Coastal Aquatic Lands:
Natural Aquatic Life
A variety of creatures live along the Sea of Fallen Stars that factor into the survival of the humans and demihumans living on the coast. What they are like and what their relationship is with land dwellers is explained below. I'll begin this area of discussion with the tiny creatures that have always been closest to my heart.
Many types of crabs live along the coastline discussed in this work. Among them, those that venture onto shore are the most interesting.
Along the coastline near Scardale lives a particularly brightly-colored crab known as Finialian's crab, named after the fisherman who once specialized in trapping the creatures.
The shell of this crab is usually bright blue on those specimens native to the Scardale area, deepening to a shade of purple as one travels south from there. The greatest concentration of these crabs is around Scardale, however.
Finialian's crab is best known for being able to burrow under the sand when threatened. It has two large, scoop-shaped pincers that it uses to dig. It's able to completely bury itself in less than a minute. A person can walk right over the top of one that has buried itself and not know it - unless you know what to look for: They leave a tiny portion of their shell poking up from beneath the sand.
These crabs are caught by baiting them with the flesh of other species of crab, though they will not eat that of their own.
Their shells are sometimes used as decorations by sea-dwelling races such as the mermen.
The fierceness of this reptile is legendary. There have been many stories of gruesome deaths caused by these malicious animals.
The climate they live in is generally warm and tropical, but some have been seen near the Tun River. Crocodiles are armored reptiles and this tough hide has kept them safe from many attacks. Only a sharp spearhead can be counted on to pierce the skin.
It's this same toughness that has led some in the kingdom of Cormyr to incorporate crocodile hides into their fashions and armor. A contingent of Purple Dragons uses crocodile hide on its shields, for example. Also, the hide has found a place as padding and other related uses onboard ships, as the hide is water resistant.
Although the crocodile seems to be creeping up the coastline toward cooler climes, its numbers are kept consistently low by steady hunting.
There are two types of dolphins: those that are fish, and those that are mammals. The difference between the two, outside of physical characteristics, is most pronounced in their intelligence.
Dolphin fish are much like typical sea fish. They can grow to be large-sized and can swim very quickly. They are well known as excellent meal fish and are much sought after by fishermen. They are difficult to catch, for when they initially take bait, they tend to swim quickly away. As they do so, they leap out of the water and back in again. Why they do this is unknown, but it effectively tries the endurance and skill of all fishermen. Dolphin fish are common near Selgaunt.
Mammalian dolphins are more widely known, especially among sea-dwelling races. Sleek, air-breathing bodies, pronounced noses, and a high degree of intelligence set this aquatic creature apart from all others.
Nearly all races that are intelligent have attempted to use and train dolphins for one purpose or another. Some have been more successful than others, but the mermen have displayed the greatest prowess. Whether this is due to a racial repertoire or an innate skill (or neither) is unknown.
With their ability to be trained and their association with legendary sea races, dolphins are the subject of numerous heroic tales. Hardly a child who lives on a coast hasn't heard tales of dolphins bearing messages from the gods, helping stranded fishermen, or warning land dwellers of dangerous seas.
Several types of eels are found along the coast. Most common are the freshwater eels that are delicacies in parts of Suzail. The Tun River is another location where eels are commonly found.
Freshwater eels have bad reputations, for their snakelike appearance and behavior frightens most folks. Witnessing a snake slithering out of the water and over a patch of mud is unnerving to be sure. Freshwater eels aren't very common, and travelers are especially subject to having to cope with them.
Naturally, the most famous eel is the electric eel. Its reputation is widely known, though sightings of electric eels are particularly rare.
Electric eels have not presented a real threat to land dwellers. News of a death caused by one is a significant event. Sea-dwelling races share a different history with the eels. Since they occupy the same environment, a greater number of encounters, and hence deaths, are associated with these sea creatures.
Rumors have it that the kuo-toa are attempting to capture and train electric eels to defend their lairs.
Without a doubt, fish serve as the economic strength of nearly every port town. Fishing is responsible for feeding many people and creating an entire culture and history.
More vast than all the stories and histories of fishing and fishing communities is the variety of fishes. This work can't begin to address the scope of discussing the fish along the coast, but some interesting facts and stories are worth noting.
In Scardale there was a fisherman who insisted he had found a school of fish with golden scales. He said that when he tried to net one, it was too heavy for the net and its weight tore through it. He used this as proof that the golden fish was truly made of gold.
This sparked a frenzy. Fishermen from all along the coast descended on Scardale's waters, looking for golden fish. Ultimately, one was caught and examined. To everyone's surprise, the scales did in fact have tiny amounts of gold in them. It turns out, though, that the amount in the scales is generally not enough to make casting for the fish worthwhile. With that, many fishermen left the waters to go back to their regular pursuits.
A few have remained and are studying these golden fish. They believe that these fish, like the aurumvorax, can serve as indicators for underwater deposits of gold. How to retrieve the gold once discovered has yet to be worked out.
Flying fish are another source of legends and stories. Most of these have been forgotten or treated as fairy tales and are not grounded in fact. More recent efforts have concentrated on using flying fish as indicators for danger. Many fishermen believe that when flying fish are seen, there must be a significant danger below the surface. They note that according to logs of ships that have been ambushed by huge sea creatures such as kraken, flying fish were seen a few minutes before the fateful attack.
Some fishermen have attempted to train flying fish. They keep buckets of bait, and when they come across a school of flying fish, they continually dump small amounts of the bait into the water to coax them to follow the ships.
A great many fishing communities dot the coastline. All of them have some kind of port, dock, or landing site for their boats.
Fishing is good all along the coastline. The only variation in this livelihood involves the types of fish that are caught. Those fish that prefer cold water are found off Scardale, and those that like warmer waters are found off Marsember.
I have heard some talk about there being too many fishermen in the waters and of the possibility that fish might be depleted from the oceans. Hardly the case, I think. Not until I see coastal fishermen take to boats bound for deeper waters will I think there are not enough fish to go around.
Among the types of fishermen, boat fishers in the shallows are the most common. They take to small, five-person crafts and troll with large nets. This netting practice yields a great number of fish at a time and is the most economical. Starting such an enterprise is costly, for the nets are very expensive. But after a while, there is enough profit from the venture to make things worthwhile. Cormyr is toying with the idea of taxing fishermen. They mean to impose a yearly fee for owning a fishing boat. Should this happen, the discontent will be widespread to be sure. Already there is talk among the thieves. guilds about sabotaging the royal navy's ships in protest.
The beings you are more likely to encounter along the coast are human fishermen, and as a Purple Dragon, I can say that you.re most likely to face the greatest danger from them. Their mood swings from day to day depend on whether or not they have had luck fishing. If much was caught, they'll be jovial and rowdy. If fishing was poor, they.ll be angry and looking for a fight. Many of my nights on watch duty were spent quelling some rabble-rousing fishermen who were discontent about the poor catch of the day or harassment from pirates. It's a difficult life, one that I don't envy.
Kind souls are found among every profession, including fishermen, and I have run across my share. A bit north of Scardale lives Noral Kier, a fisherman who lives simply but has a complex mind. Should you be in distress or need some information about the area - especially the sea - seek him. He lives in a wooden hut with a clay-shingled roof five miles north of Scardale. He won't hesitate to help you, given that your own heart is good and your intentions honest.
These are parasitic fish that deserve special mention. Lampreys attach themselves to fish larger than themselves and suck blood out of their hosts. Lampreys are special for they ultimately kill their hosts, whereas other parasites die when their host does.
Every few years, a serious lamprey problem plagues the rivers that empty into the oceans. Dead fish turn up by the score, and salmon and other fish that swim upriver are particularly affected.
Worse, live fish caught with lampreys attached to them are almost always inedible, for the lamprey seems to inject some kind of poison into its host. Though not harmful to land dwellers, the substance sours the taste beyond any hope of making the fish marketable. There have been many efforts to rid the seas of lampreys, but none have proven successful.
