate and potentially fatal problem but there was another, more nagging issue that gnawed at him. Lunch. It was waiting for him in his cabin back on his ship, The Water Naga. His cook, Ambrose Kroop, although a shameless drunkard, was a culinary genius and the halfling was desperate to return to the comfort of his little cabin to sip some fine rum and taste whatever new concoction he had created. It was stupid that he allowed himself to be bullied into coming on this insane jaunt before he had a chance to eat, even though Ozzi said he had some soup and biscuits in his Bag of Holding. The boy could make a decent stew when called upon, being originally trained by Kroop himself when they all served on the same ship together, but he lacked the necessary skill and obvious love of food that Kroop wielded with such consummate care. Now he was about to be eaten by rotting undead in a sea cave filled with bitter wretched salt air. “Do you know what I’d like right now?” He asked no one in particular as he readied his leather bull whip for the upcoming fight, “Ambrose’s Brown Pottage Royale. He makes it with sea bird meat and chopped spinach, parsley and lettuce mixed into a thick broth with cockscombs and lambs testicles and serves it all on a bed of rice noodles. What I wouldn’t do to taste that right now.”
A wild scream of ecstatic abandon rose from the throats of the assembled ghouls as the brykolakas waved their flesh torn arms towards the pirates and shrieked for the attack. Their ghouls obeyed with raw delight, desperately surging forward to tear into soft flesh. Ryrun, his feet sure on the slippery deck, swept his long blade into the necks of the incoming foes, severing three heads before they had a chance to even fight. The ghouls reached their filthy claws for Renza’s beautiful face but she ducked and cast another distraction spell, causing another flickering copy of herself to appear a foot to her left, adding to the swirling confusion of her self images. Ozzi raised his mailed arm and opened a flap beneath his hook hand, flashing a tattoo of a white skull on a black background. He invoked Besmara’s name and the ghouls turned to look at the black flag symbol. Then they simply soundlessly slumped to the deck, the forces that kept them on this world dismissed by the glory of the Pirate Goddess. The brykolakases, surprised by the sudden resistance, cajoled more servants from the depth to clamber over the side to join in the attack. The water beneath the decks roiled as a century of shattered undead crawled their way up from their watery slumber to try and taste meat. Sandy snapped his whip at one of the brykolakas’ ankles to try to pull it from it’s feet but he couldn’t get the shot right and the target shuffled out of the way.
“Damn,” he muttered darkly before a though brightened him, “Do you remember Ambrose’s Sea Scorpion Soup? He boiled those big bastards in salt and spices, broke off their stingers and pounded the meat in a mortar with all those savoury spices and onions. Hard boiled eggs. Grated bread and sweet herbs. Then he added chopped parsley and mushrooms and lemon slices after he strained it. And he gave us fresh bread rolls. Do you remember Ryrun?”
Ryrun grunted in acknowledgement, his perfectly timed thrust stabbing through the daring brykolakas who strayed too close to the flashing sword. To his surprise, the snarling undead knocked the sword away, leaving a gaping wound in it’s neck as it tried to gouge out his eyes with it’s ragged claws. Renza, meanwhile, got her final spell cast and laid a flaming whip of squirming spiders into it’s putrid back, channelling the force of one her spells into the attack, causing a terrible sizzling wound to stitch it’s way across it’s broad grey back, adding to the mass of faded scars from previous lashings the undead received in life. Ozzi called into protean void once more and more ghouls tumbled wordlessly to ground, released by Besmara’s might.
“Do you know what we should have him make?” Sandy continued as he tried, and failed, to use his whip to entangle the limbs of Ryrun’s opponent, “His tuna and pea soup. What does that have? Milk, dried peas, onions and parsley. Sweet herbs, nutmeg and spearmint. Then the tuna chunks but it really doesn’t need it. Spearmint. What a surprise.”
