“How is it doing that?! What is it?!” Manfred Beauchamp shouted as the six men and women ducked behind a wall in the mausoleum to escape the rocks and pebbles that were being flung at them like horizontal hail.
Canergak, still possessing his original eyes and youth, began a hurried explination, “A de-gravitated, ecto-plasmic manifestation, which appears to have a psychokinetic capability that enables it to manipulate the-“
“I wasn’t asking you!!” Manfred screamed as another rock pelted his arm and he moved further back. “Anyone else?!”
Baldas Nbernd shouted, “It’s a free-floating apparition, a ‘ghost’, that can move things with it’s willpower alone!”
“I already figured that out!” Beauchamp screamed in frustration. “I quit! You hear me! I! QUIT!”
“You’ll never really quit,” Divat said from her position next to her bag of tricks as she glanced up at Manfred with a grin, “The money’s too good, and you know you love it.”
“Love it?! Love it?!” Manfred yelled and then pointed at their employers, Canergak, Murgam, and Baldas. “Who could love being their decoy!? Why can’t we ever run into anything that doesn’t want to kill us?!”
“Perhaps they know we’re here to eliminate or dissect them,” Crosadius muttered under his breath. Murgam’s mouth twisted into her usual sardonic smile, “No no, I’m sure that they relish and welcome the arms of non-existence. This is just their way of thanking us.”
Canergak raised his voice only slightly so that he could speak over his compatriots, “I would like to state for posterity that if my proposition had met with your approval, and we had worn the armors I crafted out of the gems, we would not be in this predicament to begin with.”
“You keep those soul traps away from me!” Manfred shouted, and then screamed again as the apparition came through the wall beside him. Divat rolled and was the first to shoot it, but silver bullets were used for other creatures they encountered and didn’t make much of an impact against the apparition.
It was Murgam that managed to stab the creature with a blunt knife-like tool crafted from the gems, and the spirit reared in pain and tried to disappear back into the wall, but it was too late. Once it had made contact the gem sucked the ecto-plasmic entity inside within moments, despite how it flailed and threw the rocks around which ceased to move rather quickly.
Afterwards, Baldas rubbed his hands together and looked at his friends and employees, who were all covered in bruises from the hail of stones that had been flung at them, and gave Manfred and the others a happy grin, “There, that wasn’t such a chore, now was it?”
Two things that Canergak had never lost were his memories, and his accrued knowledge over the years. He recalled that night well over forty years ago, long before they had discovered the means of combating such apparitions with tono-neutronic equipment, and even longer before Canergak had required any kind of surgery. That had been one of their first forays that he and the others had gone on together as a whole group. They had not been the good friends that they would all grow to be for some time yet, and regrettably some of those men and women were dead now or lost. He was on his way back to talk with those who were still alive and their selected protegees. It had promised to be a quick voyage to Armada to the south, and from there he would book further passage that would make it hard to track his final destinations.
At least that had been the plan before Mer had surrounded the ship and they had to fight for their lives.
“They’re going for the rudder!” The captain shouted as he unloaded a pistol down into the water below him as they could hear the breaking of metal and wood. They could see the creatures in the morning light, and there could possibly be hundreds of the screeching monsters of the deep jumping like a pod of dolphins below them. These Mer were more like the beasts and animals he’d heard about spoken in fear within Babbage and other lands, and were nothing like that one he’d seen in port on occasion.
He fired another shot into the pod below him and he thought he saw blood fly from the wound in the morning sun. It slipped into the sea with a wail of pain, and he saw the faces of the Mer look up at him in unison and they showed sharp teeth and let out a terrifying screech as they finished off the rudder, leaving them drift.
“Accursed beasts!” He shouted, and then had to back away as he saw the mer were now trying to jump and claw their way up the ship. “Repel them! I don’t intend to die here today you dogs!”
As they rang the bells and shouts were raised the crew of the Maiden’s Dawn set to fighting for their lives, as the old man that had hired passage late in the evening had run down below decks to his room.
Canergak searched his luggage for his equipment, ignoring the tono-neutronic equipment which had been broken ever since his escape from Mondrago which would have only delayed the inevitable anyways. There was only one tool in his arsenal that could possibly hope to be effective against an entire army of Mer, which it was possible even though unlikely they’d been sent by some ‘diety’ to finish off what was left of him, and there was no guarantee that it would be effective against this particular species.