Small mammals, sea otters are crafty sorts that live in salt or fresh water. They sometimes venture upriver in search of food.
They come ashore during storms, seeking whatever protection the land might offer in crevices and small caves. Fishing communities use the sea otter as an indicator of how severe a storm will be. Sea otters seem to have an innate sense about the strength and duration of storms. They will swim upriver and hide in alcoves or merely wait on the banks for the storms to pass. But weather folklore claims the farther they swim upriver and the more huddled they are on the bank, the longer and more severe the storm will be.
Travelers would do well to keep an eye out for sea otters near the coast. Their actions can send signals that can save lives.
No discussion of aquatic life would be complete without some mention of that most-feared, widest-spread threat to life on the seas - pirates. One of the most recent seafaring villains to menace the coasts is Lukar, a dwarf pirate. He has gone against all the traditionally held notions of dwarven culture and become an expert seafarer. He is said to prefer the flamboyant life in the open air to the careful life of the stereotypical underground dwarf.
Lukar is best known for capturing a gold-bearing ship from the kingdom of Cormyr. He attacked in the classic place for a pirate assault: the Neck, near the Lake of Dragons. A substantial reward is offered by King Azoun IV for his capture.
Another famous pirate is Wishera, a woman known to have a number of females among her crew. She is human and generally thought to be the richest pirate still sailing the seas. Her expertise lies in raiding fellow pirate ships. Her view seems to be, "Why should one bother raiding ships under heavy guard when one can raid a pirate ship, which usually operates alone?" Her big scores have come from raiding ships that have themselves conducted more than one raid. When she finds a ship with more than one bounty, it's a target she considers hard to resist. Knowing which pirate ships are laden with treasure requires an extensive information network, and Wishera certainly has the best one of all. She uses women in the surreptitious acquisition of information. They charm unsuspecting sailors into revealing the shipping routes of gold-bearing ships. It is rumored that her beauty has won the continued obedience of a Cormyrean naval captain.
There have been rumors that Wishera has begun to dabble in the spy business, using her crew to gain information that is of use to statesmen alone. It's more likely that some other kingdom has begun using her techniques, for Wishera is driven by wealth and has a true love for combat on the seas. Dealing in mundane things like state secrets is not her style at all.
Over the years, there have been various anti-pirate campaigns launched by Cormyr. The coasts have seen the remnants of shipwrecks wash ashore. Despite these campaigns, pirates still rule parts of the ocean. In light of this, most kingdoms have taken to heavily guarding individual ships rather than conducting regular patrols. This concentration of resources has so far proven to be successful.
This latest measure has convinced some pirates to ally with others so their strengths can be combined in the assaults. However, this works quite poorly for them: There is a great deal of mistrust among the various bands, enough so that successful cooperative raids then degenerate into contests among the pirates themselves for the booty. If a particularly charismatic pirate comes along who can sway those under him or her, the situation may change.
There was some talk that such a pirate may have been found. His name is unknown, but he went by the nomenclature "the Terror of the Neck." He aligned two pirate factions but after a defeat on the sea was not heard from again.
Anyone who has been lost at sea can tell you that the primary concern after food and water is shark attack. For sea-dwelling races, sharks are either an enemy or an ally. More than one race has trained sharks to act as guards for their lairs, and such guards are very effective.
Once sharks are assigned, they will not leave their post. Baiting them and tricking them is not easily done, depending on the level of training they.ve had. There have been stories of sharks that did not desert their posts even when they could smell fresh blood not too far away.
Sharks attack anything smaller than themselves, and some will eat anything that will fit into their mouths. A shark's belly can be a treasure-trove. The most famous case of this involved a shark captured near Selgaunt that had a hand wearing the signet ring of a noble of Cormyr in its belly. That noble's fate had been a mystery for many years - until the shark was cut open.
Sharks are encountered all along the coastline discussed in this work. They do not seem to prefer any particular location. However, the growing consensus is that the sharks are beginning to follow pirate ships, for they seem to know that where those ships go, bloodshed and stranded sailors (in other words, food) are bound to follow.
These are the source of the greatest number of giant sea creature legends. Indeed, nearly all monster-at-sea tales are of giant squids that reach up from the bottom of the sea with tentacles strong enough to crack a ship's hull. In fact, squids are much more benign (giant ones notwithstanding). They feed on small ocean creatures and are fearful of both land- and sea-dwelling races. Squids have gained favor over the course of history because of their flesh. It carries, when prepared properly, a pleasant taste that is favored in coastal towns. Just to the west of Urmlaspyr, a fisherman has opened a shop specializing in squid and octopi. He is an expert at catching them alive and in using them in excellent culinary creations. The shop is known as the "eight and ten" for it has as its sign a squid and an octopus with their tentacles swirled and braided in a complex and beautiful filigree, giving the impression the two sea creatures are dancing underwater.
Frogs and Toads
These tiny animals, mundane when compared to legendary krakens and whatnot, bear a place in this work because of their importance and the fondness that is shared for them up and down the coast. Toads and frogs are best known for the croaking sounds they make. These croaks have earned the animals their place in popular culture. In places along the coast, near Yhaunn and the Tun River, for example, the croaks are actually considered melodious. These melodies have been transcribed in poetry, some of which I have written myself. Also, toads can be used as guards. In general, they stop croaking whenever an animal appears. Some travelers who are used to the croaks purposely bed down near toads, using the cessation of their throaty chorus as a warning. Toads are also sources of food, though their popularity has yet to catch on, perhaps because of their ugliness.
A number of wives' tales have been spun about toads. The most famous one about getting warts from them has not been proven. Some stories do have validity. The toads near Hermit's Wood are said to be able to see invisible creatures - even those from other planes. An incredible tale, to be sure, but one that I've been witness to myself. I had occasion to be in the area with a thief. The thief had a magical ring that made him invisible. We were part of a hunting party stalking a deer. We caught the trail, and the thief elected to use his ring to scout ahead and sneak up on the quarry. He did so, but when he walked near a patch of frogs resting in the sun near a stream, they sent out a cacophony that I'm sure was heard in Suzail.
We abandoned the hunt and chose to study the frogs instead. They were green, but had reddish striations and unusually large eyes. When the thief took off his ring, their agitation ceased.
Sea urchins are poisonous threats to land dwellers. They have toxin-covered spikes that present serious problems for any barefoot villagers. This seems to be a purely defensive measure, though, as the urchin seems unable to move by itself.
Urchin poison has been an ingredient in assassins. potions for as long as there have been thieves. guilds. It's also used as a part in other toxins, such as for the solutions that arrowheads and blades are dipped into. If a collection of urchins is found, one can be sure the location is also known by assassins and other poisonseeking rogues.
A naturally occurring antidote for urchin poison is the Kalimarin flower that grows near the beaches. Preparation of the antidote is fairly simple. Pulverize the petals and add a trace amount of water to create a paste. This should be applied to the wound not more than five minutes after the toxin has been introduced.
Other Sea Life
In my travels, I have encountered many different types of unusual sea life that have had an impact on my life. While in Cormyr, near Marsember, I came across a type of lily pad that caught my eye. It was light green with orange stippling. I poked at it with the butt end of my spear, and the pad suddenly enveloped it, attaching itself to the spear handle. I was able to kick it off without any trouble, but when I examined the spear, there were several tiny tooth marks in the wood, as well as a sticky sap lining the gashes. This pad, which I don't know the name of, is surely poisonous and threatening to those who walk the swamps near Marsember.
Not too long after my stint near Selgaunt I heard tale of a person who had died from a beach snake bite. Intrigued by something I hadn't heard of before, I went to the village from where the tale had come. As far as I know, the snake is found only near Selgaunt. It is sand-colored and slithers silently along the surface. When the tides recede, it crawls inside tidal pools and eats whatever it finds there. The snake's jaws are extremely powerful and can pulverize crustaceans in one bite. The villager's toe had been bitten off, and he apparently died trying to return to the village for aid.
