Chapter 6 The Chronicles of Nirva

Aboard the I.N.S. (Island Nation Ship) Vingerhut near the Island of Nirva, 337 Solar Year.

"Captain Jacobs," called a young officer dressed in the official navel uniform of the Obel Maritime Fleet, "the lookout reports that we are approaching the islands of Nirva, sir." "Very good, Commander," said the Captain, who was likewise dressed in his Obel navel uniform and was as decorated as his female subordinate with the exception of the different insignias and medals that adorned his upper-left chest, "but tell the lookout to stay alert. This area is notorious for having a large amount of shallow rocks and coral reefs. And I will not have this ship marooned on an island, nor have our special guests miss their peace conference." "Yes, sir, I will pass your orders on to the crew, sir. I informed our guests earlier in the week of our itinerary as you asked, sir. Do you want me to tell them that we will be arriving shortly?" asked the officer.

"That will be fine. However, Summer, you'll need to keep a close watch on them. I believe there was a small detachment of 4 or 5 knights from Razril, who were assigned by the Council to act as escorts for our ambassadors. Let them know we will be arriving at the area in question as well. If there's any babysitting to be done, I'm sure they'll be able to handle it." retorted the older seafarer. "Babysitting?" asked Summer with an inquisitive facial expression.

The captain who had been standing by the helm, moved toward a nearby window on the bridge, and gazed out toward the sea and the edge of the islands that were starting to just come into focus off the horizon. "The only thing I can't stand more than politicians are dead politicians, and the bloody mess of paperwork their corpses create. This area is notorious for pirate activity and I've heard stories of fearsome sea monsters inhabiting these waters since I was knee high to a barnacle. So, yes, Commander, babysitting. I want you and those knights to keep are ambassadors safe until we reach Falena, that is all, dismissed!" He said in a manner that conveyed concern, but finality. "Yes, Captain!" replied the executive officer with a tone of confidence that she hoped her commanding officer has taken some confidence in.

The huge ocean going vessel was weighing anchor and lowering its sails as 8 people emerged from a portside entrance that connected the top deck of the ship with its lower compartment. The first to emerge from the cabin was Tanya still dressed in her ambassador's robes. Then Desmond and Lazlo emerged onto the top deck both wearing their civil attire. The latter in his traditional brown garb and the former in his long purple shirt, trousers, and vest top. Followed by the Ambassadors were the 4 Knights of Razril. All of them dressed in the knights' standard issue blue uniform with its dark breast-plated armor and helmet. Lastly, Tanya's young servant, Daniel, emerged carrying a set of encyclopedias, but also looking more frail and sickly than ever.

All of these people squinted or place their hand above their eyes as they emerged from the poorly lit cabin below to the bright sunny blue sky now above them. "I think it's going to be a fine day to do some detective work." said Desmond with a cheer. "I would hardly call it detective work," stated Tanya, "we are only making a brief survey of the area in order to create a general evaluation to send to Chairwoman Flare as a preliminary study before she sends an official investigation. All of this according to article 4 section C of the Maritime Salvage Recovery Act."

Lazlo stopped listening to her cite the legal precedent and he gleaned from Desmond's aging facial expression that he was hearing Tanya, but was not listening to her as she was the citing maritime law verbatim, which she had undoubtedly memorized from reading an old book Lazlo had figured. Desmond still trying to act polite and with a smile responded, "Dear at my age, trying to remember and find where I left my house key is detective work for me. Please forgive my desire to expand my deductive hunt to include the furthest reaches of our homeland."

Tanya for once was speechless and confused by his unusual choice of words. Even she could not help but smile at how quickly Desmond's wit and sarcastic response had totally disarmed her talking points. "Fine," she said, "enjoy your detective preliminary assessment." Lazlo surprised, turned to Tanya and asked, "Wait does that mean you're not coming with us?" Tanya shook her head no as the small group was approached by the vessel's second-in-command.

Approaching the 3 diplomats, she stood at attention and saluted. Assuming a more relaxed position, the commander started to say, "Once again, I am Commander Summer, and on behalf of the captain let me welcome you aboard the I.N.S. Vingerhut, one of the fastest vessels in our fleet." "Thank you, the pleasure is all ours." spoke up the shy voice of Daniel who was standing in the back of the group. A brief awkward silence ensued for a few moments. Tanya just rolled her eyes wondering if she had made the right choice in hiring the boy.

Lazlo, however, noticed that the young bookworm suddenly looked a little less pale and pasty, and actually stood fully upright now that this young attractive blonde hair, emerald eyed, female naval officer was engaging them in conversation. Uncertain and sort of picking up where she had left off, "Umm. Y-your welcome?! D-did you know this ship was a gift from the Vingerhut family? It was dedicated in memorial by the children and wife of the late Snowe Vinger..."

