Lonely Divide

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Chapter 24

Chapter 9.2

Under the Sea

You are Jake, and it's totally your luck that, having met a bunch of beautiful mermaids, they are scared to death of even the thought of talking to you.

As you swim, Rose gets the story of the serpents from Blue Flash, then relays it to you.

"I guess they had a pretty nice spot," she explains. "Relatively flat. Good warm current through the area. Lots of little tunnels and caves nearby to play hide and seek in, not too dark, quite nice, for an undersea area. However, a couple of weeks ago these really big serpents showed up and started chasing them, and they've been there ever since. Until they found that cave they had basically been on the run, which is when some of them had been killed by sharks and other natural hazards of the sea."

The nerve of these creatures, you think, disrupting the happy playtime of these poor, cursed girls. With their shimmery hair floating lazily in the water like a puffy cloud around them. Laughing and chasing each other, without a care in the world. Dolphins as friends, having races, finding treasure on the sea floor, and those bodies! So soft and-

"You're thinking about the mermaids still, aren't you?" asks Jaden, shaking you out of your day dream.

"N- No," you stammer.

"Good, because we're here."

You look, and the others have crouched down behind a small rise, and beyond you see about a dozen snakelike creatures dozing or slowly swimming around in what must be the Mermaid's Paradise, as you now are calling it. You have to admit, the creatures are impressive, each at least as long as a school bus, with glittery scales and large heads. They move like snakes through the water, their long bodies slithering as though on land. One of them looks over at you, and everyone ducks down, wondering if you've been spotted. Blue Flash has left you, and you don't blame him, but before he hid, he said that if you do a Sending to him, he'll come and get you again.

"I, uh, I guess I should go see if I can ask them to leave, or whatever?" says Rose, uncertainly.

"We'll back you up?" you ask, more question then statement. You think of those poor, cursed girls back in that cave, and the card you played when you first saw them, and know you must do whatever it takes to help them, invulnerability or no. In fact, you have card 31 now, maybe you should get one of those bracelets? If you live?

She shakes her head no. "There's no way we could take even one of those creatures," she says. "We just don't have the power. There must be a reason they've come here though, if they really are deep sea creatures they didn't come to this spot on a whim. Something drove them up here, and we need to figure out what. I'm hoping they'll at least come see what I am before eating me. They shouldn't have seen something like me before, I'm hoping that will keep them occupied while I make my pitch."

"Better have your wand out, just in case," I suggest. "Just don't forget it's you keeping us alive down here, so don't drop those spells!"

"I know."

"I'll try and keep Telekinesis on you, so I can yank you back if you need me to," you say, doing so. "But my range is only 16 meters, so try not to go too far."

"Okay." She takes a breath herself, then pokes her head up again, and gives a little squeak. "I think they saw us."

You all carefully look over the ridge, and yes, all heads are turned this way, and they all now look alert. Great.

Rose swims up and out towards the serpents, which are now looking quizzically in your direction, obviously not used to tasty morsels just presenting themselves for a quick snack. They seem interested, and several coil themselves into what could almost be a sitting position.

Rose starts doing whatever it is she does to talk to animals, and they all look at each other, seemingly almost stunned. One swims forward a little bit and they seem to have a dialog, which might seem positive but just makes me think she's telling him how bad she tastes and please not to eat her. Finally she starts swimming back to us, and the one she was talking to hangs there looking at us. I help pull her along, I spent the energy for the Telekinesis, I might as well use it.

"Oh, you were so brave," says Jaden, grabbing Rose and hugging her tight after she swims back over.

"It's okay, they're not hostile or anything. Actually, they seem pretty decent, for ancient monsters of the deep sea."

"You've gotten a truce?" you ask.

"There was never a war," she answers. "The mergons, that's mer-dragons, only wanted to talk, and share the area with the mermaids if possible, who just fled on principle. They've been waiting for them to come back, so they can ask formally. If the mermaids said no they would just keep looking."

"They're dragons?" Jaden asks, looking sharply over at them. The one Rose was talking to curls into a U shape and waves the tip of his tail at us, and Jaden hesitantly waves back, a weird smile on her face.

"Of a sort," says Rose. "Water dragons, adapted to deep places, they're the ones that need our help, not the mermaids. It seems something is happening to their water, forcing them to leave their den and come up here. If we can find out what and fix it, they'll return to the deep and the mermaids can have this place back."

"Well then let's go!" you say.

"Ah," says Rose. "It's not that simple."

"You said we could help, right?"