Monsters of the Deep
The world above the ocean holds many great kingdoms and races, as does the sea; it's an entire world of its own that never sees the light of the sun. This section discusses some of that realm's inhabitants, and how they affect those of us living on land.
We were enjoying a bit of leave near Sembia when I became acquainted with crabman artifacts.
I found the pieces very beautiful and wondered how I might acquire some artifacts of my own. I hoped to take a few examples back to Cormyr with me, and I could not afford the ones I saw for sale. I had to find my own. The lairs of crabmen are kept secret by those who know about them. They serve as repositories of wealth to anyone clever and lucky enough to slip treasures out of them. Finding a lair on one's own is difficult. I had only one bit of information: The crabmen leave large round pellets of sand and dirt near their lairs.
I searched as best I could for underwater caves near the coast and found that the terrain south of Scardale was rife with them. Most held creatures that were less than hospitable. On a hunch, I laid out a collection of silver pieces to bait one of them, and it worked. They could not resist the shiny objects. I followed the one who collected the coins back to its lair. I swam into the lair, and to gain their favor I presented another handful of silver pieces. Except for one crabman, they were all fearful of or hostile to me, and they certainly didn't want to trade anything. However, there was one among them who was reasonably friendly, and I was given a sculpture, which I still have today.
The crabmen are largely a peaceful group. They keep to themselves, which precludes them from being a threat to the settlements. But, crabmen are tasty creatures, and some humans are wont to hunt them for their flesh. After being with the crabmen, and seeing how they live, I cannot advocate dining on any.
Someone new to the unit was overdue, and I was assigned to look for him. He had been away visiting his lover, who lived in a town nearby our post, which was near the Wyvernflow River.
I was walking along the coast, which was slightly rocky, trying to retrace his steps. I assumed he had been journeying to the village where she lived. I found his body lying belly up, pushed by the surf against the rocky beach. I went quickly to him, hoping there might be some breath of life in him. But I could soon tell he had drowned.
His body was covered with a strange kind of seaweed I had not seen before. It was green, but the strands were oddly shaped, mostly composed of even strips and rather featureless and strangely lacking in detail.
I looked around at the place where I found his body and saw a cluster of the same seaweed. In the sunlight, the seaweed was particularly beautiful. So striking was it that I actually felt lightheaded for a moment. I had a brief vision of my comrade's girlfriend just beneath the water, entwined in the seaweed. Suddenly it occurred to me that I had encountered kelpie, an intelligent and enchanted seaweed, which takes the forms of women to lure men to their deaths.
I jumped away from the area in horror and relief that I had somehow resisted the enchantment. I went to the body to see why, if he had died, he had not been dragged below like other victims of the kelpie.
Gripped tightly in his hand was a sprig of hermit berries, a plant that grows just around the Hermit's Wood. It has a most pleasant aroma and is often given between lovers in area villages as a sign of affection. With sadness I realized my charmed comrade had given the kelpie the same sprig his lover had given him. Apparently, the sprig's aroma has some bitter effect on the kelpie, which repulsed it enough to let him go. But the release had come too late, for he had died anyway.
Know the hermit berry by its yellow color and tiny bluish dots that cover it. Always keep some handy while walking near Wyvernflow.
This race of fishmen is a threat to a variety of creatures, but they take special hatred toward drow, mind flayers, and especially humans.
Their animosity regarding humans is one that extends beyond any written record. It's believed that in ancient times, there was a land-dwelling race of kuo-toa, but they were driven into the sea by consecutive and concentrated military campaigns.
There are other theories that could justify their hatred of humankind. These range from retribution for vendettas against the kuo-toa for their slave raids, to kuo-toan jihads against humans who don't worship their god. Such reasons have been retold so often, the actual foundation for their feelings has, perhaps, been lost to time. Whatever it is, their hatred is kept alive and burns deep in the bellies of these peoples.
Kuo-toa live underground exclusively. They harbor an extreme hatred for the sunlight and are only found on the surface in daylight on rare occasions.
Kuo-toa, like humans, practice slavery. But unlike humans, slavery for them is a fact of life that pervades their culture. Where slavery is illegal in Cormyr and in the parts I know of Sembia, the kuo-toa consider it a necessity of their livelihood to keep slaves. In fact, some scholarly estimates have put the number of slaves at about 25% of the total of the kuo-toan population. This is significant for two reasons. It indicates that kuo-toan raids for slaves are a constant activity and that they must have extreme control over their slaves to maintain such a large number of them.
Twenty-five percent of the populace united in a common cause should be enough to effect a revolt. or to at least secure the escape of many of the slaves. It is a mystery why the kuo-toa have such a hold on them. It may be simply that they are excellent masters and have enough experience to prevent any sort of organized rebellion. Other scholars have surmised that the kuo-toa excrete a substance that, over time, affects the mind, making it weak and docile. Those kept in the company of the slimy fish-creatures cannot withstand the constant influence of their bile slick. This same substance makes netting the monsters difficult.
The facts that kuo-toa conduct constant raids searching for slaves and that they hate sunlight mean that kuo-toa are encountered almost universally at night - frequently near roads that follow coasts close to their lairs. Fortunately, the most heavily traveled roads along Sembia and Cormyr are usually too far inland for the kuo-toa. They instead rely on raids upon villages and towns that are close to the coast, and upon less traveled roads between those towns that are not usually mapped.
Kuo-toa raiding parties are well-organized and executed affairs. The creatures raid with a specific purpose. If they are searching for slaves, they will make every effort to drag off as many people as they can as quickly as possible. If their aim is to inflict casualties, they will attack with a ferocity that matches any other creature's I have seen.
The fishmen make their lairs exclusively in subterranean caverns. Not enough information exists to say whether such caverns are usually filled with air. Some lairs are completely submerged, some are partially under water, while others are dry. I know of four kuo-toan lairs along the coast of Sembia and Cormyr. They are all small lairs, and two of them have been recently cleaned out. I am unsure of the strength of the remaining two, but I have heard stories that one of them, located near Selgaunt, has recently been growing stronger and posing more of a threat.
The kuo-toa also make lairs deep within mountain ranges in caverns and lattices that connect to the sea. Certainly if one were to investigate one of the four kuo-toan lairs I have mentioned, one of them would lead to a wondrously complex and grand network of tunnels and caves teeming with all manner of foul beasts.
In Selgaunt, an effort is underway to duplicate the mysterious glue that the kuo-toa use on their shields. This glue is strong enough to cause weapons to stick to it even during combat. One out of four men will find himself suddenly weaponless during battle because of it, which represents an advantage for the kuo-toa. To date, the effort to duplicate this glue has been unsuccessful. The strength of the glue has been duplicated, but the substance dries out too quickly to be of practical use: It hardens into a solid block in just a few minutes.
Fortunately, work with the glue has not been completely futile. It is being used as a restraining device for difficult prisoners. When a convict's hands are dipped into the glue, it can function as a type of restraint if the prisoner's hands are forced together. Eventually, it is hoped the glue will save the iron workers time and allow them to re-create other, more useful items such as weapons rather than manacles. How to dissolve the glue after it hardens is still being worked on, however.
Traveling along the coast of the Lake of Dragons, one has the opportunity to see shipwrecks caused by pirates, monsters, and treacherous weather. All of the wrecks, unless destroyed or salvaged by the sponsoring merchant company, become home to thousands of various marine plants and animals that enjoy feeding on or attaching to wood, or curling up in whatever small spaces the wreck provides.