Summer stopped in mid-sentence again, but this time it was not what was said that made her pause. This time it was the sudden change in the facial expressions of the 3 diplomats from their light heartedness to now one of pseudo-melancholy. "I'm sorry!?" stated the naval officer with a curious tone. Desmond was first to say something, "Thank you Commander, but we are aware of the ship's history. However, we had been instructed by the crew that we were near the main island of Nirva and that you had had information for us."

Getting her thoughts back on track about what the captain had told her before, Summer stated that the shipped was going to wait at its current location and that 2 small skiffs had been prepared for them, and that members of the crew would row them to shore. She went on to explain that the area had many jagged rocks that protruded from the water's surface during low tide. Thus, if the ship got to close to the island, and the search of the island took all day as the captain assumed it would. Then, it would be likely that the vessel would have to navigate those dangerous waters during low tide in the evening. Or worse yet at night, which would risk the safety of his ship and all those onboard, which was something he was not willing to do so carelessly. In addition, she told them how the four marine knights would act as their escorts while they did their investigation.

Up until this point, the knights had remained off to the side and quiet as not to draw attention to themselves or make it seem like they were eavesdropping on their political superiors, but at the mention of their mission the leader of the four spoke up. He said, "Sirs, I am Ensign Pearse. My men and I were assigned by Commander Keneth and Lady Flare to act as escorts for your delegation until your mission in the Queendom is complete. Please know we will do our very best to protect you. Even if it means our lives, Sirs." Summer turning to them said, "Thank you, Ensign for your brave words. Now, if you all will follow me, I'll show you to the boats." As the group started walking toward the stern of the ship, several of them stopped as they notice; Tanya was not walking with them.

She had taken the encyclopedia that Daniel had been holding and was gleaming through it. "I told you, I am not going, I've got better things to do than go traipsing through forests and beaches with all kinds of wildlife. No, thank you. I'll wait here!" "Come on Ambassador Tanya, where is your sense of adventure? What is life without a little excitement and danger?" proposed Desmond speaking more like an 18-year-old, than as a man of 60 as he really was.

Tanya responded in a dry, but forceful inflection, "I am a scholar, a librarian, a politician, and a tactician, I have all the excitement and adventure I need. Thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador Desmond. However, you may take Daniel with you. God knows the poor thing needs to stand on dry solid ground for a bit, not only for his stomach, but also for my ears. So, I don't have to hear him complain about being seasick all the time. Plus, he is the only one I trust among you to take decent notes of the terrain. So, I'll have something useful to write in the debrief to the Council and Miss Flare."

Daniel, whose face was before pale and green, now was a blushing pink, as he felt embarrassed by his Master's comments as he happened to be standing next to Commander Summer. "She's just exaggerating," Daniel spoke in a hushed tone so that only the naval officer would hear, "You know how politicians can be, so dramatic about everything, and I really do." Taking in a deep a breath, so as to speak in a deeper manlier tone, as opposed to his normally squeaky voice added, "I really DO love the sea, the ocean air, the feel of the ship as it glides across the water. You know what I…"

Daniel's queasy stomach, suddenly, returned to him and his voice cracked back to its normal nasally pitch, "I really love the… Sorry, please excuse me." spoke the young man quickly as he dashed away from the group to the edge of the ship to give the fish he had for breakfast back to the ocean from which it had came. The crew members who were standing nearby started laughing at the young man's weak constitution as did the 4 knights. The commander said nothing, she too just rolled her eyes in utter disbelief and proceeded to the end of the deck and pointed to two skiffs that were being lowered onto the ocean by some of the crew.

The trek across the island was pretty grueling with no real paths to speak of, thus the group had to make their own path as they traveled cutting vines and brush out of their way. Other than Daniel falling down several times in the mud, getting lost twice, and being chased into a small lake by a swarm of bees, whose nest he had happen to step on. Otherwise, it was a fairly uneventful adventure for Lazlo and the rest of his party. They did find a small campsite, probably used by pirates from time-to-time. But all the signs seem to indicate it had not been used recently. They found no debris or wreckage of the spies' ship. Or any ship for that matter. Either the attacked ship had completely sunk to the bottom of the sea or the more likely explanation was that the pirates had boarded the ship, killed the crew and the Federation spies, and just commandeered the vessel for themselves, reasoned Lazlo. That's what the pirates who use to work for the Cray Trading Company would do. So, why not these guys as well, he thought.

The trip had indeed taken most of the day. It was nearly dusk when the party returned to the ship. They were hot, tired, and very hungry. "Well how about that for an adventure, Desmond?" asked Lazlo who had been pretty quiet most of the day. Smiling, the old man retorted, "It was really grueling and totally unsatisfying… Just like a Council Meeting." Lazlo couldn't help but laugh to himself. Desmond continued, "I'll say this though, if we have anymore adventures like that I am gonna die from either boredom or hunger, whichever comes first." Lazlo nodded in agreement, both of their stomach started rumbling, "Come on let's grab our fearless woodsman (looking at Daniel who was now just climbing back aboard the Vingerhut) and get some grub. I am sure Tanya is already waiting for us," he said walking toward the entrance of the lower cabin.