"Oh, they'd love our help. They'll take us to their den right now if we can look the problem over. Our problem is they're going pretty deep. They said probably too deep for creatures like us to survive. I have a theory that our Invulnerability will protect us, but we only have two bracelets."

"I have card 31!" you say, excitedly. "I can go buy one and get back here, no problem!"

"Ah," says Jaden. "It's not that simple."

"What is it?"

"The ingredients to make this particular bracelet are quite hard to come by," she explains. "So the price of this particular item is quite out of proportion to other magic items of this same spell grade. At least this is what the shop owner told me. He had to call a few other shops to find one, and then got it there magically. It's a deal most magic shops have, where the store gets a cut if another store has the item a customer wants. For obvious reasons, this particular item is very highly sought after, and thus, rare. He said it would probably be some time before another was made, anywhere. Honestly, you don't want to know what it costs, normally. It's only the card that let us buy it. We got two right in a row, after all."

You are a little too distracted to wonder if a PC with a card can just generate money like that, what are the long term effects on the global economy generated by that action? So you keep it simple: "You're saying I won't be able to buy one now, probably?"

"Right."

"Okay, I'll just summon Blue Flash back and I'll hang around the entrance to the mermaid cave, and see if I can be un-scary enough to tell them what's going on, and wait for you guys."

"Actually, I had something else in mind," says Jaden, slipping her bracelet off and handing it to you. "Here."

"What?"

"I'm just loaning it to you, understand? Your abilities as an ESPer are going to more usefull then mine as a martial artist where you're headed, so it's better that you go, not me. I'll go back and tell the Mermaids what's going on."

You don't realize she's also played card 16 to try and get a little mermaid action of her own while you're gone, but if you did, you wouldn't blame her. She does offer you her other cards if you need them, but really only 27 will probably be relevant. You accept them with thanks, and call Blue Flash back with a Sending. Rose explains, and tells Jaden to hang on to one of his fins, and they go zooming off, Jaden saying "Weeeeeeeee" as she is carried away by the dolphin.

You slip the bracelet on and push it up your arm, holding it in place. You're ready to go.

Except you're not. Rose casts Darksight on you both, spending five energy and taking the additional two segments of casting time make sure she gets it. Now you're ready to go, and she's at a -4 to everything. You hope she doesn't need to do much more magic. The lead mergon says you should grab hold of him, and there is a bony plate sticking up from his head, so you and Rose wrap your arms around a horn that grows from the center, Rose in front and you behind her. She gives you a funny look, but you explain the water pressure from how fast these things go might hurt her wings, which look pretty delicate. She reminds you you're both invulnerable now, remember, there isn't a physical force on earth that can harm either of you. You are embarrassed and start to move away, but she says to stay, it might be cold down there so she'll be happy for the warmth. She calls something to the mergon and they all take off, diving into the deep.

The light quickly fades, and your Darksight takes over, making the mergons highlight in black and white, but you can see them perfectly. You continue diving, and the pressure makes you feel funny, but it doesn't hurt, and every so often the mergon slows to ask if you're okay. Rose always says yes, so it doesn't take too long to get where you're going. You are glad of Rose's warmth, and hold her close with one arm once you're sure you won't get swept off. You also hit her with Combust a few times, warming her, and thus yourself. You know she won't take damage from it, but it still warms her up. Suddenly the sea floor looms up, and you wrinkle your nose, there's a weird smell here, which shouldn't even be possible. The mergon you're riding slows, and Rose tells you he says we're almost there. The force of the water above you is pressing you down, making you feel heavy, but it still seems tolerable, thanks to magic.

"Do you smell something?" you ask Rose, looking around.

"Yes, and I don't like it. Is it some kind of poison seeping into the water from somewhere?"

"Uh, does Invulnerability protect us from poisons?"

"A poison is damage, right? Just inside your body rather then outside. You might want to see a healer for an anti-poison spell before you take that bracelet off though, just to be safe."

You nod. "Okay, now what?"

"I'll ask if he can take us to where the smell is worst," she answers, doing so. The mergon's head bobs, and pulls away from the others, who Rose says wish us good luck.

She says he has to swim slower here, there are dangers in the water, even this deep, and predators even for the mergons. We need to be cautious.

"My Precognition should warn us of any danger," you explain. "And I'll start making ESP checks as he swims, see if I can't sense anything."

"Good idea."

"There's an object ahead that's had a lot of fear seep into it," you say, getting an 11 on your check. You realize that isn't much, but you can feel the fear coming off whatever it is, so it must have been recent or very strong. The smell is getting worse.

"Hey, our friend here isn't invulnerable," you say to Rose. "Should we be concerned?"