Other creatures seek wrecks because of the bodies of dead crewmen that lie in the hulls. Such wrecks are home to the lacedons, the marine variety of the ghoul. More foul waterborne creatures cannot be found. They are horrid, ugly creatures whose very appearance is nauseating, and are best described as bloated corpses of hideous color and harsh, ravenous eyes... My nightmares of them are the most vivid ones I have.
My talents have been called upon when there has been a series of ghoul attacks upon villages on or near a coast. If the remains of a ship wash up on a coast near a graveyard, one or more ghouls will smell the fresh death and claw their way out of the grave to climb aboard as soon as the wreck floats to shore. The promise of flesh spurs the ghouls.the feasting upon the bodies of the dead sailors can begin in as little as an hour after the ship meets land. Those sailors not completely devoured turn into lacedons themselves.
These ghouls, after feeding upon the crew and officers, find their food supply depleted. They turn their attention elsewhere, usually toward the next and nearest collection of corpses. I cannot fathom how they are able to pick out the location of corpses, even at far distances. There must be some inherent, magnetic quality in corpse blood - or souls - that draws lacedons to scenes of death. I surmise the nostrils of ghouls are uniquely adapted for seeking out death and disaster, making them more capable than vultures in locating flesh.
Lacedons also feed upon large fish, but since most lacedons live in wrecks that are coastal, an insufficient supply of fish large enough to satisfy everyone's appetite forces them to seek other food.
When the ghouls begin menacing villagers, I and my ilk are called upon to dispatch the wretched creatures. My experience comes from raiding the wrecked homes of the lacedons.
We attack always during the morning, so the sunlight will serve us. The ghouls are always found on the lower decks, out of the sunlight where it is relatively cool. It is easy to find the sleeping ghouls, for the water around their bodies is fetid and overwhelming in its stench.particularly when you discover the lacedons in standing water. The disgusting, slimy film that clings to the surface usually can be seen leaking out the windows and oar ports of multidecked ships. Care should be noted to see which way the current is flowing. One should not make the mistake of assuming that since there is more slime floating on one side of the ship, the ghouls are collecting toward that side.
Many ghouls do not like slumbering underwater. Perhaps their undead minds are more comfortable resting in an atmosphere "above" versus "below" the water's surface. These ghouls will submerge all but their noses if necessary. Because of this, we have sometimes approached the lacedons from the underside of the wreck, through the water. With spears, underwater fighting is not terribly difficult. But it's not exactly easy, as the lacedons.as opposed to the other, normal, land-based ghouls are adept at fighting in the brine. They can stay underwater throughout the duration of the melee. I have yet to see a lacedon surface during combat.
Given that some lacedons do not sleep underwater, one will find that they have packed themselves into every available space that's above water and in the shade. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage for someone attempting to clear a wreck of ghouls. Their packed condition makes it more difficult for them to respond to a threat, for their mobility is significantly reduced. However, it also means that any rooms or containers opened will often result in a shocking surprise for the explorer. Having two lacedons fall out of a cook's cabinet and onto one's chest isn't pleasant. I know from experience.
Once awake, the lacedons fight with a fierceness that matches no other. They will enter sunlight without hesitation, though it is obvious that the sun is causing them pain, though apparently without bodily harm.
The lacedons fight in packs as do other ghouls. When confronted on their home wrecks, they attack with a special fierceness and cunning. They are, of course, completely familiar with the wreck, and they use every tactical advantage they can. I have even seen lacedons near the Wyvernflow attempt to lure people through complicated mazelike wrecks until they become lost, then set upon them when their prey's back is turned.
The lacedons can be killed like any other ghouls. Thankfully they have no special properties that make them more of a threat than conventional ghouls.
Lacedons, when traveling to shore in search of corpses to feed upon, always stick to waterways. They seem drawn to water to a very great degree, even to the point of going well out of their way to ensure their constant contact with it. However, the draw of fresh meat will often lead them anywhere.
When traveling up a river, lacedons walk hunched over and in single file. Unlike other undead, the lacedons make noise. When wandering, they slosh through the water with abandon, unconcerned about the possible need for stealth. However, they are capable of being quiet when attempting to surprise those living beings they might come across.
When they have the scent of the dead upon their nostrils, they'll follow it directly over any terrain in as straight a line as possible. They mean to get to their prey and back again to the water as quickly as they can. It should also be noted that lacedons will rarely venture far from a stream or other body of water. However, if they find a supply of corpses in a lakeside graveyard, for example, they will change their lair from the site of a shipwreck to the lake. They have no possessions, so not much is involved in changing lairs. They merely return to the lake every dawn instead of the shipwreck.
One final thing I noticed about the lacedons. Perhaps it is because they were once all sailors that they continue to congregate with each other even after death. They are able to withstand illusions, traps, and terrain that tax a person's sense of balance. They are also able to climb ropes with amazing speed.
I heard about lizard men in stories my parents told. They were the stuff of fireside tales and nothing more to me. In each story, the beasts made their homes in swamps and dragged bodies of humans back to their lairs as food. Since there were never any swamps close to me, I never gave lizard men a second thought.
During our trek around the coast, I had occasion to give them second, third, and hundredth thoughts. The stories I heard said nothing of lizard men making their homes in caves under the sea, along coasts, which is something they often do. The southeastern tip of the Storm Horns is an ideal location for just such a dwelling.
We had just made our camp, having walked for a long time during the day and even through dusk. It was late, though I did not know the hour. I heard a scrabbling over the rocks toward the water, and bade Irovar to take cover behind an outcropping.
My first sight of one began with the reflection of our campfire in its yellow eyes. I saw that long before I saw anything else. The eyes floated in the air before me, two dots of light fixing me in their glare. I could also hear the water running off its smooth-skinned body. Soon, I saw two more such pairs of eyes. The lizard men seemed to know what our number was, and thought the three of them would suffice to take us down to their lairs. The battle was over with quickly, thanks to Irovar's magic. I was unscathed, and the three lizard men were dispatched.
Irovar looked at the fallen monsters and was able to tell a great deal about them. They each had bracelets of teeth around their thighs, which she informed me was the insignia of their tribe. Their clothes, such as they were, were very shabby and unkempt, even by lizard man standards, she said.
This meant the resources of their tribe were scarce. Their weapons - spears - were very crude and were barely one step above clubs with rocks at their ends. Irovar suggested that they may have sent only three men out of short-handedness. She also suggested that if we were to attempt to find their underwater lair, removing them would not prove overly difficult for the two of us. She offered a magic that would enable me to breathe despite my submersion. With that, I agreed to invade the lair. Finding it wasn't difficult, for it was close to our camp. The entrance was underwater but easily reached. It was to our advantage that the cave interior was dry. The tribe was indeed small, numbering no more than a dozen. Half of them were warriors. Unfortunately, one half that number had weapons in hand. Still, with Irovar's magic and my skills, killing them proved to be easy.
I soon began to regret the deed, for it seemed more a slaughter on our part than a struggle for survival. My spirits lifted a little when I found the cache of items they had stored from their raids on unsuspecting campers along the coast. I could tell that they had raided at least one small caravan, for many of their stores, now rotted, looked like they must have belonged to a merchant. There were bottles of spices, bags of grain, small kettles, baubles of glass, and reams of fabric.
The lizards had not seemed to care about or even know what to do with the things they had. There was a ball and chain as well as a crossbow among the items, but it was obvious they had never been used. Also among that cache was a great deal of fish bones with the characteristic tooth marks of lizard men on them. They were apparently supplementing their diet of humans and demihumans with fish, presumably because they could not find enough other meat to sustain them. This was a new discovery for me, for I had never heard of lizard men resorting to this.
My conclusions were that while there may be other lizard men along that stretch of coast, it is not their preferred habitat, and any lizard men encountered are not likely to be as threatening as the fabled ones in the Marsh of Tun or the Vast Swamp. Irovar agreed, and we moved on.
