15 Kaldmont 1013: Today is a great day, a marvellous day, a. . .well, a day of note, anyway. Today, I finally completed my contract with the Karameikan School of Magecraft, that pretentious backwater institution. When I agreed to Master Terari's offer to employ me for three years as a lecturer in Objets de Magique (to coin an Averoignian term), in exchange for free access to the School's library, I had no idea what those. . .those. . .those children I was forced to teach could be like! Little horrors. . .I would sooner face a horde of rampaging malfera than see a single one of those precocious brats again. These are the future of magic in Mystara? Fah! And as for "free access". . .that Terari is a wily old fox, indeed. I wondered why he smiled so broadly when telling me that I could spend all my free time in the library, if I wished. "Free time"? What "free time"? In between lectures, grading papers, faculty meetings, extra tutoring (for the dense ones with rich parents), "civic responsibilities". . .I barely had time to eat and sleep, let alone study! If not for the school holidays, I would have given up on this fool's errand long ago.
Ah, the school holidays. . .I'll give the old fox this: his library is as good as he promised. The previous winter's researches had thrown up a number of interesting and informative legends and tales which I was itching to follow up on. One particular story, which I discovered in an ancient folio of tales from the Northern Reaches, bore further investigation; it told of a group of Vestland dissidents who were carried away from danger in the belly of an enormous whale (!), whom they worshipped as an Immortal (!!), which deposited them safely on an uncharted island, far to the South. This had all the hallmarks of a bedtime story for children, except the folio went on (in a more scholarly vein) to describe a powerful magical item, a gift from the whale, which protected the transplanted clan. This item, the Leviathan's Crystal Eye, was what caught my attention; amongst its numerous listed powers were foolproof versions of Lore and Commune spells! If it truly existed, such an item would be invaluable to me in my work. I determined then to track it down as soon as I could win free of this blasted contract. Tomorrow, I shall book into the finest hotel in Mirros whilst I seek out passage on a ship going south.
14 Nuwmont 1013: My ship arrived this morning at the busy docks of Minrothad City. The shreds of lore I had been able to glean from various sources led me to believe that the Crystal Eye was located somewhere on one of the many small islands of the Thanegioth Archipelago. My discrete enquiries amongst the cognoscenti of Minrothad revealed that a certain Captain Hurley, of the merchant-ship The Dancing Wave, was the man most likely to help me narrow my search. Captain Hurley had sailed the Sea of Dread for nearly twenty years, they said; no man knew its isles as he did. Thus encouraged, I wrote to arrange a meeting with the redoubtable Captain Hurley.
5 Thaumont 1013: After many letters, messages, and (on his part) curt refusals, Captain Hurley finally agreed to meet with me this evening. The Captain, when I came face to face with him, was a surly, close-mouthed man - like most of the Minrothad stock, in my experience - and looked me over with obvious contempt. Whilst I freely admit I'm not particularly impressive in physical terms, I confess I found his attitude insolent, considering our respective stations. Still, much as it pained me to admit it, I needed this man's help, so I forbore from comment. I managed to convince him to accompany me to a nearby hostelry to talk; but even after several tankards of the local swill he would tell me nothing.
Having thus far failed to achieve my aims by mundane means, I resolved to use magical methods of persuasion. While the good Captain was, ah, disposing of his fluid intake, I ordered another round of ale. Before he returned, I laced his beverage with a goodly dose of my old school chum Santhamus' most useful Philtre, from my Storebottle. The Captain, upon returning, downed his ale in three swift gulps; "Stinky" Santhamus' brew did not let me down, for in mere moments Captain Hurley's eyes had become unfocused, and he favoured me with a broad smile. For the next half hour my new "friend" regaled me with every fact I sought - not to mention an apparently endless stream of dull sailing stories and off-colour jokes. I managed to obtain the coordinates of the likely resting place of the Crystal Eye just before the Philtre's effects wore off, gratefully leaving the good Captain in the care of the barkeep - to whom I intimated, with a wink, that perhaps my "friend" had been a little too thirsty for his own good. Obviously used to this, the Barkeep helped the confused man to a quiet back room to sleep it off. I returned to my hotel to plan the next leg of my expedition.
7 Thaumont 1013: Today I managed to charter a small ocean-going vessel, the Fair Nancy, to take me to my destination. Her Captain, a lissome Elf-maid called Sarabine Meditor (a distant cousin of the ruling merchant-clan, I believe), was surprisingly willing to take my custom - apparently, she had only recently bought the ship from its previous owner, and had some excessive debts and taxes to pay off. We set sail on the morrow.