More ghouls surged over the railings like a wave of grey skinned sea foam, pulling themselves over the corpses of their former companions at the command of their masters who screamed in wild desperation as the brykolakas caught between Ryrun’s blade and Renza’s whip died, exploding dramatically into a geyser of vile greenish yellow liquid that ruined Ryrun’s boots. The elf gagged from the foul smell as it reached his nostrils. Ozzi drew down more of Besmara’s gifts and more gap mouthed ghouls dropped, forcing Renza to dance gingerly between the bodies as she laid her whip into another brykolakas, igniting it’s once luxuriously red hair into a wreath of fire. It’s shrieks of pain ricocheted off of the cavern walls as it writhed and tried to extinguish the flames.
“Oh yes. Be careful. They explode into a poisonous spray when they die,” Sandy supplied helpfully as he skirted the pooling snotty mass. He noticed Ryrun’s watering eyes and realized that some of it got onto the elf’s face. “How about those sturgeon cutlets in curry sauce?” He said worriedly as he finally pulled a leg out from under the burning brykolakas, causing it to stumble and fall, “Those I love. Curry powder, vinegar, sweet herbs and diced lemongrass. Lemongrass! And lemon slices. All over a bed of rice noodles. That would be amazing right now.”
Ryrun gathered himself and dashed towards the pair of brykolakas who had, so far, kept themselves outside of the battle. He cut a swath through the faltering ghouls to reach them but was stalled as more swelled up to fill in the ranks of the fallen. Renza slashed her whip into her damaged foe, lacerating the burning undead as it tried to find it’s feet. More ghouls tried to defend their master against her but all they did was flail at illusions and air as her myriad of shifting forms kept them confused. One of the pair, a slight brykolakas, once a delicate Tian maiden, it’s exotic features now twisted into a disgusting mockery of foreign beauty, broke away from Ryrun and back flipped over the dead that littered the deck to sweep it’s clawed foot at Ozzi’s head, shattering his grill, cutting his face and causing the cleric to backpedal into a dead ghoul. The body lazily slide across the wet deck before gracelessly disappearing over the side of the ship. But more ghouls, in a mindless desire to serve their masters, piled over it and shoving it down to into the churning water.
“Okay, new plan,” Sandy announced suddenly as he continued to entangle the feet of the burning brykolakas, “We need to get through this so I can get Ambrose to fry some large oysters in a pan with pounded cloves and some sweet herbs. We’ll skewer them with mushrooms. Then we’ll roll them in bread crumbs and serve them in the gravy. What do you think?”
Ryrun tried to answer but found himself surround by a gang of the ghouls, all ripping at his coat and scratching his skin as final brykolakas, a barrel chested beast of a dead man, shoved his way passed to help it’s companion against Ozzi. Renza, seeing Ozzi’s difficulties, stopped her assault on the burning brykolakas and spun her sizzling spider whip into the back of the slight one, causing it to stagger and curse. But the huge brykolakas grabbed Ozzi into a bear hug and slammed the hapless cleric to the deck with a crash as maiden brykolakas sunk it’s claws into Ozzi’s sides with a couple of swift kicks, cutting through his mail and into his body. He gasped from the pain as the air was knocked from his lungs. Ryrun spun and slashed his way clear of the ghouls, launching himself off of the back of a dying foe to arch over the heads of the mob to land, sword point first, onto the back of the barrel chested brykolakas. It coughed and threw Ryrun off but that only gave the elf the chance to cut at it more, filling the air around it with a flurry of steel.
“Chowder,” Sandy said as the burnt brykolakas, it’s once lovely freckled face now a snarling charred wreck, drew itself to it’s feet and lunged at him, forcing the halfling to duck it’s assault, “Ambrose uses clams and some thinly sliced pork in a biscuit base. Parsley, marjoram, thyme and some other savoury spices. We’ll have to get him two bottles of claret, though. One for the soup and one for himself.”