The two men entered the small mess hall and surveyed their surroundings. The room was nothing too special. It had a few dozen chairs setup around 4 large rectangular tables, which all were parallel to one another. The whole thing was a bit cramp, but it didn't bother the ageless seafarer much. He was use to such close proximity having spent so many days aboard a plethora of ocean-going vessels. There was also a 5th larger table setup vertically in front of the others it was a bit fancier then the others; this was the captain's table. There was one chair in the middle for the captain and 6 other chairs; 3 chairs on either of the center one. To the left of the dining area was a door that led to the galley and cook.

Apparently, the captain had invited them to dinner tonight to have a small memorial service for the three Island Nation agents that had lost their lives in these very waters a few months prior to this mission. Lazlo and Desmond now walked toward the captain's table and Tanya who was sitting there alone eating. The middle chair looked as if someone had been sitting there as the chair was pushed back and a plate of half eaten cod rested in front of it.

The three greeted each other with small pleasantries as the two men took their seats and a cabin boy brought two plates of steaming hot crab legs out for his new customers. The 4 Razril knights, also, walked in and sat down at one of the four smaller tables waiting for their meals too. As the two started eating, Tanya spoke up after finishing her glass of wine, "I am glad you're here, I was getting bored eating alone. I've finished my book. The crew wouldn't talk with me, and the captain had to leave half way through the meal. One of the bridge crew came to retrieve him saying something about him having to come help make course corrections."

Suddenly, there was a small shaking and vibration of the ship and all the plates and dishes rattled a little bit, but none of the crew paid it much attention. "What was that? Are we leaving?" asked Tanya. Lazlo still trying to finish chewing replied "Yeah, it's just the raising of the anchor and sails, I guess the captain didn't want to waste too much more time being here. We didn't really find anything on the island. No wreckage or signs of recent life. The place is like the old Deserted Island: lots of sand, jungle, and brush, but not much else."

Desmond spoke up saying, "Well, if anything it was a nice break from this long voyage. It is good to have a small rest. Get off this ship and stretch out your legs and walk around on solid ground for a change. I might be an Islander, but I am sure not a mermaid. I like the land too." The others nodded at the older man. "So, Desmond, retorted Tanya, guess your adventure wasn't as exciting as you thought it was going to be?" Now smiling he turned to her and said, "Well, it was not, but that's okay, because your attendant kept us entertained well enough." Realizing she had forgotten about him for a moment, she asked, "Where is he? I have things, I need..."

Lazlo interrupting said, "I think he went back to his cabin to change his clothes. He got a little bit wet and muddy on the excursion." Tanya putting her hand on her forehead and shaking her head as if embarrassment said in a rhetorical way, "Why do I even bother?" Again, as if on cue, Daniel entered the mess hall in a fresh set of clothes, and started walking toward the table closest to his lady. As he walked pass the 4 knights' table, he heard them talking and laughing with each other; sharing stories of the day's adventures. He saw one of them pretending to see killer bees and run away. Now the other 3 were laughing even harder. Daniel muttered a few words under his breath, then proceeded to sit down and started eating at a table near his master and the other two diplomats.

"Poor Danny," said Desmond, not easy being him I imagine, kinda reminds me of myself in my younger days. You know I always felt a little intimidated working for His Majesty, Lady Flare, all the soldiers, even you Sir Lazlo. All you warriors... If it wasn't for Setsu, I'm not sure what I would have done..." "We all have our gifts and talents," replied Tanya softly, "you had yours and Sir Lazlo his, and others their skills. That's how we beat Kooluk and won the war. Everyone working together and bringing their skills and talents together, all under Sir Lazlo's leadership & Lady Elenor's wisdom. That's how we prevailed. Besides I hired the boy for his mind and attention to details. If I'd wanted a strong woodsman for this mission, I would have hired Gau or someone like that." At this, the three old comrades chuckled, as images of Daniel wearing a pink skinned wolf hide entered Lazlo's mind. The impromptu reminiscing had taken them a bit by surprise. Lazlo raised his glass saying, "A toast to old friends." "To old friends." they replied.

"You know, do you remember the time when..." WAAM, SMASH, THUD! The whole ship suddenly stopped moving and everything in the room lurched forward from the inertia. Glasses, plates, and wine bottles could be heard breaking all over the dining room and galley. Shouts, screams, and yelling could, also, be heard coming from all over as people were running around in confusion wondering what could have made the ship stop so suddenly.

They say you can take a man out of leadership, but you can never take leadership out of a man. This is especially true in moments of crisis. As was the case now, and so, immediately Lazlo began taking charge of the situation. He shouted as loud as he could over the panic and chaos, "EVERYONE LISTEN UP!" Quickly, there was total silence in the room, even a few crewmembers who had been running down the hallway stop to peak in their heads to listen at this strong voice they suddenly heard. "Alright, lets remain calm everyone, we're Islanders right!? We know ships! Now, obviously we've hit something or have ran aground somewhere. I am sure the captain has already dispatched teams to assist the wounded and inspect the ship for damage. I want you guys (pointing to the left side of the room) to help the wounded, start with in here. The rest of you (now turning to the right) head to the haul and help whoever is down there. And follow whatever other orders the captain has given about the situation. Let's do it, Islanders!" With that the crew in the dining hall immediately went into action doing as the young ambassador had ordered.

