The Tale of Kraken's Fall
The Tale of Kraken's Fall is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.
Old man Rosallio wove that tale every time he was too much in his cups when the moons were gone from the sky, and the scar on his leg started to ache too much.
“Now see here, lads and ladies,” he would start as he rubbed at the long, white scar on his calf. “The skies were as moonless and motherless as they are tonight. Just the right kind of night to let all the evil in the seas twist and frolic in their dastardly dances.”
It starts as the old man describes, on a night without moons…
Sailing the Tenebrous Cauldron
Twisting and turning, the blue pennant fought with the wind from where it was anchored above the crow’s nest. One of seven vessels, the spritely schooner led the way through the dark of night and charted a course through the coral reefs that grew so close to the island. The company had been seventeen weeks out in the Tenebrous Cauldron, spun about and bewitched by a savage storm, and there was an air of excitement as they had spotted land for the first time.
Dark shadows slipped beneath the waves, their shapes usually resolving into rocks or reefs, but occasionally sea thraks and dolphins. The wind suddenly died, and the night became as still as the grave.
One by one, each vessel coasted around the headlands of the island and saw the rocky shoals and verdant hills that had eluded them on the postern side. They glided, their sails limp, through the darkness of the lagoon. Chaos ensued...
Rosallio was a mere cabin boy back then, young and spry. He had aspirations to become a captain in his own time, but for now, he was just a lad working on his two years before the mast. When the claxon sounded, he thought perhaps they were warning of a nearby reef, but the unnatural scream of sundered wood quickly dissuaded him.
He surged up the gangway amid sailors quickly doffing their foul weather gear, for a sudden torrential rain had started falling. As his head cleared the deck, a sight of horror froze him in his tracks and it was hard for him to find just one thing to focus on.
To the portside, an enormous tentacle was slithering across the deck. At starboard, some kind of glistening arm was coiled about a mast and waving it like a flag on festival day. Bodies littered the deck and it was only belatedly that he realized that they were not all from the crew he’d signed on with back at Brisker's Cove.
A voice as clear, calm, and resolute as one of Lady Gosaena’s angels cut through the noise.
“All hands to the cannons.”
Swiveling his head around, he looked up at the Captain who was a beacon of serenity within the rolling hell that the seas had become. Immediately, the men moved as one to facilitate the hard labor of loading the armaments. Their chaotic screams and cries died away, leaving only the piteous moans of the broken and half-drowned men that lay scattered across the deck.
Rosallio rushed up the stairs of the aft castle and nodded to the helmsman. He was a salty old dog who regaled the crew with his lyrical voice and tales of haunted barges. Stone-faced and sheet white, his eyes did not reflect his traditional expression of merriment and mischief. Instead, it was replaced with abject horror as he stared ahead. Rosallio’s stomach clenched with a terror he could not name. He only knew that if Temblin was afraid, then he should be, too.
“Captain… “ Rosallio called out, but whatever he was about to say was lost when he looked in the water.
Of the seven ships, only two were still afloat. The rest were scattered about in the inky black ocean, their splintered remains resembling matches strewn about a pond.
As Rosallio watched on, the mast clutched within the impossibly large arm came crashing down upon the forward deck, causing the Niiman’s Dance to issue forth a groan of protest that no ship should ever make. Seconds later, The Tabernacle’s Fine completely disappeared from sight.
As an aside, Rosallio was adamant about this assertion. He has proclaimed ever since the incident that he was actually staring at the bright blue sails of The Tabernacle’s Fine, a sort of wonder and relief filling him at the sight of her. He had a friend that had signed on as her cabin boy and they would use lanterns and flags during the long watches to communicate. In the space between one heartbeat and the next, it was simply gone.
The chill of the grave gripped him at that moment and he heard a strange, mournful, keening noise as he gazed out at the destruction. It was only when the captain slapped him across the face that he realized he’d been the source of the wordless death dirge. Spinning him around to face her, the Captain gripped him by the shoulders and shook him.