Ryrun, seeing the Admiral threatened, barked to Ozzi to save him. The cleric struggled to his feet as blood seeped from the rent in his side and called out his spell. A spinning magical imprint of a skull appeared under the burnt brykolakas’ feet. Then the sigil suddenly erupted into a pillar of white hot divine fire. The brykolakas, unable to escape the immolation, raised it’s arms to the sky and screamed in otherworldly pain, it’s pitiful wail bouncing off the cavern walls.
“A barbecue!” Sandy shouted as he watched the conflagration, “We’ll get lemon wood for it! Some tomatoes, onions, hot peppers and parsley that we can cook into a stew and pour it over the meat! We can roast some sweet potatoes too! A barbecue!”
The burning brykolakas, it’s arms outstretched, suddenly exploded, spraying it’s sizzling noxious yellow fluid over Sandy and into his open mouth, causing the halfling to gag and crumple, overcome with a wave of nausea. Ozzi, regaining his breath, held up his tattoo once more and called out to Besmara, causing the rest of the milling ghouls to drop, swooning all together like a mob of children playing a game. The last two brykolakases, finding themselves alone, howled and lunged together at Ryrun, hoping to take him down before the end. The delicate one spun and swept it’s clawed feet at the elusive elf as the barrel chested one tried to snatch him in it’s massive grasping arms. But they both failed to connect as he weaved and dodged away from their sad attempts, scoring a series of telling cuts on them in exchange. With a giggle, Renza swept her squirming whip across the face of the large one, causing it to wobble drunkenly as the flames melted it’s grey skin.
As Ozzi called out to Besmara once more, the delicate brykolakas realized that, perhaps, it’s time was at hand. It’s white dead eyes spoke of some deep conflict that it finally could try to articulate, it’s open mouth trying to form words and it’s clawed hand reaching imploringly to Ryrun. Then it exploded into fountain of disgusting thick yellow sludge. The larger brykolakas had no such emotions and only glare skyward, as if daring the Goddess to kill it, which, through her chosen servant, She did without compunction or remorse. It, too, exploded into foul yellow goo that oozed around the deck in a disgusting mass that pooled towards Ryrun, Ozzi and Renza, all of who simply stepped back to avoid it. Then, except for the creak of wood, the splash of water and the retching of Sandy, all was still.
Renza quickly pulled the halfling to his feet and cleaned the poisonous ooze from his hair and face while Ozzi gamely began to heal everyone’s wounds. Ryrun, his skin regaining it’s hale completion as Ozzi’s magic purged the poison that had affected him, cleaned his precious blade and congratulated the cleric on yet another successful, if not slightly melodramatic, coup de gras. A giddy sense of euphoria settled over the group as they toed the stacks of dripping corpses that surrounded them.
“Is anyone else hungry?” Renza asked as she looked at the puddles of what was left of the brykolakas and was answered with general laughter.
“Well,” Ozzi said as he gingerly cast magic on his own wounds, “I have a pot of turtle soup in my bag I made before we set out.”
With all seriousness in his voice, Sandy stepped up and looked Ozzi directly in his eyes. “What’s it made of?” He demanded.
“Turtles?” Ozzi said uneasily to the intense halfling, “The ones we found on the beach yesterday. And some berries I picked while we were exploring. I used boiled water from that old spring we found the other day too. I grabbed some biscuits from Ambrose before we left. He insisted really.”
Sandy turned determinedly and ordered Ryrun to ready the skiff to sail out of the cave. “But we’ve still have to search these ships and catalogue everything for stores,” the elf pleaded but to no avail. The Admiral had spoken. He wanted to eat turtle soup with wild berries and he wasn’t going to wait. As they boarded the unsteady skiff and pushed their way through the floating silent bodies of dead ghouls to escape the cavern, Ozzi readied the pot with Renza using her magic to heat it. They served the thick soup into the waiting bowls and passed around hastily cleaned mugs filled with some of Ryrun’s fine rum.
“You understand,” Sandy said in between spoonfuls of delicious soup as the four ate and drank and laughed in their lazily drifting small boat under the bright hot sun, “I wasn’t sure if you ever listen to me or not. It’s good to know that I finally got through. Can I have another bowl?”