Now turning to his fellow ambassadors he told them to follow him as they needed to get to the bridge and see the captain. The Razril knights, also, stood at attention waiting for their orders. Lazlo turned his gazed toward them as he was walking to the door, "Pearse, you and your men follow me." "Yes, sir!" they said in unison. The group made their way through the narrow corridors and passageways with many crewmembers running back and forth beside them each doing their own part to help the ship function again. After about 30 minutes of pushing and shoving through, they finally made it to the Bridge. This place was just as crowded, but it was organized. The captain had setup a system of runners and messengers to give him as much real time status updates on the condition of the wounded and damage to his ship. "Captain Jacobs, what's the situation?" asked Desmond.

He ignored them for a moment as he reviewed the latest message. As much as he didn't want the extra people on his Bridge right now, Jacobs knew he couldn't just kick the 3 ambassadors off his Bridge without a good reason. Turning to them he said, "Well, we've struck some kind of reef. And..." "Reef!? interrupted Tanya, I thought we had moved away from the surrounding islands and were in open water again?"

"Apparently..." said the captain with a tone of annoyance in his voice at having been interrupted continued, "Apparently, we're not. I knew this area was dangerous without decent lighting even in open water. This Nirva area is full of surprises. Anyhow, the front of our ship has been damage slightly, we've started taking on some water. I don't think were in any danger of sinking at the moment, because we're lodged a bit in the reef and the damage is only superficial. But, if we try to pull the ship out the damaged wood could easily break further, and our small leaks could rapidly become a sinking feeling." Lazlo spoke up for the first time since arriving in the cabin, "So, we need to make repairs before we attempt to pull completely out of the reef? Don't you have extra lumber you can cannibalize from other parts of the ship?"

The captain looked down to the ground took in a deep breath and said, "The cracks and fissures are across several of the beams in the haul. We have nothing of that size and sturdiness to cover all potential holes. We can cover a few small areas, but nothing large or seaworthy enough to get us all the way to Falena or even back to a Federation-controlled port for that matter." "So then? What do we do?" asked Tanya.

"Well the men in the crows' nest, luckily said they saw other older ships wrecked upon the reef. I sent a few of the crew to scout them out and see if anything of them could be salvaged for use, because right now that's our only hope for getting out of here." said Jacobs. "That's a good thing though right," asked Desmond, "with the wood from those other ships we could make our repairs and leave this place?"

The captain's face turned grimmer as if it were even possible and he said in a small quiet voice so that only the 3 ambassadors could hear and not the rest of the crew. Holding up the communiqué he had been reading as they had entered the room, he told them, "I just got this message, after the first group of scouts failed to return in to report, another group went out. Of the 4 in the original scouting party: two are dead and the other two are missing. The bodies of both of the dead had been torn in half. The other scouts immediately returned here to report their findings." After hearing this, all of them stood silently for a moment, as if to let all they had just heard sink in.

Lazlo, then, stepped forward and resolutely said, "Look, those ships are our only hope for getting out of here, right? And obviously there is something out there a monster or something that is stopping us from getting to those other wrecked ships. So, we kill the thing and get the lumber we need. Simple, right?" The captain looked at him a bit perplexingly and reiterating the carnage and pieces with which the two recovered bodies had been placed through, and that right now he wasn't going to risk the lives of anymore of his crew at least not in the middle of the night. Perhaps in the morning when they could see the danger coming, thought the captain.

The True Rune bearer answered his concerns by saying, "We may not have until morning. What if this part of the reef breaks or the fissures burst and we sink from treading all the extra water? We need to act soon! As for whatever is out there, leave it to me." Immediately the captain interjected, "You can't be serious! Do you know what would happen if I had to tell the Federation Council that not only was this vital mission a failure because our vessel was shipwrecked, but I also got an ambassador killed in the process, not only would I be relieved of command, but I'd be court martialed for sure."

"It's alright," pronounced the ageless warrior as he placed both his hands on the hilt of each of his blades and with a small smile continued, "I am pretty hard to kill and if I am killed, those two (turning toward his fellow ambassadors) will vouch for you, and say that I both insisted and gave you a direct order as an official representative of the Island Nation Federation. Which I am doing so right now. Besides, I won't be going alone." Now turning toward the Knights of Razril, Lazlo remarked, "You boys ready for a little midnight monster hunting?" Pearse speaking for the group with a voice of enthusiasm and readiness yelled, "YESSSSIR!"