These fishlike creatures are similar to the kuo-toa in many ways. They have similar physiques (though the color of their scales does not resemble the kuo-toas'), and they lair in basically the same locations. However, the locathah are less likely to go into caverns deep inland, preferring to stay as close to the sea as they can.
The locathah are especially different from the kuo-toa in their fighting philosophy, style, and capability. They will fight to the death only if they have no other choice. They are wise tacticians and will try to use any situation to its best advantage. Still, the locathah lack natural weapons such as teeth and claws, and they must depend upon other sources of weaponry for combat.
If they lose whatever weapons they might have, they are forced to retreat, for they no longer possess any means of protection. This also explains why it is unusual to find a locathah that is minimally armed.
Locathah will fight only if their opponents use weapons similar to theirs. During such encounters, they will grapple with opponents, and in this the locathah have proven to be adept. If caught underwater with a locathah, it may be very difficult to win the contest, for the locathah are expert wrestlers. Only someone using magic to counteract the encumbrance of water has any hope of defeating a locathah in that environment.
Another significant difference between the locathah and kuo-toa is that the locathah cannot go onto land. Their bodies are too used to the buoyancy of water, and they are unable to breathe for any amount of time on dry ground. This physical trait also prevents them from being concerned over land related issues. At the same time, they take pains to prevent the surface world from affecting them.
There was a small tribe of locathah that was forced to leave the Saerloon area because the heavy shipping to and from there was disrupting their fish supply. This caused much discontent among the locathah, and a few ships along that route were sabotaged, but eventually the surface dwellers won out and the locathah moved on.
I do not know what happened to that tribe after they left. I do know that their castle lair was taken over by the kuo-toa. This incident illustrated how it is often better to appease the locathah than aggravate them. Although news of serious kuo-toan raids have not met my ears, the creatures are most certainly planning slave raids.
There has been some speculation that the kuo-toa were encouraged by another race of aquatic creatures to take over the locathahan lair, but this seems unlikely, for the kuo-toa would not need any special encouragement to take control of a castle lair that is close to human settlements.
Some locathah enjoy more favorable relations with surface dwellers. Tribes have arranged for tolls to be collected from fishermen who use waters claimed by the locathah. This works best when the locathah are in a position to cause serious damage to trespassers. ships. Near major cities, like Saerloon, such measures generally do not work well. For this reason, one will usually not find a locathah lair close to a metropolis. Even though the locathah are sea-bound, they are very open to trading. Their level of industry and technology is rather primitive, and they put most of their efforts toward making weapons. They are also adept at fashioning jewelry and crafts, and the objects of their artful labors are beautiful enough to command high prices and also to serve as a type of bartering currency for materials the locathah cannot manufacture themselves.
The locathah scavenge sunken wrecks and the like for precious items, but they are extremely hesitant to trade these treasures. When dealing with locathah goods, I've found that one has to be careful of forgeries. In a market in Saerloon, I found a merchant selling what he said was authentic locathah jewelry. However, the shells used in the jewelry were common ones found on the beach.
It takes a keen eye, experience, and common sense to spot fakes. The locathah only use shells and materials that are found deep beneath the surface of the sea. Make a trip to the beach surrounding the area the merchant occupies. One never sees genuine locathah jewelry composed of anything resembling shells found on the beach or in shallow waters.
A community of mermen lives just off the coast of Yhaunn. I have seen this community myself, and it is indeed a very beautiful thing to behold. There was some pirate activity near Yhaunn that was being attributed to mermen. The activity was coastal, and I, too, believed mermen were responsible. Many have witnessed attacks involving mermen approaching the shoreline.
After spending a great deal of time along the coast near Yhaunn, I discovered a merman couple sunning themselves on the rocks. They were young and probably naive. I took advantage of this to approach them. They didn't run. The female knew the Common language and we conversed. I learned that mermen are not able to walk on land like other creatures with arms and legs, but are only able to swim and climb onto rocks. They use their arms on land for locomotion. I told them what humans were saying about mermen, and the pair was taken aback.
With these two new friends, their resources, and a few days of investigation, I was able to learn that certain creatures were conducting their own attacks and posing as mermen, to shift attention from themselves and onto their hated enemy - the mermen. These new creatures turned out to be sahuagin, described later in this work.
The mermen community exists to this day, and a small but vocal contingent wishes to have closer relations with surface dwellers. This group, mostly composed of younger mermen, is trying to sway the community toward a better relationship between themselves and the land dwellers in the interest of trade.
Constant topics these mermen use to support their argument include fishing and defense. Both the mermen and the surface dwellers fish a great deal and depend upon the sea for food and commerce. To prevent either group from fishing in areas where the other has ownership, proper relations must be established.
Also, the sahuagin are threats to both groups. The sahuagin raid surface caravans, fishing villages, and sometimes even fishing boats as well as merman communities. Cooperation between mermen and surface dwellers would prove very beneficial. Mermen might also be able to assist in preventing pirate attacks. For certain, they would make exceptionally good spies for the government of Sembia. If the mermen are to establish relations, it will be with Sembia, for their community is mostly within that nation's territorial waters.
My first assignment as a Purple Dragon involved guarding the possessions of a mage conducting research near Suzail. The mage, Irovar, was looking for the location of a keep where she believed another mage had once kept a study. I was escorting her and her belongings along the coast of the Lake of Dragons, beside the Storm Horn mountains. Not the choicest of assignments, I thought, but after I spoke with Irovar and became familiar and comfortable with her, I didn't care where I was as long as she was my companion.
The tide had gone out, leaving a generally even terrain to cross. I suggested we make our best speed across the area, for it offered an easier route than the land farther from shore.
We crossed trying to avoid the many pools of water and mud the receding tide had left. We continued for a few hours, then rested near a pool. A second after Irovar sat on the sand, a mudman rose quickly out of the pool. I had only heard of such creatures before. I had never even seen a painting of one, so I was very shocked to note its incredible speed and unique form.
The creature acted before I could lift a finger. However, Irovar was much more levelheaded and cast a quick spell. The creature flew apart into large chunks of mud, caking us both. The mud hardened and was tough to remove. It was dark tan in color, matching the rocks of the surrounding beach.
While I was trying to calm down after the incident, Irovar began poking around in the pool. She smiled and told me she had been looking for a pool that held a mudman. She insisted that we delay our journey so she could take some of the pool's water. I asked why she found it so important and she said it indicated that the keep she was looking for must be somewhere nearby. She explained that water running through a magical place, like the keep, is often enchanted. When the water forms pools, the mud and silt within those pools also becomes enchanted, and will inevitably lead to the birth of mudmen.
We followed the pool away from the shore, looking for others. It was my sharp eye that discovered a tiny stream connecting the mud pool and other pools as well. It was spring, and the stream was apparently formed by melting snow from the Storm Horns.
Irovar found a trail of similarly colored mud leading from the original pool to another. I reminded her of my role as her guard, but she seemed flip about her ability to quell the threat of any mudmen. We went to the pool, discovered more mudmen, and she dealt with them as easily as the others. We followed the stream and found subsequent pools with an increasing number of mudmen in each.
With each new pool, the mudmen seemed to rise more quickly. The stream was more concentrated the farther inland we walked, suggesting that the enchantment was stronger and responsible for the increasing number of mudmen. As that number climbed, so did our expectation of finding the keep.
A threat to males walks the coastline of the Sea of Fallen Stars: the unusual water creature, the nereid. A nereid, I am given to understand, is formless until it presents itself to the air, whereupon it takes the form of a beautiful woman. Men are slaves to this temptation and will succumb to it most assuredly. In fact, this hold upon men is so strong that no man has ever been able to harm a nereid.
Women are not affected by the charms of the nereid, however. It has been said that nereid attempt to take the form of beautiful men when in the presence of women, but women are easily able to see through this disguise. This latter phenomenon is what brought the attention of the Purple Dragons and hence myself to a small coastal village east of Marsember.