Canergak threw his luggage about, throwing his money and possessions about until he found it. It was a pack containing his three precursors, what most people who saw them mistakenly called hammers but that was to be expected as the tonal sciences of the Dwemer had usually eluded the understanding of those around them.
He studied them, and the Mer outside clawing their way to the surface, and made his selection.
“I’ll see each of you in Hell!” The captain shouted as he threw another grenado over the side of his vessel and some of the creatures screamed, but he knew that the vast majority had escaped below the waves.
As the crew fought at the edges many were taken beneath the waves yelling as their fate became inevitable, and blood soon followed each man who went below. While the first mate hid behind the side and prepared another bomb he saw that strange man come back on deck and saw him trying to reach the front of the ship. He wondered for a moment what the daft man intended, but it was his life to lose and the mate didn’t have time to worry about him as the shrieks from below brought him back to their impending doom and he lit his last grenado.
Canergak moved as quickly as his aged body could allow, his joints and lungs protesting the strain. He fought the movement of the ship, and barely made his way to the bell in the front. It was this ships only hope…he nearly fell once as the waves rocked them, but he took a knee and used his cane to keep his balance, and then regained his footing and continued.
He reached the bell at the front and he raised his precursor, when something grabbed his leg and pulled it out from under him. A Mer had managed to climb aboard the side and it had grabbed his leg. He’d lost his cane in the fall, but his precursor was still in hand. He looked up and knew he could reach the bell still with the precursor. He gripped the front with his other hand to hold him steady and raised the instrument above his head, ignoring the creature clawing forward to eat the flesh from his legs and struck the bell as hard as he could muster.
The Mer released him and screeched as it writhed in unknowable pain as it reached for it’s ears. Canergak rang the bell with his precursor again, and again, and the Mer, all of them, continued to cry out in pain and they gripped their ears and bodies which were sensitive to the sound waves he was producing, their own echo location abilities used against them. The men on the ship’s ears were also ringing slightly but only from the natural sound of the bell, and they took advantage of the Mer’s pain and slew those on board. After that was done the men looked below and saw the ones in the water had been forced to retreat and they gave a cheer of victory, and to the fact they were still alive.
The captain and the crew had realized that the old man must have used the bell and had saved their lives, but the captain sent most of the crew to assess the damages and to plug any leaks the Mer might have managed to create. After he’d given his orders the captain went to thank the man who had finished catching his breath, but was still holding his chest. Surprisingly he didn’t look alarmed or jubilant at all, “It was a good thing you booked passage aboard my vessel. I shudder to think what would have happened otherwise…how did you do it? The bell didn’t scare the beasts off when we rang it.”
Canergak nodded and indicated his precursor, now that the threat was resolved the adrenaline would soon leave and he would be in full control of his mental faculties again, “This tool had previously been tonally imbued to send off a disruptive and painful wavelength of sound which is too high for mortal ears, but perfect for defense against creatures such as they which hunt using tonal vibrations. I merely used your bell as the perfect medium to strike to produce an effective wavelength.” Canergak stared at the man who looked confused and then recalled that he was not speaking with his friends, or other Dwemer who would have understood him. “It was my precursor which did the deed, I just needed to hit it against something which would resonate properly.”
“I’ll have to take you at your word on that, I don’t suppose you’d be willing to part with that hammer, errr precursor,” the captain said as he chuckled and shook his head, truthfully it did look more like a giant hammer than anything else. “I imagine they will not be very forgiving of this encounter.”
“You would imagine correctly, I suspect,” Canergak said as he handed over his precursor from his position on the ground, his breath finally caught. “And I would not leave you unarmed against them.” He started to stand and the captain offered him his free hand and had one of his men retrieve his cane which had rolled down the deck. By the time he had it in his hand he looked as calm and as uncaring as ever.
Before the old man went back below deck he added, “As an aside, you may find that using that tool in port will draw the ire from something that lives nearby, but if you ring the bell hard enough it should be forced to leave you be the same as the Mer.”
The captain raised a brow, but he was left to his wonder. There were repairs to do, though they had to send a bird calling for a tow. They arrived at Armada quite late, but Canergak was able to hire passage for an airship rather early the next day.