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Foray (2/???)

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Foray (2/???)

Occult

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Foray 2.1
I haven’t made a recording in this journal for two weeks. Not for lack of things to write about, of course. Quite the opposite. I’ve been so preoccupied with simply surviving the Dead Sea that I haven’t had time for much else.
The first day after the storm was… calm. Not pleasant, for the sea is still murky black, the air putrid, even the harmless fauna disgusting. But it was calm.
After the storm, and the attacks, a reprieve was almost due me, but it didn’t last long. As dusk fell (though the cycle of day and night was hard to distinguish at first), I was nearly plucked off the deck by a massive, birdlike creature. I scared it off with a few magical sparks, but the chance brush with danger was an excellent wakeup call. The Sea is never truly calm.
The next few days were similar. At seeming random, more of the guard-ships from the rift stuck at me, trying tactics both similar and different to the original attack. Never more than five, though the one instance that many did attack, I had a hell of a time fending them off.
Interestingly, during one of the attacks, I got a good look at both one of their ships, and one of their crewmembers. The ships seem fairly similar, patched-together wooden sailing ships, with the occasional more modern part that I assume was scavenged from ships they’ve sunk. What caught my attention more, however, was the sailor. During their one and only successful boarding of my Siege Perilous, one of them rushed me with a rusted rapier. His uniform was tattered and faded, but it matched the description of the crewmembers on a ship I’d read about. One passenger survived, and wrote the story down, of how their ship fell into the Dead Sea. Though the thing’s skin was rotted, bones frail, and mind eroded, I believe it was, reanimated by some power of the Sea, a crewmember of that same boat. This explains how the Dead Sea’s eternal navy replenishes its ranks, by reanimating those it claims.
After a week or so of this, I passed some arbitrary, invisible mark, and they decided to stop pursuing me. This granted me a few days of rest, which I took gladly, but didn’t grow lax in my defenses. Each day since the first, I’ve renewed the defensive runes, and kept up my meditations.
Finally, I decided to do some of what I came to the Sea in the first place to do. Explore, record, observe. And though there are a great many horrors on the Sea, I decided to find out what lurks below.
Though my choice of diving attire is somewhat antiquated, I’m rather fond of the suit. It offers more protection than obvious, thanks to the runes I’ve inscribed all across its interior.
After a few preparations, I was ready for the dive.
Foray 2.2
(Notation: this is a continuation of the previous entry, which was stretching on long enough I thought it best to split it into two.)
Before I actually began the dive, I took a sample of the ‘water,’ and performed some cursory tests on it. Nothing my usual wards wouldn’t prevent presented itself, so I donned the suit and took the plunge.
The water was opaque, for the first few minutes. I simply let myself descend, totally blind, until it passed. After some interminable amount of time, it did. I passed through the inky blackness, and the water cleared. Not wholly, there was a thick fog even there, but enough that I could see. Soon, I reached the sea-floor. Rocks, and some flora, were all I saw at first. Using a spell of recording, I began to map it, as I believe no other explorer had dared to descend into the deep.
Finally, after some time simply looking around, I found something truly interesting. A black tablet, sunken into the sand, with an inscription wholly incomprehensible to me. I picked it up, and something happened. I have included an illustration, which I believe represents what happened accurately.
Indeed, as is visible above, a massive stag appeared, almost out of nowhere, behind me. It didn’t seem hostile, but I decided to err on the side of caution, and pull myself up.
Back aboard the ship, I removed the suit, raised anchor, and set off again. Back inside the cabin, I had the chance to observe the tablet more directly.
With almost no reference points to speak of, I have been unable to decipher it, but there is enough mystic energy radiating off of it that I have decided to keep it.
Foray 2.3
(Notation: Yes, dear reader, I’ve split the account of two weeks into three entries. I’m as disgusted as you are.)
As we set sail again, the next day, I decided to try my hand at some astral projection. Though it is not my greatest talent, I have become adept at it, out of pure necessity. I hadn’t yet tried it on the Sea, though, because the Sea’s astral counterpart is triply dangerous. Still, with naught in sight but more fog, I decided to chance it.
Within a minute of my entering the astral plane, I was beset upon by restless spirits. They proved easily dealt with, but even as I burnt their souls away, more gathered to attack. I rushed forwards, ready to return to my body at a moment’s notice, and managed to catch a glimpse of land. Not much, merely a sliver of something on the horizon, before I was forced to return to my body. Still, it’s given me something to go towards, a loose goal of sorts, even it seems likely that all it will spell is more violence.
The past three days have been monotony, all atmospheric and barometric readings, running tests on the Sea itself. Mostly inconclusive, but I’ll record it anyways, for the benefit of the next person to venture in.
Foray 2.4
As it turns out, ‘land’ was a bit of a misnomer. There’s land here, but no landmass. Just a few small areas where the sea is low, and sand pokes through. Some people decided, at some point, that it would make a good settlement, and built their homes here.
The homes are ruined, of course, but they still give me some hope. Based on the proximity of the buildings, and the size of several, this wasn’t just a loose collection of huts, it was a full-on community. And if the people here are cooperative enough to form a community, the might not just attack me on sight.
Of course, that all hinges on their being alive, and I can’t be totally sure that they are. As you can see in my attached illustration, the buildings are ruined, and the creatures I suspect were responsible still remain.
I saw them as I brought the Siege through the town. With the water as shallow as it was, and buildings everywhere, it was slow going, giving me plenty of time to observe. As I was looking around, they began to appear. Crawling out of the water, and thus revealing their amphibious nature, they first stayed a safe distance away, observing me. Blue in color, with wide mouths filled with teeth. Other characteristics suggested some sort of frog, or fish, if mutated horribly by the Sea’s twisted magics.