The son of the village mayor had been seduced by a nereid. The son said that he had kissed the nereid and experienced pleasure unlike anything he had ever dreamed of. He also said that he had been let free of the nereid's grasp because the nereid and he had fallen in love, and that he was going to be transformed into a creature that could follow the nereid to whatever fate they were going to share. His father, the mayor, naturally attempted to talk his son out of this situation, but could not. He followed the son down to the coastline and was subsequently brought under the spell of the nereid as well. The wife of the mayor summoned the Purple Dragons, hopeful that we would find a method of saving her husband and son.
We traveled to the village in the company of a unit of expert female Purple Dragons. We hoped that they would be able to remedy the situation. They found the two men on the beach, waiting for their nereid to return. Sure enough, the creature did return, but the females were immune to her charms. They assaulted the nereid without delay and were able to capture its shawl. The shawl contained the essence of the nereid, and the Purple Dragons destroyed it straight away, which caused the nereid to fade from existence.
During the combat, the women were assaulted by a variety of attacks from the nereid. It seems the creatures are apparently able to control water, and they use it to cause all manner of havoc even upon coastal land. This particular nereid used waves to keep the warriors at bay, to cause deafening crashes, and to create servant water snakes. These measures proved to be effective, but they were hampered by the fact that the water quality the nereid was formed in was not as clear as water along the beach of other villages on that coast. Therefore, the nereid was not as strong as she might have been. The village had recently had a coastal fishing competition and had used bits of foul flesh and blood to draw predatory fish to the coastline. There were assorted impurities floating in the water, and this seemed to have a negative effect on the nereid's ability in combat.
Another creature that is deadly to males in particular is the nymph. However, these creatures aren't as evil by nature as the nereid can be. Instead, it is their intense beauty alone that strikes males dead.
Nymphs can be encountered in any naturally beautiful setting, and the coast is no exception. Many areas along the coast of the Sea of Fallen Stars are stunning in their serenity and awe-inspiring in their beauty. I encountered a nymph while visiting a monkish retreat in Sembia, along the peninsula near Tulbegh. The nymph had made her home in a small but perfect grotto. I was investigating the grotto simply to see what was inside. I noticed as I approached that there were several varieties of sea life congregating near the entrance, creatures that would otherwise be fighting each other to the death. This concerned me as I entered, but I did not think of the reason for such a strange gathering of creatures until it was too late. It was then that I set my eyes upon the most beautiful creature ever to walk the land. Although I caught only a glimpse, the nymph was enough to blind me instantly. The glimpse brought a sudden wave of lightheadedness that swept over me and I passed out (during which time I dreamed of nothing but her beauty). When I regained my senses, I realized I was being carried on the back of some ocean creature.
I was greeted by a man who explained what had happened, and said that I would be cured of my blindness through magic. I was taken to a room and heard the voices of many people. When the man was done with his spell, I opened my eyes and was able to see. I discovered that I had been cured in the monastery I had been looking for.
The experience was profound, and I learned a great deal about the relationship between nymphs and the men who had built the monastery. The monks explained that nymphs, like some druids, take a particular interest in areas of great beauty, and that the nymph I encountered watched over the land the monastery was built on. She taught one of their number the secret to reversing the curse of blindness.
The nymph, I learned, had since moved on, but I was also told that nymphs tend to tell each other about certain choice locations, so the possibility that another nymph will return to that exquisite grotto remains. Until then, I have the eternal picture of her magnificent beauty etched in my mind.
This race of fishmen represents the greatest threat to the coastline. The sahuagin are as brutal as the kuo-toa, but they do not harbor an intense hatred of humans alone as the kuo-toa do. Instead, they hate all life in general, and they are chaotic enough in their philosophies to think nothing of decimating whole villages and towns.
The sahuagin have a most terrible reputation on coasts other than the Sembian and Cormyte. That is not to say that these coasts have gone untouched by the sahuagin, but that these foul creatures have cut far greater swaths of destruction on other shores. Their raids have influenced the growth and history of various regions. Rulers have made their names campaigning against them while others lost holdings and fortunes struggling to resist them.
Despite their political effect on the surface world, there seems to be no overriding purpose to the sahuagin practice of raiding and pillaging, other than the occasional attempt to gain booty. There has been speculation that they desire sole control over the coasts, but this seems impractical, given that sahuagin can only survive out of water for a few hours. Nevertheless, a real concern is that control is their ultimate goal.
In recent memory, there have been two known significant sahuagin attacks on both Sembian and Cormyte coasts. The Sembian attack was near Yhaunn, and the Cormyte near Suzail. Two things make these attacks worrisome. First, the sahuagin are fond of warm water and rarely venture out of tropical and temperate waters. The attack near Yhaunn occurred during the winter, when the water was near freezing. In fact, sahuagin tracks were left in the snow that fell on the rocky beaches there.
Also, the many different groups of sahuagin are politically well organized, with a central king and several nobles. The warriors encountered near Suzail were wearing pieces of jewelry that looked uniform enough to have been a primitive type of insignia, perhaps. This means that there were two groups of sahuagin attacking the coastline at either end. I have no doubt that a concentrated attack by the sahuagin will come in the near future, one that will be a group effort by more than one sahuagin noble house.
These attacks were just preliminary actions precluding a much larger campaign. The sahuagins' aim, I believe, is going to be destruction of the coastline, as it has been so many times in the past.
We land dwellers still have two significant advantages. The sahuagin intensely dislike bright light. They never attack during sunny weather and absolutely never during dawn or dusk when their attack would be facing the sun. Magically generated light also repulses them. It has been observed to cause pain and force them to retreat.
In addition to the problem with light, sahuagin have a phobia of mages. They will not tolerate the use of magic in combat and will concentrate their efforts toward removing the threat of magic from the battle scene. Although this is generally unfortunate news for a mage who is caught in a sahuagin melee, it also means that sahuagin fears of magic are still very much intact. While they might have overcome their aversion to cold temperatures, they have not gotten past their fear of the supernatural.
As I mentioned before, the sahuagin have a central king who lives in a location unknown to land dwellers. It is believed that some prisoners might possibly know where it is, but their knowledge is perhaps forever out of reach to the rest of us, for any prisoner who sets eyes on the grand palace of the king is assumed to have been killed a short time afterward. The bodies of these poor souls are disposed of unceremoniously, left to float or drift with the currents. Should a corpse be found, communication with the soul of the owner might possibly reveal a few interesting secrets.
This central government represents the most serious threat to coastal security. With this level of organization, it is possible to conduct sharp military campaigns that have systematic goals and targets. Also, it is possible to have grand plans masked by simple deceptive actions. The sahuagin have several natural enemies that prevent them from ruling the seas. The ixitxachitl, giant squid, kraken, triton, aquatic elves, hippocampi, dolphin, and of course every surface dwelling creature, have all made their dislike of the sahuagin very clear. The combined antagonism of all these communities is the only thing that has kept the sahuagin numbers truly in check. And, it is fortunate that the demand for supplies needed to protect themselves from other races has kept surface military actions lower in number than what they might otherwise be.
They have few allies in the deep. Sharks are perhaps the only creatures that will aid the sahuagin, but that is only because the sharks are not intelligent enough to know better. The sahuagin have a racial ability to control sharks, and because of this sharks are used as sentries and for entertainment. The sahuagin's level of technology and industry is roughly the same as that of other fishmen races, though the sahuagin take more pride and care in construction of their lairs. They are built to be fortresses and are often camouflaged. In addition, each lair, no matter how minor in importance, is kept secret, and its location never revealed, even if a member of the lair is tortured by the enemy for information. The foul beasts rightfully assume that if the location of their lairs were known, they would be attacked immediately.
