As the illithid closed in on the ship, their own betentacled vessel pausing to hover in mid-air, the party had some grave misgivings about what might occur next. In one of her finest speeches, Veri stood proudly on the foredeck, and pronounced that, while they were apologetic for coming here to their realm (if that was indeed where they were), since they were on their way before this mishap to go and stop the war that was about to be waged against their people, why shouldn’t they just let them all go? Even Veri was a little surprised at the eloquence she managed, and the strength of will that held back her reflex to vomit at the gentle, swaying movements of the boat amidst a seemingly endless sea of blood. But given the alien facial features of the creatures, it was difficult to tell what they might be thinking, or feeling (if indeed they did feel anything) at the words she spoke. What was obvious, though, was that the five illithid had stepped off the tentacled deck of their squid mount, and were floating carefully over the blood sea, coming to hover at five points of their treeboat, completely surrounding it. Their tentacles waved slowly, as though a breeze of thought were perhaps curling at them, and the party stood transfixed, wondering what was going to happen.
When it did, they were in too much shock and pain to really wonder what exactly it was. One at a time, the illithids seemed to slam their minds with a force of pure will, crashing into their brains as though they had been hurling mental bricks with alarming accuracy. The waves of migraine like pain were hitting them again and again, washing over each one, sending them into fits of tears and screams on the deck of the Rhizophora. They clutched their craniums, screaming for mercy, wanting it only to stop. Eventually it did, although there was no knowing how long it had been. Likely minutes, though maybe hours… they just could not see or feel anything through the wall of pure suffering. When it had subsided though, they arose to see that the illithid were still there, seeming to press around the ship, but coming no closer than ten feet from its deck. This was a rather curious sight, but it was Ajax who looked overboard to bring something of perhaps a little more urgency to the crew and captain’s attention. A white film, something akin to a mould or a growth, seemed to be amassing on the sides of the boat, and with each crash of the bloody swell against her sides, the boat was getting more and more coated in this substance, which was slowly, but surely, creeping up the boat’s sides and over the railings. Granlin asked his wife if anything was the matter, and she said in a slight daze (perhaps from the terrible brain pain) that no, she couldn’t feel anything, but when Mellvin went up to scrape some of the stuff off the rail, it not only burned his bare hand, but also seemed to be slowly eating away at the meaty wood of the boat. Uh oh. And this stuff was closing in on the deck. Uh oh.
A sudden urge to scrape, wash, clean or otherwise get rid of the substance overtook the party. They tried washing it away with water, with alcohol, scraping it with weapons or brushes (which at least kept their slowly encroached upon area on the boat clean of the burning film), and Jethro even sent a bucket magically overboard, filling it with bloody sea water and seeing if that would wash the white away, by splashing it over the deck… no, that made it grow faster. Oops. They worked harder and harder, just to keep themselves safe, but Rizz was beginning to swoon – she was panicked, but also woozy, the eating of the boat seeming to have a soporific effect on her. But the effect it was having on the boat was clearly visible – the damage was becoming more and more intense, and if something didn’t happen soon, they were going to be finding out what it’s like to drown in nasty, deadly, hell blood ocean.
But then Jethro, as something of an aside, announced to no-one in particular that the protection from evil he had put over the ship was probably gone by now – just to add insult to injury – and the illithid seemed to take the announcement as aimed particularly at them, and as one converged on the ship, arms extending to grab at the mast, still high above where the white mould had grown to. And when their hands grasped at the leaves and the thick wood of the main tree trunk, the party felt once again the sickening lurch of their bodies somehow being twisted through a hole in the fabric of reality, and when their eyes pried open once more, they could see the blue, clear sky, they could feel a light wind upon their faces, and they could even smell the soft scent of beautiful jungle flowers. Moreover, there was land clearly in sight – a deep, verdant viridian coastline that they were all far too pleased to see. Though the breeze was blowing from the west, against them if they wanted to get ashore, they just pointed the boat in that direction – their boat now sans that horrible white goo – and the mages in particular fell into an exhausted and much deserved sleep.
When they awoke, they were sailing into a small, protected cove, the Rhizophora started to put down roots, and the party were very keen to be off the ship and onto some dry land, where they could set up a camp and feel land below their feet and hooves that did not rock and move about. Granlin, however, was not going to camp onshore – he stayed with his wife for some hours, before boarding his dragonfly once more, and flying into the jungle – ostensibly to go and gather some supplies, but Mellvin and Vargas knew something else was going on. They knew that Granlin is a cleric of Carna, and the two rangers had been here before – not far to the west was the dark, twisted cavern of trees that makes up the lair of Vashte, the mighty green dragon and High Cleric of Carna in the eastern jungle. Granlin was gone for several hours, and when he returned to the party the next morning, he had no news of where he had been, but he did have an idea of what they could do to cross this thick, uninviting jungle. Using his magical prowess, and also assisted by Veri and Jethro, the party could be shrunk down to miniature versions of themselves, and ride upon his giant dragonfly, so that, with only a few stops along the way to refresh the magic of the reduction spells, they should be able to fly over the whole jungle without setting foot in it once, and make it to Bushiken by the evening.
The party by now had grown fairly used to flying, but flying as shrunken miniatures on the buzzing back of a large insect was a very new experience. Little birds and large bugs would flitter out of the canopy of the jungle, looking larger than life, and noises and smells were so much stronger and powerful, and somewhat frightening. It was a blessing to alight once more on firm land on the western side of the jungle, and once everyone had been changed back into their regular size, and Vargas was no longer a my little pony, they were able to approach Bushiken and find lodgings for the night. The centaur would only stay in the inn that had good lodgings for horses, and so the party were forced to stay in the second most expensive tavern in the town. Bushiken had once been a thriving town for mercenaries and swords for hire, but when the humans had made deals with the Carna clerics to harvest wood from the jungles in a sustainable manner that did not invoke the wrath of elven arrows, the need for fighters to protect lumber caravans died out here. Besides, there was a war about to occur near the swamp mountains, so no doubt there was plenty of work for mercenaries joining the armies of the orcs.
Speaking of such, Granlin was able to meet up with some of the Carnites that visited regularly with Bushiken, and found out that things in Manxiga proper had grown rather tense of late. The ogres and goblins were dead against this orcish army, and had blockaded its movements north, so that the orcish host was camped out east of Chan Ma Rai, its fires bringing a great deal of smoke to the sky over the flood plains. Ogre and goblin patrols on the roads were suspicious of human travel, but were not preventing trade – at least not yet. But if things get worse, it could be very, very uncomfortable. And with the mention of uncomfortable, Vargas brought up his only desire for this trip – to get to Ho Tael, and spend a night in the Ho Tael Plaza.