After a few minutes of watching me, more began to appear. Dozens, eventually. A few, brazen, decided to rush the ship, and I used some minor cantrips to scare them off, splashing one with acid. I likely couldn’t have fended all of them off, so I’ll count it lucky they were content to let me pass through mostly unmolested.
It would have been nice to disembark, and take a look around in some of the more intact buildings, to see if I could find any clue to who these people were, or where any hypothetical survivors might have fled to. I did see a number of simple boats, so they had some method of traveling the sea, some way of egress. This is rather heartening. I’m somewhat starved of proper human contact, after over a month of total travel. Not all of it has been in the Sea, but even the mundane parts of the journey were rather isolating.
Bah. There’s no point in wallowing.
I continue in much the same direction, following a trail of ruined boats that led out from the drowned town. Perhaps I’ll find life, perhaps merely a couple of corpses. Time will tell.
Foray 2.5
There’s both good news and bad.
I always prefer lead with the bad news, because it’s usually more important in the moment, or at least more actionable. Therefore: I’m being followed. Not by people, merely the amphibious monsters I described in the previous entry. They swim absurdly fast, and silently. I only noticed their presence when they latched on to the sides of the ship. Thankfully, they haven’t damaged the ship, as I dispatched them the moment I noticed, and they didn’t seem to be able to scratch the Siege’s iron hull.
The real problem with this is that I’ve barely been able to stop. Dropping anchor and sleeping is no longer an option, and that means no more under-Sea ventures for the foreseeable future.
The good news, however, is quite good indeed. The sky is getting darker.
Allow me to explain: The clouds in the sky are darkening. This is, unless I am much mistaken, a sign of smog. That means machinery, which means people. I think I’ve found the ‘civilization’ I’ve been looking for these past weeks.
Foray 2.6
I’ve had a slight delay.
It started with the creatures. I had the oppourtunity to capture and dissect one, and named the species as a whole ‘Lurkers.’ It’s a temporary name, until I can either find their True Name or, at least, figure out the appropriate Latin.
The Lurkers swarmed me, and I was sure I would fall. There must have been thirty, or more, crawling up the side of the boat. I nearly exhausted my magic then and there, trying to keep from dying, before I was saved.
Another boat appeared, seemingly from nowhere, and its crew boarded the Siege, helping repel the Lurkers. They didn’t use magic that I saw, instead using weapons appropriate to their pirate-like garb. Rapiers flashed, and crude pistols occasionally fired, until the amphibians were all dead. Not being a fool, I didn’t let down my guard around the strangers, but I had such little magic left that I was unable to do anything when they decided to capture me.
They exchanged a few sentences in a language I didn’t understand, before they acted. Two restrained me, holding my arms back so I couldn’t struggle, while another gagged me. Using a rather lot of rope and chain, they attached the Siege to their ship, which was larger than my own. It had massive sails, despite the lack of wind in the Sea, and multiple levels inside the ship.
I have no doubt they intended to sell the ship for scrap, and likely me into slavery, as soon as we reached whatever fell harbor they hailed from. I’d have been content to wait until we got there, but they were sailing away from the source of the smoke I’d been going towards, so I decided to escape.
In the end, I lost two days to them, waiting for my strength to replenish. I could perform the shortest of meditations, when the crew were asleep, but for the most part I had to wait for it to ‘recharge’ by itself.
During those two days, I saw a fair amount of the crew. They kept me chained to the mast, with one person guarding me at all times. I don’t know if they saw me as particularly dangerous, or if this was standard procedure for every prisoner-taking of theirs, and I didn’t bother to ask. They didn’t feed me, apparently not thinking I was worth keeping nourished, but I didn’t mind, for the most part.
Their interactions weren’t amicable, really. I didn’t see them eating, or doing anything other than keeping the ship running, so my image of them was undoubtedly biased, but what I did see suggested they all tolerated each other, especially judging by the captain’s tone towards her subordinates.
The captain was a curious woman. Her lower arm was a crude prosthetic, the joints grinding against each other when she moved them too much, but her garb was a cut above that of the rest of the crew. She didn’t interact with me all that much, both due to the language barrier and seemingly not caring.
When I had regained my strength, I summoned Maia to me, through our bond. She’d been waiting inside the Siege, and came to my side quickly. I called her during the night, and gave her leave to deal with my guard, who was no match for her. Next, I had her cut through my chains, her claws sharper than most swords.
Once I was freed, I set to work. My first order of business was to melt the chains connecting my ship and theirs, and reanimate my ‘crew,’ who’d been resting dormant while I was captured. They moved the Siege to a safe distance, and I began a ritual.
Ten minutes later, I leapt off of the ship, onto the Siege, and watched the Fire Elemental I’d summoned do its work. Even without seeing the grisly fates of the crew, I felt a certain amount of satisfaction watching their ship burn.
We resumed our journey an hour later, when they’d sunken to the Sea-floor. There’s been no Lurker attacks since, so they’re either diminished enough in number not to attack, or simply scared enough of me to stay away.
As of this entry, I’m doing my best to make up for lost time, expending more of my energy to make the geists work faster. I don’t expect to write again until I reach whatever it is I’m searching for, barring another pirate attack.
Foray 2.7
I made it.
It took another week and a half of sailing, including through another storm, but I made it.
Included below is an illustration of what I saw when I first entered the area, which I later learned is referred to as the ‘Steel Landing.’

