The Gang of Five’s return to the Sea Wyvern at nightfall proved to be bittersweet; with the dying of the day’s light, the ship had been attacked by the writhing plant horrors that had been described to them in the log book of The Rage, and in the party’s absence, Skald, Amella, and Lirith could only defend the ship so well. Two of the would-be colonists had been grabbed and taken from the top deck of the ship, leaving a sobbing mother and now widow behind, and with the last rays of pale sunlight swallowed by the fog and the horizon, only the promise of further assaults remained.
A tight watch rotation was established to include anyone who could swing a sword on the top deck, either patrolling or sleeping in the Captain’s cabin, while all non-fighting personnel were ordered to remain in the hold. It didn’t take long for the watch to prove useful: Skald spotted them first, and signaling the party, they readied their weapons for an assault. The knobby, stinking, vine-caked horrors came slowly at first, but as each moment passed, it seemed more and more climbed aboard the vessel, until nearly a dozen swarmed the deck, wreaking havoc as they clawed at the crew like frenzied demons. These terrible vines seemed to use the dead that Journey’s End claimed as vessels, snaring themselves around bone and through organs to create a creature that was mostly demonic sargasso wrapped around a rotting, stinking carcass.
Just when it seemed as though the last of the creatures had come, however, a great row could be heard from below deck. Somehow, these creatures had infiltrated the hold, the party knew, and so it was that after dispatching the last of the creatures on the deck, they hurried below to discover the source of the panic.
The truth was worse than they had imagined. Two of the creatures had squeezed into the hold through an impossibly tight crack between two planks, and had immediately assaulted one of the passengers on board, wrapping around him like a hellish suit. Even worse, the man contained within was panicked, screaming, and it seemed as though his flesh was sickeningly translucent where the vines had hold of him. The others trapped in the hold stood to the rear, screaming, as some of the braver men attempted to ward off the creatures with mop handles and poles. As the group burst in, they found one of the vine horrors slinking out the way it had came, and most horribly, it seemed to be somehow taking its hapless victim with it, squeezing his flesh into a soupy putty that it could drag through with it. While the group acted fast to try and cut the vines off the hapless passenger, it was too late, and the task required too much precision. Even as they could see the organs and bones of the luckless passenger through his rapidly-softening flesh, he begged them in a burbled gasp to kill him. Reluctantly, but with no other options, they obliged him, destroying the vine creature in the process, his body falling apart into a liquid soup shot through with the tumescent leaves of sargasso weed.
Watch was maintained throughout the evening, but no more attacks came. Only the soft whispers of “Outsiders…” on the wind from time to time indicated that they were still not alone.
With the morning’s light, the group decided that something must be done to save themselves and the people in their charge. They would seek the black heart of this land and stab at it, as all knew there would be no other way out. Saying what might have been their last goodbyes to the crew of their ship, the five set off across the sargasso to slay whatever horror created this briny, salt-caked hell.
Traveling in the direction of their vessel’s sargasso-frozen bow, the party found the land to be unforgiving and treacherous. Even as the greater density of seaweed comprising the earth assured them better footing, the nature of the otherwise exanimate vegetation became downright hostile, its sweeping vines seeming as if lashing out to grasp the men as they passed. But as the vegetation became more hostile and dense, it became clear they were reaching the epicenter of whatever foul aberration created the bane place.
Hours of careful travel brought the group over dunes of piled sargasso into a veritable forest of weeds, framing the wholly-consumed, partially-submerged hull of another ship, a massive galleon christened The Thunderer. Carefully, the group boarded the vessel, finding that the deck of the onerous hulk was shockingly clear of the same signs of decay and consumption as the other vessels in Journey’s End. All that remained of what was once The Thunderer were the skeletal bodies of a handful of old salts, untouched by the consuming green. Tobin and Traxen were both aware of this vessel’s history: The Thunderer was a Crimson Fleet vessel that left Sasserine decades earlier, when the Sea Princes were still in charge. Lost at sea, her tale was one of the great precautionary tales of maritime lore; that all the fear and reputation you can muster means nothing to the sea, she will take what she will.
The group’s arrival on the ship was heralded by an even more ominous portent than this gruesome lesson, however. All out across the sargasso forest, on all sides, shapes began to writhe and squirm around them, growing up from the sargasso into man-like parodies whose empty groaning droned like a chorus as they took shape and made their advance on the ship. Whatever demon spawned this place, it was clear that they were close, and that time was running out. Hurriedly, the men ran below deck, ready to confront their fate.