"I suppose we could get out and swim, or maybe walk given the pressure we're under, but he's huge, it would take a lot to poison him. I can buy an imbued antidote and he can just eat it when we're done."

"Okay, but tell him if he feels sick to just leave us, we'll make it somehow."

"You're sweet. Thanks for thinking about him, most people probably wouldn't."

"It's okay, he's our ticket out of here, you know. Would you be able to swim out from under this kind of pressure?"

"No," she answers, "But I could make a portal that would take us out."

"Right, sorry, still not used to having magic on my side, I guess."

"It's okay."

Then you see it, a huge ship, obviously lain here for ages, that's starting to degrade. This must be the source of the problem- unless you miss your guess, the thing you're smelling is fuel, and the tanks from this ship must have finally burst open and started leaking, and that's what's causing the problem for these mergons. The question is, what are you going to do about it? The ship is many, many, many times bigger then the mergon you're riding, and moving it would just make the problem worse.

This is going to be tricky, you think.

Rose tells the mergon to swim the length of the ship, and you see it's named MV Danny F II. You estimate it's about 40 body lengths of the mergon you're riding, way too big for any power you know of to move, but something has to be done. If this mergon is 15 feet long, that makes this ship 600 feet long! That's what, an eighth of a mile? Wow. Circling the ship, you see holes throughout the hull, and wonder how dangerous it would be to go inside.

Rose interrupts your thoughts. "He's asking if this is it, he's swam past it a million times and never looked at it twice, he thought it was just a funny piece of rock. He doesn't have much experience with sunken ships, I guess. It's been here awhile, he says it was here when he was young, so that's a few years ago."

"So it just started leaking recently?"

"Maybe. There's probably not much current down here, it would take some time for fuel to leak out and pervade the area."

"I guess. Look at that, animals in pens," you say, looking in through a large hole. The cold water preserved them well, and of course the things that live down here wouldn't be interested in ancient sheep or cows. "This ship must have been carrying animals, no wonder the fear is so strong here, all those animals were afraid for their lives as it sank. There must have been thousands, if this ship was full. Maybe tens of thousands." You shake your head. "What kind of storm or disaster could sink a ship like this?"

"Maybe it was hostile magic?"

"What wizard would sink a ship full of animals?"

"A vegan one?"

You look at her, unsure if she's joking or not.

"Well, no, on the other hand, they don't eat meat, so I suppose they wouldn't want to kill animals either. I don't know."

You guess she wasn't joking after all.

"I'll ask the mergon to get above it, we'll need to come up with a plan and it's better for him if he doesn't stay too long."

You agree, but wonder if the two of you can actually come up with a plan to move or neutralize this boat, as large as it is.

You are now floating above the massive ship, taking stock of what you have and what you can do. You have a bathing suit, a flash light, and other useless odds and ends in your inventory. Rose, being a fairy, has nothing but her wand. Odd how something can fit into a person's inventory only if they could conceivably carry it, you think. In any case, no help there. You have been putting points into both Cryokinesis, creating ice, and Combust, creating fire, so conceivably you could ignite the fuel, but under this much pressure you wonder how that would work. You have the Bilocation skill, so you could at least go take a look at the inside of the ship without endangering yourself. You guess you should start there, at least, after all, if it's all leaked out there's not much you'll be able to do, right?

"I'm going to go in with Bilocation," you say to Rose. "I'll be back in a few minutes. Try not to go anywhere, I have to find my body again visually when I do this, okay?"

Rose nods, and you close your eyes, willing yourself out of your body. You get a 13, meaning you can safely be out of your body for that number of minutes, but hope not to need it, you're getting cold down here. You speed towards the wreck and your consciousness easily passes through the hull and into the ruined ship. You head towards the back, where you figure the fuel tanks are, and it takes you only a moment at your speed to check the entire ship, top to bottom. All along the bottom of the craft are various compartments, and sticking your head through you can tell that a whole lot of them are full of oil, it being darker and thicker then the water in the passageways. You find several that are leaking, all through the ship, and realize the sheer volume of fuel it must take to move a ship this massive. You shake your imaginary head at the sheer size of this task and think maybe it's hopeless after all. You head back.

The mergon is still slowly circling, so he doesn't fall too much in the pressure he's under, and you reenter your body, blinking.

"How bad is it?" Rose asks.

You tell her about the leakage, and the number of storage tanks that exist around the bottom and outside of the craft. You ask if she has any ideas.

