Monday, July 1, 2013

There Once Was a Kingdom: To Catch a Monster

The lobster fishing vessel set sail with Sarai at the captain's side, directing him which way to guide the ship to follow the line only she could see. Every now and then, the captain would look at her out of the corner of his eye to try to catch her looking at a compass or the angle of the sun. Still, he listened to her directions and turned the rudder accordingly.

The boat was well stocked with lobster traps, rope, spare lengths of cloth to repair the sail, long oars to row in case the wind gave out, and wood to patch the boat.

Me: Do you know how lobster traps work?
Elie: I don't know.
Me: It's a kind of a wooden cage with a door that snaps shut behind the lobster once it gets inside, or rope that gets it tangled.

Ahead, the line seemed to dive and turn. "Slow down," Sarai instructed. "I think we need to turn left."

The captain turned to face her. "Are you certain? I've... I've heard stories about the seas that way. They say there's a monster that lurks beneath the waves and can eat ships larger than this whole."

He started to call to his crew, but Mandalar simply jangled the change pouch at his belt. At the sound of the coins, the captain's eyes lit up and he turned back to the wheel. "Haul in the sail, pull the line! We're off hard to port!"

They turned as fast as the ship's sails and the wind would allow. When the thin line again seemed to point straight ahead of them, Sarai nodded and said, "That's far enough."

The sails again billowed with air and they were about to ride the wind again when the sea before them began to bubble. A storm cloud gathered overhead, rippling and roiling with grays and blacks. Flashes of lighning appeared, but it was very odd for the rest of the sky remained calm. Alatar muttered some more words trying to discern the source of the clouds and bubbling sea but could find nothing he recognized.

Ripples grew to small waves and rocked them about. The captain quickly dropped the anchor as the sea erupted in a spray that doused them all.

A creature burst forth with tentacles thicker than the ropes in the rigging. It had a head towering over them with ten eyes on tall stalks waving to and fro. It opened a mouth filled with jagged teeth and said, quite clearly, "AWUUUARRGGAAAAH!"

It slapped the sea hard with its long tentacles and started to swim towards them. Alatar tried to conjure up the wind to form another wall as he had with the gargoyle but the air was too quick here and he couldn't make it stand still. Mandalar drew his sword while Tiana readied several daggers. Sarai, though, looked at the equipment on the boat itself.

"There must be a reason the line led to this boat," she thought.

Me: What do you think they might use to trap the creature or stop it?
Elie: The rope!

She grabbed an length of the rope and swung it around. It caught on the creature's eye, making it blink furiously and stop where it was for a moment. Soon, though, it cried out again and started toward them.  It struggle gave Sarai another idea, though, and she quickly grabbed a lobster cage.

Me: Is there anything she could do to the cage so it would stop the creature from seeing them?
Elie: Wrap it in cloth?

"Quickly! Cut some cloth and tie it around the cages," she yelled a the captain. He didn't argue this time but rapidly sliced a length of the sail to size and fastened it tightly. Sarai tied another length of rope to one side and swung the trap around in a circle, slowly at first but gradually gaining speed.

She released the rope at the top of one arc and the trap sailed through the air. It landed right on top of one of the eyes, ensnaring it. Seeing this, Alatar, Tiana, and Mandalar hurried back to grab more of the traps that were being bound up by the captain and crew. They launched one after another, Tiana having the best success at aiming true.

When the last eye was caught, the monster howled a let out a noise that sounded very much like, "Harumph!" It slapped the water angrily and began feeling around for the ship.

"Do you have anything large we can throw?" Sarai whispered.

The captain thought for a moment and pointed at one of the two lifeboats, little more than a rowboat swinging on the side of the ship. "I hate to lose a lifeboat but would hate to lose my ship more," he sighed.

"We need to swing it as far out as we can and cut the ropes at just the right moment," Sarai said.

They all snuck over, unloading the spare food and water to store in the hold. They all pushed the boat but it only swung out a short distance before coming back in. They pushed again harder and it got to rocking farther. They pushed one more time and it rocked back and forth in a great arc. As it swung back over the side, Mandalar sliced the ropes holding it in one wide stroke.

The dinghy sailed fifty feet before crashing into the waves. The monster squealed with glee, sounding rather like, "AWHHEEEEE!" and wiggled its way through the waves toward the craft. When it got near, it felt out tentatively until it felt the edge and then opened its mouth for a big bite.

The crunch of wood echoed over the waves, but seemed to be entirely unsatisfying to the beast. It spat out the shards and quickly began rubbing its tongue with all its tentacles at once. "WWWWAAAAAUUUUGH!" it cried, desperately trying to get every last bit out of its mouth. It sunk quickly beneath the waves again and was gone from sight.

"Let's get out of here before it decides to try again," Sarai said.

The captain needed no convincing and they put on full sail to put as much distance between them and the creature as they could.

Part of the "There Once Was a Kingdom" bedtime stories series.

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