Interrogating sahuagin prisoners is a lost cause. The warriors who come ashore are brutal, evil, and totally devoted to their leaders. As soldiers, they are accomplished. Only magical and alchemical methods of truth extraction have any chance of success. Torture, for certain, does no good. The beasts are used to seeing torture performed on prisoners and even to having it performed on themselves by angry leaders. It's difficult to fathom conventional parlay with such savage creatures.
Two varieties of this kind of troll threaten the coast: freshwater and saltwater. The freshwater trolls are called scrags (also river trolls), the saltwater are called marine scrags (and sometimes sea trolls).
Scrags are very dangerous, devious creatures that hunt for living flesh. Although their intelligence isn.t high, they are nevertheless very cunning hunters and some even are able to cast spells. River trolls tend to frequent a particular region and cause a substantial amount of terror. They hunt in packs and lie in ambush at secluded locations. The Purple Dragons were called to protect the Calantar Bridge over the Starwater River in Cormyr. Scrags were ambushing travelers and attacking in large groups, killing many at a time.
The scrags were very tough and vicious, striking swiftly and with practice. We drove many attacks away and even began camping at either end of the bridge to protect travelers. Naturally, their attacks turned from caravans to us, but we were able (only barely) to repel them. They left the bridge.
All was quiet until we heard of more attacks up and down river from the bridge. The scrags had started to move, expanding their hunting territory.
A massive effort was launched to clear the area of scrags once and for all. I fought in six battles myself, and we won three of them by a slim margin, and only because we had a strong advantage in numbers. Nevertheless, the overall campaign was a success. The scrag, once in water, is able to recover from wounds right before one's eyes. Our strategy shifted during the campaign to luring the beasts out of the water, and this was done with fresh meat. With the scrags unable to recover, we were able to destroy enough of them to cause the survivors to flee the river. When all the units began using this technique, numerical superiority became less of a priority and the tide shifted to our advantage quickly. Attacks on the river and even sometimes on the bridge continue, but retribution is always swift. However cunning scrags are as hunters, though, their memories are short, and they are slow to learn over the long term.
Sea trolls present an altogether more threatening force. They attack ships en masse and rend their way through the crew at a terrible, bloody rate. A successful way of dealing with these trolls has not yet been developed. Diverting their attention with fresh meat is too expensive, for sea trolls attack in groups of ten, and getting enough meat to lure them is difficult. They are selective in what fresh meat they seek, and they prefer a substantial amount. Also, they attack without any warning. Finally, sea trolls are intelligent enough not to attack the same locale more than two or three times.
They swarm over the deck of a ship, kill as many people as they can, and drag the bodies off to be eaten later. Marine scrags will attack the same dock or bay or commonly used area perhaps once or twice more, then move as many as 50 miles away before launching another strike.
To my knowledge, there has been only one roving group of scrags that terrorized a coastline. Attacks began in Marsember and went east to every city along the coast until Tulbegh. At Tulbegh, there were enough soldiers, sailors, and mages waiting for the impending scrag attack to not only repel the trolls, but kill enough of that pack to eliminate it as a threat. This sweep did not happen quickly, but took place over several months. It was not until Saerloon that the connection among the attacks was made, and it was not until Tulbegh that enough people were gathered and organized.
What this means, I believe, is that while river and sea trolls are intellectually slow, they do adapt and are constantly trying, in their disadvantaged way, to learn new methods of attack.
Trolls regenerate; this elevates the troll to a new level of concern. Most combatants focus only on killing the troll and neglect burning the corpse, or forget that its regeneration can be rapid enough to cause a melee to stretch beyond the endurance of non-trolls. These facts are sometimes lost even on Purple Dragons. Unless the patrols set closer watches and apply more seriousness to their duties, many more sailors and coastal fisherman will die before we can respond. If even a sign of a troll is found, there should be an instant and concerted effort to track it down and destroy it completely.
I was walking along the beach with three of my comrades. We were keeping a general watch, for there had been reports of pirate activity. We were scanning for ships and landing craft approaching the beach. The night had a full moon, so we had plenty of light to see by.
We spotted a group of naked men lying in the surf on the beach ahead of us. We thought it might be a pirate trap, so we approached cautiously. It was indeed a trap, but what happened was far beyond our expectations.
The men changed shape in front of our eyes. Their bodies shrank and bulged, and before we knew what was happening we were surrounded by five lycanthropic seawolves. They charged us, propelling them selves along the sand with their hugely powerful clawed frontal fins. They launched themselves at us, their gaping wolf muzzles flashing with rows of sharp teeth.
One of us was seized upon by two of them. My other comrade started running for the sea.a serious mistake. I started running for the forest, hoping that it would prove too difficult for them to traverse.
I never knew what happened to my two friends. Their corpses were never found, and I'm sure the one who went into the water was killed easily, for the seawolves are powerful and deadly in the water.
The forest was indeed too difficult for my pursuers to travel through. The brambles caught and snagged on their skin and their flippers weren't able to get through the brush. As soon as they were a few paces in, they stopped. I thought my chance had come, but I waited to see what they were up to before I continued on. I thought perhaps they were waiting for me to reveal my location with some movement or noise, so I kept perfectly still. I didn't have trouble doing so, for what I saw next frightened me so I couldn't move. They shrank, curled up on the ground, and started a low groaning sound. I heard what sounded like vomiting and a horridly sickening wash of fluid cascading onto the ground. Their bodies shook and convulsed, tearing at the brush surrounding them. In the moonlight, all I could see were their trembling, growling shapes shuddering in the brush. Suddenly they fell silent and seconds later they rose in human form, their naked bodies silhouetted against the moonlight. They were standing, but clearly disoriented. I took advantage of this and ran deeper into the forest and laid in wait for them by climbing a tree. When their heads cleared, they followed me. One passed underneath me without knowing I was above him. (I was fortunate that in human form they don.t have the special senses they would otherwise possess.) I dropped from the tree, swinging my sword at its head as mightily as I could. Its quick death surprised me, for I had heard many tales about werewolves being immune - even in human form - to mundane weapons. I was hoping that my sword would at least act like a club and stun the beast, allowing me time to get away, since the edge would not be able to cut through the creature's enchanted fur.
The other lycanthrope heard his comrade's death cry and ran toward me. I stood my ground and we set at each other with tremendous ferocity. My blood was boiling and the lycanthrope was fueled by vengeance for his fallen partner. Even in human form, it had slavering jaws and extended sharp fingernails that I'm sure carried the disease of lycanthropy. But, I prevailed, and with a practiced move, I feinted, turned, and sent my sword through its midsection.
When I returned during the day with a party to recover the bodies of my comrades (a fruitless search), I took note that there wasn't a trace of the conflict from the night before, save for pockets of broken twigs and branches. I expected to at least see blood on the sand from where the first of us fell, and blood on the leaves in the brush, but there was nothing. My best guess as to what happened is that the seawolves returned to the spot before dawn and took the bodies and possessions back into the sea. They did not want to draw any more attention to themselves than they had to, and taking evidence of the previous night's attack was their way of covering their tracks. As to the blood, it must have disintegrated in the purity of the sunlight.
How numerous the seawolves are is impossible to tell. They strike fast and retreat quickly, and they seem to be intent on destroying everything they contact. Our advantage rests in their preference for using weapons that are ineffective against our own.
These kind-natured creatures resemble seals while in the water, but they are able to transform to human shape for going ashore.
A selkie community lives not far north of Scardale. Although the water is a bit more warm than they are used to, they seem to have adapted well.
The selkies are peaceful and exist in harmony with the fishermen near Scardale and Harrowdale. Normally, neither bothers the other. However, there have been moments when the selkies and the "overworlders" have clashed.
There was a sinking of a merchant vessel in the Dragon Reach, a body of water near Scardale. The ship was sunk near deep waters and its booty was unassailable by the pirates that sunk the ship. The selkies, however, were able to get to the ship with ease and recover the treasure.