"The thing we have to avoid is making this situation worse," she says, looking down at the craft. "I could probably make some kind of explosive with Creation, but done wrong that could just blow more fuel out, rather then incinerating the whole deal. If we had a team of wizards down here we could patch up the holes, magically create air and just float it up. Sadly, 'A dolphin who's an ESPer asked for our help for some mermaids who were chased out of their home by some water dragons' is exactly the opposite of what we can tell people. We can't have people poking around down here, and give away the secret of the mermaids. You saw how they reacted to you, think how bad it would be with hundreds of people looking for them!"

"I know. The only idea I had was somehow using your teleportal to syphon the darn thing dry, after blocking the outer hull off so no more water gets in. But the problem there is, where do we put the other end of the portal? That ship is huge, and we might never be sure we found all the holes."

"I've been thinking about that, I could go learn the shrink spell, but that would only help so much. I think I might be able, if I had a ten in Venus, to reduce the size modifier of the ship by five, which as near as I can figure would maybe take it down to the size of an elephant? We could get some of the mergon to help move it someplace else in that state, if there was an area devoid of life, but it might be too fragile to move at this point. I was also thinking about Antidote, if it would even work on fuel, which strictly speaking isn't a poison, but I'd have to cast it about a million times if you say there's that much. Oh, it's only going to get worse, too, isn't it?" She turns to hug you, and you can tell from her voice she's crying now. "I have to tell them there's nothing we can do. Nothing at all."

"Come on now," you say, hugging her back, "Don't talk like that. You must have contacts in the fairy world, right? They wouldn't betray the secret of the mermaids, right?"

"Even if I did, which I don't because I hang around with Jaden all the time, not fairies, they would most likely be NPS, so their magic wouldn't help at all. That's the reason there are PCs like is, isn't it? Because we can be better then them, and do greater things!"

"But you're still only one person," you say gently. "Magic might not have limits, but the world does, and you do. Now come on, let's head back. We're both freezing, and upset, and that ship isn't going anywhere. We can take a few weeks and research some magic stuff, or look up what other things have been done for shipwrecks in the past. We're not abandoning them, we just need to find the right solution."

She sniffled, quite a feat this far underwater, and looks up at you. "Okay, I'll tell him to take us back. Thanks, Jake, I do feel a little better, you're a nice guy."

We held on again, and I used some more energy warming us up, not having anything better at the moment to do with it, and we climbed, so to speak, out of the dark and back to the area where the mergons were living now. Rose explained things to them, how we would look into things and come up with the best solution. I proposed that, if the mermaids agreed, they could all share this area, as I was sure the mermaids would like the greater protection the mergon offered. Just so long as they didn't get any funny ideas about seeing what mermaid tasted like. They agreed they wouldn't eat a sentient creature like a human, even a half human, and my ESP said they were being sincere. I did express amazement they knew a word like "sentient" but she said regular land dragons were sentient, weren't they? So were these dragons! They even had their own language, just like dolphins, so she was sure they were telling the truth.

We got carried back to the mermaid cave and Rose helped to clear up their misunderstanding, and while the mermaids were justifiably cautious, they did come out of their hiding spot and make their way back to their home territory. They thanked all of us (from a distance) for helping them out, and we promised to help them further if we could, once we figured out how to without betraying their existence. They swam off.

"But the ship is way far away from their territory," protested Jaden, now back with us. "They would never be spotted from that far away."

"We would need a reason why NPC-PS should spend millions of dollars in a recovery effort," you explain. "They would say, let the ship leak, there can't be anything down there anyway. Right? But if people knew there were mergons down there, this place would be swarming with people wanting to study them, and all it would take was one mermaid sighting and their lives are over."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. Can I have my bracelet back now?"

"Not until I get Antidote cast on me. Shoot, what were you saying about that Rose, that it might not even work?"

"Oh, it'll work on you," Rose assures you. "Any fuel you breathed in is a poison inside your body, so the magic will work on it. Just sitting there on the seabed, that's a different question, magic wise."

"Okay, let's go."

We swam into the light, hungry and mentally exhausted, even as the magic kept us from being physically so. The warmth felt great after the cold we had experienced, and we climbed out of the water onto the dock and Rose shrank again. Jaden picked up her fins and put both sets in her inventory for the duration, and we stared down the dock, discussing where to go eat.

"Anything but seafood," groaned Jaden.

Behind us, Rose started cracking up. We turned around. "What?"

"Aren't you forgetting something?" she said, pointing at us.

"Oh yeah!" said Jaden, her suit appearing out of her inventory again. "I totally forgot!"

"Guess we had other things on our minds," you sheepishly agree, putting your suit on as well.

"Or maybe," said Rose, smiling at us, "It wasn't really as important as you made it out to be, after all."

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