"Fine, said the captain reluctantly, but take Summer with you. She led the second away team. She'll show you where she found the bodies of the first team, that will be a good place to start looking for the thing that killed them." The young commander stepped forward as she had just walked in to give the captain the latest news on the wounded. Being made abreast of the new situation, she too had her concerns about the mission, but an order was an order. "Be careful!" said Tanya and Desmond simultaneously. "No worries," replied Lazlo, "I'll be back in a while."

As the group was getting ready to depart, Daniel approached them saying, "Please do be careful." "It will be fine..." said Lazlo, only to be stop mid-sentence, as he realized the young librarian's comments were not directed at him, but at the young woman about to guide them. "Oh, thanks." she said awkwardly "I appreciate it. Ahh, David!? No Donald, right?" "It's Daniel, he replied with a sigh. My name is Daniel." "Well I knew it started with a 'D' she said as jokingly as her serious demeanor would allow at this moment. It will be okay I got professional marine knights with me and Sir Lazlo certainly seems capable from what i've seen so far. We should be alright. So, umm… bye… Daniel." she finished.

The commander led her small entourage of warriors through the shallows of the reef. After wadding through some of the salty warm ocean and taking care as to not splash any water on the torches they were carrying, they finally made their way to a small up-cropping of limestone shelving that rested above the surface of the water and coral below. One advantage they had going for them was that the night sky was clear and the stars and moon illuminated most of their surroundings well enough with the added help from the torch light.

Just ahead of them was an old ship that looked as if it had been there for many decades, maybe even a century. Most of the wood was rotten and barely holding the frame of the ancient vessel together. "This is where we found what was left of the 2 bodies when we arrived." she said pointing to some fresh puddles of blood that had stained the pure white limestone.

"This place creeps me out!" said one of the knights. "I know." said another as he surveyed the area looking at dozens of wreck ships. "This place is like a ship graveyard. There is no way a reef could have caused all these ships to crash. I think it had some outside help, maybe that monster that killed the scouts, also took out some of these ships too?" said the first knight. The other knight then responded, "But how could that be? It would have to be a huge fiend to take out some of these vessels. I mean not even a water dragon would be strong enough to do..." he paused as a strange noise interrupted his speech.

Suddenly, there was a slashing noise and what sounded like a whip cracking and the scream of two men. Lazlo and Summer were up ahead checking out the remains of the ancient ship, immediately spun around. Lazlo's feet found purchase as he turned around so fast on the wet limestone, he nearly fell over. As, almost, did the female commander. There before them was a huge sea creature, a Dagon, and with its' surprise attack it had killed Pearse and another knight with a mere flip of its enormous and deadly tail fin.

The Dagon was a huge seahorse looking type creature about 30 feet tall. It had white scales on its' front running from the top of its neck, down its chest to the tip of the tail. Also, it had 2 arm-type appendages on each side of its main body. Each of these 4 arms had rainbow colored fins that stuck out of the creature that were very sharp and helped the creature kill its pray as well as control its' direction while swimming. The Dagon's head had a type of exoskeleton, or hard type of shell that covered its' face, so that only the beast's eyes and mouth with its sharp pointed teeth were showing. The skin of the Dagon was a blue color. Lastly, as it had just demonstrated to the survivors; it was both fast and very dangerous.

The creature, immediately, tried again to swipe its tail like a whip again at the other 2 knights, but they dodged out of the way now that they were able to see the attack coming. Lazlo dropped his torch on the limestone. Drawing forth both his weapons, he assumed a defensive posture, and slowly started toward the creature. The sea-beast began hissing and making gargling noises at his new prey in an attempt to strike fear into these interlopers that had so foolishly entered the creature's territory.

It now moved closer to Lazlo and with a great ferocity tried bringing its right arm down onto top of the human. Moving with equal quickness, Lazlo jumped back avoiding a direct blow. He, also, managed to lift up his left sword, which made contact with the striking palm of the hand and fin. His blades easily cut through the soft tissue of the fin, but stop quickly when it made contact with the beast's hard bone.

At the same time, realizing he had the creature's arm stuck like a fork, he took his right blade and figured he could use it as a knife and cut. Raising and swinging his right blade in a sideway motion he cut at the wrist of the beast where he figured it would be weakest. Sure enough it was. The blade cut clear through the muscles and tendons easily enough, but again it wouldn't penetrate the bone fully, despite the force behind the blade. It was just too strong. Lazlo thought to himself about how he had foolishly forgotten to get his dual swords tempered and sharpened before he had left Obel, and how useful that would be right now.

The Dagon cried out in pain and taking its other smaller and less powerful, but more agile, right appendage it swatted the former Gaien Knight like a flyswatter. Lazlo went flying through the air and landed in the shallow reef water that they had just wadded through moments ago.

Summer was still uncertain about what to do. She had drawn her sword, but was frozen by fear. Never before had she faced such a titanic foe as this. The 2 knights rose to their feet, one drew his sword the other grabbed the spear he had dropped in his dodge and roll. They spread out and tried to encircle the creature. The swordsman knight would draw the attention of the Dagon while the spearman knight lunged his weapon with several repeating jabs into the blind side of the creature. When the sea beast turned to address his new attacker, the swordsman would take his turn slashing his blade into the flank of the boss. Again, the creature would turn his attention to his new attacker and the other knight would attack.