When this became known to the sponsoring merchant company, they offered a bounty to anyone able to recover the sunken goods. This caused a great deal of friction, and because of it the selkies have taken a position that causes them to be less cordial to overworlders. Still, some selkies have suggested that they ally themselves with the mermen and form a group of power that would have to be reckoned with. With the selkies' ability to go ashore in human form and relate to overworlders on their own terms and in their own locales, and with the inclusion of the mermen communities in the bargain, establishing new relations would be easy. The help of the selkie is a factor which is luring some mermen over to the idea of establishing relations with surface dwellers.
While swimming near the Neck, that stretch of water that is a favorite ambush site for pirates, I came across the most dangerous plant life I have yet encountered.
Six members of my unit were at the coastline on leave. I was sitting on a rock but had my feet dangling in the water, letting them be caressed by the surf, which was gentle in that area. I was paying no mind to the passing day and was just enjoying the sun, when a scream came from one of our number who was likewise positioned. I looked over in time to see his feet jerk forward and his head and torso fly back hard enough to strike him unconscious. We quickly realized what had happened: Strangleweed had crept up to him and taken hold of his ankles. He was being pulled under the water. Three of us went to him and got hold of his arms and started pulling back. I went to fetch my sword to cut him loose.
But one of my companions was thinking ahead. He jumped into the water away from the strangleweed and began thrashing about. He made as though he was himself caught in something, but he tried to swim closer to the strangleweed patch.
The deadly weed took notice of it and part of it started to move toward him. The swimmer told those who had hold of the victim to let go, which they hesitantly did. Sure enough, the strangleweed floated toward the thrasher, letting go of the unconscious victim. The swimmer was easily able to avoid being snared by the living weed, and we left the area. It served as a warning to us that we should never so completely relax that we don't notice floating plants near us, and that if one keeps calm, escaping strangleweed is possible.
I was south of Scardale where I first encountered tako. To see these large, multicolored octopoid creatures rise up out of the sea and come ashore to attack with axes and spears is a sight both amazing and horrifying. Tako were menacing a king's caravan from Cormyr, so we were sent to protect it. We set an ambush on the top of a cliffside with archers.
The tako came ashore when we thought they would, which was during the normal time when the caravan passed a certain area along the coast. There were nine tako altogether, and they rose up and took to the land all at once.
We shot at them with arrows from our ambush site, but it was very difficult to target them. Their squirming tentacles were impossible to hit, and their undulating central bodies were hard to land blows on. When they realized the ambush, they simultaneously changed color before our eyes. They blended in with the rocky background, and all but one of them simply disappeared from my sight.
They worked their way through the rocks and confounded us all. They blended perfectly. A few of the archers continued to shoot, able to pick out movement here and there.
They reached the base of the cliff and started ascending it without effort. I spotted the lot of them only briefly, for they changed their color to match the cliffside almost instantly. Most surprising to me was that they kept their weapons with them. They were able to climb the cliffside with only a few of their seven tentacles. One tako, instead of tossing his ax down, threw it up over the cliff, wounding one of the archers.
Fear crept into us, for we had not expected them to camouflage themselves so well, nor to climb as swiftly as they did. We retreated just a bit and prepared for the assault. It came, and it was bloody. As soon as they were atop the cliff, each one threw axes and spears at the archers, which finished off half my companions.
Although they moved slowly on land, we couldn't approach them because their tentacles kept us at bay. The archers did their best, but it was difficult to target them.
One of the wagons from the caravan was rolled over by two of them, causing our first casualties. It was then we realized we were outmatched, for our weapons and skills weren't as effective as the weight of a wagon. Melee was too difficult for us. Retreat was our only option.
We did return with a good force of Purple Dragons and Sembian troops, but the tako had ceased to raid that area. I learned that the tako are fierce and cunning combatants on land, and that one should never underestimate them when they set tentacle on soil. I shudder in fear at the thought of trying to attack even one of them underwater.
The tritons are a mysterious and fantastic community of sea-dwellers. They, like the mermen, are reclusive and will not deal with anyone outside their own communities. Unlike the mermen, however, they have no contingent among them wishing to change the status quo.
Tritons are known for eventually capturing those who invade their territory, and this has prevented me from visiting their communities. Still, those who have visited the cities have told me many tales about wonderful castles and achievements. Despite their reclusiveness, the tritons seem to share a special affinity and closeness with hippocampi, sea lions, and giant sea horses, which are the creatures summoned when tritons use their conch shells.
The legend that tritons come from the elemental plane of water to this world for a purpose known only to them is familiar to many. What begins to give credence to this is the tritons' preoccupation with the aforementioned creatures.
They are highly secretive and do not pay much attention to others with the exception of a few specific animals. It has been theorized that the summoned animals are being bred and trained as pets. Until the tritons' plan becomes more apparent, we shall most likely never know the true reason for their visit.
Our trek up the stream bed lasted a few days. Oddly, the stream became wider the longer we walked along it. The stream diverted several times, and the part we were following was apparently a creek leading in to the river.
At last we came upon our goal: the keep. It was a small dilapidated structure that was on the verge of collapse. Running through it, however, was the stream we had been following.
We were taking in the sight of our prize when a long and beautiful emerald-green serpent flowed down the stream toward us. Irovar was quicker to get to cover than I was, for I was enthralled by the gorgeous scales that danced and sparkled in the sunlight just under the clear water. When the serpent came out of the stream and faced us, I knew immediately that it was a water naga. It was guarding the keep, I thought, and it had come out to keep us away. I had no idea of what to expect from this magical, beautiful, and deadly creature of legend.
Irovar's smooth talking prevented hostilities. We spoke rather amiably together for a while. The naga, whose gender I could never determine, was interested in talking with us rather than killing us. It recognized Irovar as a mage and knew why she had come, and the naga did not seem to care about my companion's purpose, which delighted Irovar to no end.
The naga had lived in the keep all its life and was actually the pet of the mage who had built the keep.
I learned from this encounter that naga can be reasonably dealt with, something handy to know. It's worth the effort to at least attempt to gain the confidence of guardian creatures like the naga.
During my early mercenary years, I was near Tulbegh waiting to go out with a caravan to Selgaunt. I was one of the many hired to protect it from raiders along Rauthauvyr's Road.
The trek itself was uneventful, until we reached the bridge leading to Selgaunt. While crossing it, we were set upon by a huge serpent composed of water. It had no features other than the contiguous clear-colored flowing shape of a snake. The "water weird" reared up dramatically, then lashed down upon the bridge. It wrapped itself tightly around a comrade of mine and snatched him into the water. We could see the struggle just below the surface. It was as if my companion were struggling against an invisible enemy. Even the surface of the water was eerily calm. But when we saw his body go limp and sink toward the bottom, we knew that the serpent would be back. Indeed it was, seconds later.
Our mage cast a spell and ice formed all around the thing. We cheered, for we thought that would be the end of it. Instead, it resisted and dove slowly toward the mage, its frosty faux-serpentine head gaping, ready to eat him whole. Luckily, the dive was slow enough that the mage was barely able to get out of the way. We took the mage's lead and all fled from the bridge. The water weird kept everyone off the bridge for a long time, until a priest could be summoned. I stayed to see what a priest could do where a mage had failed, but all that was needed was for the priest to purify the water weird. It instantly lost its form.
Since that time, I have learned other facts about the water weird. The most unnerving is that there is no forewarning before one appears. Magical forms of detection sensitive to invisible creatures only suggest some strange activity in the water, but don't offer more specific information. It takes a moment for the weird to form, and one would think this would be the best time to flee from it. However, the weird is intelligent, and forms in a location that is hidden from view, so that it can spring upon its targets in ambush. Also, once formed, the weird can travel through and under the water and appear elsewhere without having to spend time reconstituting its form. In this way, it is able to conduct sneak attacks and dodge incoming blows.