I docked the Siege without any trouble, though my presence did garner a few strange looks from those in the area. Disembarking, I heard a few snippets of conversation that informed me that the people spoke English.
A hundred yards away or so, a man in a suit of armor stood, seeming to keep watch over the area. Cautiously, I approached him, mindful that I had been rescued and then subsequently kidnapped just days before.
Politely, I asked him if he would direct me to whoever’s in charge, and, after ascertaining that I was, in fact, a visitor, he instructed me to find ‘City Hall,’ a modern concept I was surprised to see pop up here.
It didn’t take too long to find it, as it was the only building build for appearance, rather than function. It was stone, not steel, and the letters carved above the oak door did, indeed, proclaim it ‘City Hall.’
I entered, and was greeted by a secretary. She asked my name and business, I told her I was a visitor who’d just arrived, and she sent me through.
The ‘mayor’ of the Landing was named Charles Church, and he was a tired man. When I entered, he was on the phone, arguing with someone about ‘ unauthorized expeditions into the Black Wastes.’ Whoever he was arguing with, I decided I liked them.
Church was perfectly polite, as he greeted me. We exchanged the usual pleasantries, and then I asked a few questions. He explained that this settlement had been founded a rather long time ago by explorers, who never made it out of the sea. That explained the anachronisms, as cultural concepts like a ‘city hall’ would remain, while technology would ultimately regress in the face of severely limited resources.
He also informed me that visitors, while exceedingly rare, are always welcome at the Landing, and offered to put me up in the ‘guest lodge,’ from where I write this entry. The Landing has several core laws, which, though rather strict, seem mostly fair, considering the dangers of the Sea that surrounds them.
The Landing’s main defenses against the Sea seem to be twofold. Firstly, the armored men I mentioned before, and secondly, a wall. I intend to see both, but not today. Today, I sleep on proper land, for the first time in over a month.
It feels long overdue.




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