This happened a few more times, before the creature realizing the futility of his efforts and backed away from both, moving toward the water where it knew it would still hold the advantage. The knight holding his spear was still enraged over the loss of his two comrades and seeing the terrible leviathan trying to retreat for the water; he took charge at the Dagon.

Fueled with rage and pure adrenaline, he charged his spear at full ramming speed into the center stomach area of the sea beast just as it reached the water. It howled out a roar of pain and anger. "Take that! You son-of-a-bitch!" cried the knight, "That's for my friends!" DIE!"

Distracted by his anguish and trying to push his spear further into the monster, the man did not see the Dagon bringing his left arm and fin in to swipe at his would-be prey. The swordsman from Razril seeing what was going to happen, quickly moved in, as he feared losing another one of his comrades to this loathsome sea demon.

Luckily, the swordsman got there in time and just about tackled his fellow knight to the ground. The powerful swooping limb missed both its targets. The spearman hit the ground so fast and hard that he was knocked unconscious as his head and helmet struck the hard rock. The swordsman, himself, was in pain as well from the tackle, but he was still awake. The creature pulled back toward the refuge of deeper water making hissing threats, but only from a safe distance. Summer slowly moved forward to inspect the condition of the two injured knights before her.

Meanwhile, Lazlo pulled himself up from the other side of the water where the beast had knocked him. Fortunately, his armor had absorbed most of the blow, but there was a huge bruise on his right shoulder that he knew was going to hurt terribly in the morning. Standing knee deep in saltwater, he took a quick inspection of the battle to see what he had missed.

He moved toward the torch he had drop, which was still lit. Then, Lazlo quickly made his way toward Summer and the others. "Sir," reported Summer, "this man is unconscious and this knight is hurt." "I am fine," said the swordsman, "I can still fight." came his words as he slowly rose up standing on his knees. "I am a Knight of Razril." he whispered more for himself to hear then the others. "Okay, then." said Lazlo. He turned to the ship's commander and handed her the torch saying, I want you to take him (pointing to the sleeping warrior) and make your way back to the ship. We'll finish this sea beast off. But it will be harder if I, also, have to worry about protecting you guys as well."

"But Sir...!" She protested, but unable to finish her sentence before a very deep and experienced voice matched by a very resolute face told her, "No more arguing. Now go!" "Very well, Sir, but please be careful!" she said as she put her body under the arm and shoulder of the unconscious knight and began the painstaking task of carrying him back to the ship. The swordsman now rose fully to his feet, licked his lips, and stood beside Lazlo staring down their aquatic foe. Both men preparing themselves for whatever was about to happen next.

"What's your name?" asked Lazlo. "Me? I am... My name is Duncan. Ensign Duncan Egan from Na-Nal Island." he answered nervously. Lazlo retorted, "A noble's son then, eh? And from Na-Nal to boot. Good, your countrymen are known for being a strong stock. I trust you share that trait?" The swordsman nodded his head as he drew out his blade ready to battle with the beast once more. "Sir," said Duncan, "I got an idea. He's a water beast, so he is probably vulnerable to lightning magic." The knight removed his right glove to reveal the emblem of a Lightning rune embedded in his hand. "I am not very magically adept, but I should be able to stun it long enough with a bolt for you to get close enough to attack a vital organ or something." "That could work," agreed the dual swordmaster, "be ready on my signal."

By this point, the Dagon had worked up the courage to once again move closer to the shore, despite the spear still being lodged in its' gut. Lazlo looked at the spear and figured that would be his best shot. He sheathed his blades to the surprise of the knight, and in a flash Lazlo was running toward the overgrown seahorse. "Do it now!" shouted Lazlo. At that very moment, he heard a voice cry out, "Thunder Runner!"

With that, bolts of electricity appeared above the beast striking it, and best of all for Lazlo, temporarily stunning it. At the same time, he ran, leaped in the air, and landed on the very narrow spear end. With that, he used his momentum and kinetic energy of the spear shaft to in essence spring board himself up and over the Dagon's head and do a summersault onto the back of its neck. It hurled out roars of pain from the magical attack as well from the spear being push deeper into its flesh. Lazlo tried regaining his balance long enough to grab his swords, but he was unable as the Dagon started bucking and rocking him so much the old hero started to not only feel dizzy, but was starting to lose his grip. He nearly fell off a few times.

Duncan, who had been utterly stunned himself by Lazlo's amazing speed, agility, and acrobatics, instinctively drew his sword and started making side cuts and forward thrust moves at the creature with his blade. Some of the attacks the creature blocked and others got through further wounding the nearly exhausted beast. Lazlo took notice of the warrior's impressive technique, but still couldn't let go of the Dagon to reach his sword without fear of losing his grip and falling off. However, he quickly realized he had little choice as something bold had to be done now.