The ship’s lower decks were fairly sick with unclaimed pirate loot which the group hastily grabbed up, but it was the groaning, teeming noises coming from the hull that were of more immediate import. Creeping to the lowest level of the vessel, what the men found inside was startling: a garden of almost horrid beauty, delicate leaves of sargasso yawning up the walls and across the ceilings, flowering into fernlike fronds that behaved as though underwater. The entire lower section of the ship could quite easily have been held together by the sargasso alone, and as they entered this strange, wonderful, terrible area, the vines seemed to come alive behind them and seal their route of escape. The trap was sprung. All that remained was a massive, tumescent aperture on the far side of the vessel, a carrion black pit well below sea level and yet not wet, but slimy, writhing, full of cancerous, twitching growths and aberrations.
Something growled from deep within it as they approached.
Without warning, then came the dark lord of that hellish place, a dislocated sack of foul-smelling vegetation wreathed in screaming humanoid forms that struggled to free themselves from the foul flesh of the beast. A vast, distended belly bathed in foul green mucus hung from this massive beast’s vaguely humanoid form. Infantile cries echoed from the hideous passengers that struggled to slowly pull themselves from their mother. At nearly twenty feet tall as it stood at its full, erect height, the grotesque hybrid of woman and plant showed itself a nightmare of mucoid arms and clustered eyes, a deviant being of rot, a pryamidical bulk that rose to a head of barbed, thorny teeth: The Mother of All.
Shocked into mute terror, the resolute men knew that only be slaying this monstrosity could they ever hope to be freed. Steeling themselves, they drew their weapons and pressed their attack, a howl of rage in their throats.
Their weapons could scarcely injure it. Their armor was useless against its massive, crushing sweeps and jagged, daggerlike teeth that held them fast with a hundred tiny arms. Even as they swung to strike it, the horror would recede into her home and reappear elsewhere, spawning a clutch of new horrors with her rebirth. The fight seemed to last forever, and yet, through patience, resolve, and stoic spirit, the massive beast at least screamed its last, sent hurtling back into the darkness.
The victory was short-lived, however. With the death of the mother, the children breathed their last, and whatever black magic held the monolithic bulk of Journey’s End together began to dissolve, as well. The hull of The Thunderer shook, making it clear which way the wind was blowing. With precious seconds to spend, the group ran to the top deck of the ship even as the sea at last claimed it, leaving nothing but errant strands of seaweed and various scraps of derelict driftwood.
For what seemed like eternity, the group remained adrift at sea, awaiting rescue. Exhausted, they paddled their buoyant object of choice in the direction of the Sea Wyvern, praying furtively to the gods of the sea that they would meet. After long last, they at last spied the creaking vessel’s stern on the horizon, framed by the last rays of the setting sun. Desperate, they cried out, and with some struggle, their rescue was finally effected.
There was more bad news to be had, however: Skald and Lirith had set out hours prior to find them, after the sargasso first unclotted, with a few days worth of water and food. Thinking that they would be able to find the group sooner and save them from possible drowning, they struck out on their own, and had not been seen since. Hours of searching revealed no trace of them. Had the sea almost carelessly taken their lives as toll for escaping Journey’s End? Or would they eventually find their way ashore? No one could tell. All that was left was to continue on to the Isle, and then to Farshore. With only a few weary days to go, their goal was at last in site.
The weather the following days was foul. Throughout the day after leaving Journey’s End, the rain came with wind, tossing the vessel all about, threatening to capsize. The shores of the Isle of Dread were now in sight, only a few hundred meters away, but the approach would be treacherous, near suicidal, leaving no hope of simply waiting out the weather. When it seemed things could get no worse, the boat tossed, running aground on the jagged reefs of the isle. The immediate deaths sent bodies spilling out of the cracked hull, drawing the attention of all manner of sea predators, chief among them a massive, aggressive eel known as a “masher”. While the party was successful in fighting it off and dislodging their limping vessel from the rocks, the storm would collect its due in spite of them: as an exhausting evening of fighting the weather and the failing structural integrity of their boat nearly reached its end, a final, massive wave surged up from the depths.
At long last, the Sea Wyvern was lost. Her passengers were thrown to the unforgiving sea.