“You must get to the longboats, Rosallio,” she told him. “We are abreast of some reefs. Even now, I can feel them raking their nails across our hull.”
And sure enough, the grating sound and sensation touched his bones and he knew her words were true.
“Get to the longboats, you pull as many men and women from the waters as you can, but you row towards yon beach and you do not look back.”
Shaking him again, she said, “Do you understand me?”
Mutely, Rosallio nodded.
“Then go, boy,” she said as she spun him around and propelled him back down the stairs.
He caught Temblin’s eye as he passed and he saw within that gaze a kind of resolute acceptance. He nodded to Rosallio and the silent acknowledgment spoke volumes.
We are going to die here, it said. We forgive you if you live, it said. Go with speed, it said. Don’t look back, it said.
Rosallio ran the moment his shoes hit the decking.
He angled towards the nearest longboat, but that bone-white tentacle that he’d noted before seemed to be shaking hands with it. And, deciding that he wanted nothing to do with that courtship, he ran on to one that was on the opposite end of the ship. He had to climb over the mast that lay there, realizing as he did that it didn’t belong to Niiman’s Dance, but to the Debt of Oar. Where the rest of that fine ship was now, Rosallio decided not to think about.
As he crested the crumpled mast, navigating over rope, stays, and canvas, three things happened at once.
The first, as it was the closest, being that he suddenly realized that the Dance was sinking. Great gouts of seawater surged up through the cracks that the other ship’s mast had made.
The second was the ringing cry of the captain as she ordered all free hands to turn said mast so that the point was at the bowsprit’s end.
The last was the sound of a single cannon dislodging its charge at a slithering arm. It cut the slick appendage in half, causing a sanguine spray to settle on the deck.
Rosallio resolved to move faster.
Behind him, the captain called out the words of a favored sea shanty.
"In the year fifty twenty-six, Fed up with the land and politics."
Instinctively, the crew raised their voices to the chorus.
"Lady Cera, Cera the Crow."
His hands were shaking when he made it to the railing, his breathing erratic. He had to clear the sea beast's blood from his eyes several times as he worked at the knots holding the vessel tightly to its berth.
When at last the knots were loose, Rosallio climbed into the longboat and took one more glance across the ship that had been his home for the past seventeen weeks.
The once golden decking was thickly coated in reddish black ichor, the mast of a sister ship was angled across her prow, its sails practically kissing the figurehead of the Lady of the Seas, and all of her cannons were pointed at the bow. That last scene confused him, but his gaze was turned away at the sound of his name being called.
“Off with you now, Mr. Rosallio. May Niima find you worthy,” the captain called out to him before launching into the next verse of the cadence.
"She took to the navy, the sea, and left Allace that fair county."
Firmer now, the crew threw their voices into the chorus.
"Bound to give the Krakens a blow. Lady Cera, Cera the Crow."
He let go of the rope.
The longboat hit the churning water like a hammer hitting the side of a pan. His whole body shook with the impact and it knocked his breath away. Groping wildly between the seats, he found the oars and began to row for the shore. With the chaos of the ship’s deck some forty feet above him, the relative calm of the ocean floor seemed out of place. But that peace soon yielded to the piteous cries of drowning souls. Moving as swiftly as his young arms allowed, he began to do as his captain had commanded.
Seconds turned to minutes, minutes to hours, as time played tricks on his mind between the two deeds he undertook. Row, pull a living body aboard, row, pull another. His muscle fatigue almost cost him his life twice during the venture. The first was when a rotund sailor tried to climb up over him to find the safety of the longboat. Luckily, hands held on to him and pulled him free. The price of kindness seemed to be the litany of salvation. That particular sailor was not well-loved and so, it was Rosallio that was saved and not the other. The second time was when someone grabbed one of the oars and almost completely pulled the lad from his seat. Again, it was the hands of the rescued, the ascended, that kept him safe. The sound of thirty cannons exploding at once cast a pall of silence over the crowded longboat, and all cast their eyes behind them.