He ordered Duncan to use his lightning spell one more time on the beast. That would give him the free moment he needed to act, or so he hoped. Despite concern for his superior, the soldier did as he was ordered. As soon as the spell was cast, Lazlo jumped to his feet and pushed off the creature's back and up into the air as the bolts of lightning passed once more through the beast's body. Moreover, as Lazlo reached the climax of his jump he drew both his blades out and landed on the back of the creature's neck once more. However, this time both his weapons were extended into the Dagon's flesh.

Lazlo, then, using his own weight and gravity slid down as both his swords were still deeply interred in its backbone. Two deep wounds formed side by side all the way down the sea beast's back, as Lazlo's swords cut right down along its spinal cord. In this way, the old warrior had basically half-gutted the beast before his boots finally hit the limestone.

Before it died, the Dagon let out one final scream that soon faded into a whimper and then the beast was dead. Lazlo arose to his feet and in the now pale dim moonlight approach his young comrade and patted him on the back. Lazlo spoke softly, "Phew, that was something. Well, let's head back to the ship. I think it should be safe now for the captain to send other crew members to salvage the lumber we need to make the repairs." Duncan stood there again utterly amazed.

In his mind, he thought that this battle was the hardest he had ever fought in his life and then here was this guy with the most incredible display of swordsmanship and agility he had ever seen before. Now all of a sudden this guy was treating the battle like it was just another furball extermination quest on the backstreets of Razril. "Who the heck was this guy?" he asked himself.

In the heat of the moment, both had forgotten about Pearse and the other knight that had died. However, that moment had passed as they saw the broken bodies of the 2 dead warriors near a smoldering torch Lazlo had picked up, which one of them had been carrying beforehand.

Lazlo then looked at his fellow warrior directly in the eyes and said, "I've lost close comrades in battle before as well. I know it is not an easy thing. But they were soldiers and they knew the risk. Once more your squad leader, Pearse, struck me as a man, as a warrior, who would have preferred to die on the battlefield. There was no shame in his death. He, both men died honorably; as heroes. Let's remember them that way. Shall we, Duncan?"

With those words, every concern on the mind of the young warrior was addressed. It was like this stranger, this warrior diplomat, knew exactly what the young swordsman was feeling inside, and knew just what to say to make it feel better. He had, indeed, lost friends on the battlefield before and he was now showing real empathy for his fellow knight. Now Ensign Egan had an even deeper found respect for this unusual man before him who wore a red bandana.

As the two started to walk to the edge of the limestone shelf and back to the ship, Lazlo inquired of the knight, "So were you trained at the academy by Gretchen? Your sword technique is very similar to hers." "You mean old lady Grouchen? I mean, yes, Instructor Gretchen, she was one of my fencing instructors. Wait. How do you know her? You could not be a student of hers. Your style... is nothing like hers. I mean, your style is well... just crazy. You have many different sword techniques. It is just strange. I mean... Whatever... You couldn't be her student too." he said confused and also still impressed by Lazlo's abilities and words.

He retorted, "No, no you're right she was not my teacher. I just know her from way back, we fought together a few times is all." "Oh, I see," responded Duncan, "Wait!? How can you 'know her from way back' when you don't look much older than me and when did you fight together? She has been teaching non-stop at the academy for like 300 years. When did you?"

All of a sudden, there was a loud splash. Then another and another. There before them were 3 more Dagon creatures that looked just as angry and fearsome, but not as big as the first one they had fought. Duncan fell to his knees, "This is bad. What are we going to do? I don't have enough strength for more magic attacks. What are we going to do? Even, your sword skills can't handle all 3 of them at the same time all alone, can you? What're we gonna do? Do you have any ideas, s-sir?" Lazlo could now hear the fear and despair in the voice of the knight.

Looking at his left hand, he spoke softly, "We're there is a will and a rune... There is a way. I've got one idea left. Stand behind me and don't move." He now spoke in a voice and spirit that seemed to be far more advanced than his mere appearance would lead some to think. He raised his left hand and the glyph of the Rune of Punishment appeared above his out stretched arm. Lazlo yelled at the advancing three Dagons coming toward him, "Your brother died by my sword and you 3 shall die by this rune's blades, Double-Edge Sword!" yelled Lazlo as purple, green, and crimson beams of light started to shine and swirl all around him.

Next, the whole dark environment lit up in a foggy hazy brightness that was both ominous and foreboding. A cloud enveloped the trio of beasts, as a magic red sword appeared out of thin air piercing one of the creatures in a loud popping sound and a sinister scream. Then, another pop and scream as additional swords materialized in the second beast. Likewise, the same thing happened to the third Dagon. More pops and unholy screaming occurred as more and more swords appeared out of thin air striking their foes and disappearing just as quickly as they had been formed.