Upon returning to my hotel-room, however, I discovered that my enquiries had attracted some unwanted attention; a number of shady-looking individuals - and the good Captain Hurley! - were lingering at the front of the hotel. Blast! Hurley must have recalled spilling his life-story to me. I knew I should have wiped his memory of the event. Fortunately, my room was at the back of the hotel; unfortunately, it was on the top floor, and I had neglected to memorize a Levitation spell. Double blast! Well, there was nothing else for it; I had to get into my room somehow, and in lieu of other possibilities. . .I dug my Storebottle out of its bag, slathered some Ointment of Arachne on my hands and feet, and slowly made my way up the side of the hotel, praying to whatever Immortals might be watching to keep people from looking up and seeing a man of mature years creeping up the wall like an arthritic fly - I'd never live it down! Vanya's teeth, but I disliked this substance - no matter how useful it was; for the next hour I would adhere to practically anything I touched. Thankfully, I had taken my boots off before using it, so at least (once I donned them again) I would be able to walk normally. . .
Fortunately, the ruffians had not yet forced themselves into the hotel proper. My equipment was still where I left it - including the most important item, a Reprographic Lens within which I had stored much vital information pertaining to my expedition. I swiftly packed, then slowly clambered back down to street-level. The mob were still there, and getting more rowdy by the minute; briefly, I regretted both my pacifistic nature and my long-held vow not to carry death-dealing magics (the last recourse of the unimaginative spell-hurler, I always feel). Still, I was not without resources. . .one swiftly-cast Low Profile spell got me away from danger, after which I spent an uncomfortable night laying low in a dockside warehouse.
8 Thaumont 1013: The Fair Nancy left this morning with the dawn tide. I think Captain Meditor was surprised to see her paying guest waiting at the gangplank so early; I was just glad to reach the safety and (relative) comfort of my cabin, where I happily stayed until Minrothad Isle was a dot on the horizon.
Over lunch, Captain Meditor and I worked out our most suitable route to the Archipelago; despite her seeming youth, Captain Meditor (or Sarabine, as she bade me call her) knew these waters well; she had served aboard her uncle's ship for nearly thirty years, she told me, before plowing all her savings into purchasing the Nancy. She estimates that our journey will take no more than three weeks, if the weather allows. I must say, three weeks in such delightful company will be no hardship at all.
22 Thaumont 1013: Under Sarabine's sure guidance, we have managed to avoid many of the dangers endemic to the Sea of Dread during the last two weeks; indeed, our journey has been so uneventful that the Captain and I have been able to spend many pleasant hours talking, comparing our respective bodies of magical lore. I have taught her a few low-level spells from my repertoire; in return, she tutored me in several sea-magics passed down to her by her father and uncle, both Captains with more than a century of experience each. This morning I tried out one such, a scrying spell she called Weather Eye; this remarkable spell of foretelling clearly showed me how this fine morning would cloud over by noontime, developing into heavy rainfall by mid-afternoon. Fascinating.
Sarabine, when I told her of my findings, took the situation a little more seriously; she altered course, and commanded her crew to batten down the hatches (amazing - I never thought I'd hear that command given seriously!) and prepare for "a rough ride". Surely a simple rainstorm couldn't be that bad, I thought to myself - although I would never offend Sarabine by saying so out loud.
25 Thaumont 1013: I will never, never doubt the word of a sailor again. That "simple rainstorm" quickly turned into the worst early spring squall the Sea of Dread has experienced in years - and certainly the most horrendous experience I have personally ever gone through. The storm lasted for three days, and required every bit of skill and magic Sarabine and her crew could call upon to get us through it in one piece. I did what I could to assist, although that was precious little; few of my items (and none of my spells) had been designed with storms in mind! Using a little foresight, I was able to use my Disks of Recovery to rescue a few seamen who were washed overboard, however - an action which rather endeared me to Sarabine, I feel. Most of the time, however, I spent below, well out of the way - and positively green in the face from the worst seasickness I have ever known. A "life on the ocean wave" has rapidly lost its allure, these past few days. . .
Finally, the storm has blown itself out, leaving us utterly becalmed; the silence (after days of screaming winds) is almost deafening. We found ourselves only a mile or so offshore from a small island; Sarabine has decided to moor up in the first sheltered inlet we see for repairs; I have offered to explore the interior for signs of civilisation tomorrow morning - anything to get back on dry land for a while!
This article and all related material copyright 1999 Carl Quaif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.