It's important to note here that as Rosallio rowed, he had been watching in abject horror the scene that would play out next. He’d had an inkling of what his captain had intended and had been casting prayers out to every deity he could think of as he rowed away. Please let it work, those prayers said.
The stern of Niiman’s Dance seemed to be hovering above the water, its bow shattered by a thousand splinters created by the thirty or so cannonballs that had torn up her decking. All three masts lay flat, companions now to the mast of The Debt of Oars. Horrifying and majestic at the same time, there seemed to be a pall of silence in the air. The Captain now stood at the helm, as Temblin was gone to whatever fate had in store for him. Using her ship as a battering ram, she drove her spear-bowed love into the Great White Terror of the Tenebrous Cauldron.
Every ship was gone.
His captain was gone.
It was all Rosallio could do to continue rowing, as a kind of numbness had settled over him. He had to steel his heart to the cries of those left in the water, his longboat too full to take on another soul.
It was the rescued that pulled the oars from his grip when they had at long last made landfall.
And it was the marooned that welcomed them.
Birth of Kraken's Fall
Over the course of the next several days, the newly shipwrecked were greeted by dozens upon dozens of people with similar stories. A dwarven longshoreman spoke of being followed across the Obsidian Trench, only nine of his crew of sixty surviving the encounter. The remains of their ship were nothing more than fuel for the bonfire. A sylvan medic spoke of coming around something she called The Cradle of the World and being pursued into the Blue Sea before being attacked. A Tamzzyrian helmsman spoke of an uneventful voyage out of Fairport ending in the death and ruination of his crew.
As the night crept towards dawn, more and more survivors from the seven vessels arrived. Some clinging to planks, others swimming, and even more simply floating to shore.
Rosallio listened as the cries of the injured were met with aid from the islanders. He listened as the tales were shared and told. He watched as stranger after stranger shared their story of terror, their hymnal of woe. Of the Niiman’s Dance, he was the only one to survive.
A kind half-krolvin couple offered him shelter for the night, half carrying and half dragging him to their small shack on the leeward side of the beach. He slept fitfully, starting awake often with a cry half-formed on his parched lips. He was both pleased and disgusted when dawn showed its face at his window.
Climbing from the bed, he recoiled at the odor wafting in the window at the head of a nor‘easterly storm that was brewing off the coast.
One of the men he vaguely remembered pulling into the longboat burst through the door. He gripped Rosallio by the shoulder and lifted him to his feet.
Rosallio usually makes a note at this point about how much he hated being reminded that he was a slight lad. Everyone always picked him up in this fashion and he found it to be quite an undignified position to be in.
“You’re the cabin boy of the Dance, ain’t ye?” Nodding, Rosallio began to feel a twinge of excitement as the man’s demeanor was infectious.
“Your captain is brilliant, boyo! Just wait 'til you see!”
Reclaiming his feet, Rosallio followed the man and his hosts out of the house. Again, the noxious scent assaulted him, but there was no longer a mystery to its source.
Stretched across the beach, for as far as the eye could see was the behemoth, albino body of the terror of the trench. A kraken.
And, piercing its beak, were all three masts of the Niiman’s Dance.
The island was free.
In the days ahead, all manner of items were salvaged from the surrounding waters. The bodies of the seven ships found their way to the shores one by one. Though never the body of the captain of the Niiman’s Dance.
Eventually, the ragtag group would turn itself into a settlement. It would expand to build a logging colony at the edge of its cliffs where it would be closest to the woods. Eventually, merchant ships would pass by to trade their wares. And eventually, the first ship would set sail from shores of the island under the power of the shipwrecked sailors’ will. Eventually, Rosallio would be asked if he wanted to return to Brisker’s Cove. When that day came, Rosallio would remind the kind person inquiring that he would never set foot on a ship again.