The three sea-dwellers tried to return to the ocean for safety, but it was too late. After about 8 pops and 8 materializing magical crimson sword striking through them; they were dead. The cloud that had formed around them had turn into a deep dark green but had faded away now as the smaller three monsters laid dead before the inheritor of a True Rune.

Meanwhile, back at the ship, things were finally starting to calm down. Two figures stood alone on the deck of the ship looking out toward the silhouettes of many wrecked ships in the pale moon light. "I hope he's alright." said a concerned middle-aged female voice. An older male's voice spoke up, "He'll be just fine, Tanya. We both know what he's capable of doing. We've seen him pull off miracles in situations like this more times than I can remember. I am sure there is nothing out there he and that Rune of his can't handle. If anything, it is those beasties out there that should be the ones worrying about facing down the wielder of the Rune of Punishment."

"Help, help!" bellowed a young female voice, "I've got a wounded man here." With all the yelling several of the crew, the captain, and the two ambassadors came running to the edge of the ship by the ladder and they pulled up the exhausted officer and the inactive knight. She tried desperately to catch her breath. Finally, she was able to explain what had happened and how 2 of the knights were killed. Plus, how the other two were fighting the giant sea demon as they spoke.

At once, Desmond spoke up toward the captain, "Captain, now's not a time to be fearful. We need to send a rescue party immediately." "I will not risk anymore lives tonight. We'll wait until daybreak; your colleague knew the risk before he left." replied Jacobs. "Captain please," spoke up Summer, "Sir Lazlo saved our lives. He is saving them right now as we speak. We have to go back and help him!"

"Count me in my dearest Summer!" cried a suddenly courageous Daniel with his hands on his hips. He, then, turned and pointed to the direction of the battle, "I will face this fearsome beast for you my warmest Summer!" "Do shut up!" yelled Tanya and she continued, "We have no time for your crazy puppy infatuations. Sir Lazlo needs real help." Captain Jacobs now rose to his fullest measure and spoke decisively, "This is not a debate at some Council meeting. I am the Captain and this is still My Ship! My Rules! And I say we wait till morning. End of conversation! Understood?" With that there was a long pause of silence.

Without warning, a bright light filled the night sky with colors of dark green, crimson red, and a sinister violet filled the empty darkness of night with these foreboding illuminations. This was followed by background sounds of screams and popping noises echoing through the air and water to the ears of those onboard the Vingerhut. "What in the world is that ungodly noise?" asked the captain no longer as brave and forthright in his tone as he was moments ago. As rapidly as the light and noise appeared it just as abruptly disappeared back into the void of the darkness.

Again, silence had filled the night air. "This is ridiculous," finally shouted the aged politician, "I am going to help my friend." As he started making his way down the ladder, a small flickering fire appeared in the darkness some distance away. Desmond dropped into the shallow water and coral and moved toward it as the light moved toward him. Sure enough, there was Lazlo and the last Razril knight making their way toward the ship. The old man could no longer hold back a few tears anymore as he embraced the man he had been worried about all this evening. Lazlo reassured him they were just fine.

Others soon appeared and helped them onto the Vingerhut. Once the applauds and commotions had died down a bit Lazlo said to the captain in a calm collective voice, "The sea monsters have been taken care of. Send crews down to start salvaging any wood they can to patch the haul, so we can finally get the hell out of here." Then, he looked at Duncan and kept speaking to the captain, "Also, two other good men lost their lives tonight. Please have some of the crew recover their bodies so they can be given a proper burial at sea before we leave."

"Very well." said the captain, more dumbstruck at the moment by the powerful appearance of the man who stood before him. He continued, "Ambassador, on behalf of the crew let me say to you, thank you!" Lazlo nodded and started walking toward his cabin with his companions close behind him. It had been a long day and right now he wanted to get some sleep. He would just have to trust the crew and officers to take care of the rest of the details.

Lazlo entered his room. His body ached and he was exhausted after all that had happened at the ship graveyard. He, yawningly, walked over toward his bed, not even bothering to take off his belt and dual swords and just fell face down on his pillow. His bed, if it could even be called a bed, with its hard wooden frame and old worn out mattress that had before felt like sleeping on a stone floor, but now it felt as gentle and refreshing as a small raincloud sent by heaven to whisk him away to a land of dreams and peace.

A few hours later, despite still being beat, somewhere in the back of his unconscious mind, he started to hear a small hum. At first, the sound was deadly quiet like being at the edge of a whisper. But soon the noise got louder and suddenly he felt a dimly glowing light begin to illuminate on his face.

An eerie, but familiar, feeling began to fill his mind. In a hushed tone, he started to hear what sounded like a woman's voice speak to him. At this point, Lazlo opened his eyes engaging all his senses. "Leknaat!?" he said with a tone of both surprise and uncertainty. "What are you doing here?" he asked. The blind seer spoke, "Greetings, keeper of the Rune of Punishment and the Star of Heavenly Guidance. I come to bring you grave news and I fear once again the fate of many thousands of lives may once again rest upon your shoulders. Because, I foresee an ancient darkness returning to this world…"