The Peace Pool, a place of mystery and wonder, long guarded by the Ojjiwa barbarians and their superstitions. After two weeks of travel across the surface of the frigid ocean the Charancon, my articulated bathyscape, took on fresh resevoirs of clean air and we dove. Travel across the floor of the ocean was slow, as the bottom is a thick and treacherous muck. The light from the glowstones barely reaches thirty feet in front of us as we crawl along the bottom.
Our first encounter was with a pair of pale white monoliths, bluffs of white stone. We have marked those on the new cartograph as the Feet of the Ocean Mother. The sound of whalesong is louder as pass between the bluffs, the sound resonates within the structure of the Characon and for a time we are greatly concerned. If there is a failure of the hulls, my companions and I will all suffer a swift and painful death by crushing cold water. After a while, nothing comes of the vibration and we continue our voyage.
It is perhaps the passage of an hour before we encounter the first of the hedges. Not bushes or plants, but tall palisades of bone. Whale ribs, and in places the vaulted arch of a spine that has not collapsed. We can see movement around our lights, but we can not catch anything within our sight. We are tantalized by images of strange crawling creatures with bodies similar to the brass and adamant shell of our own crawling submarine.
We press on, the bathyscape traversing the bone hedge with some difficulty. as we cross a particularly large hedge, one of the sunken bones crushes underfoot, almost sending the Characon tumbling end over end. In our near tumble we have discovered a number of large teardrop shaped pearls which we collected a few of to hoepfully offset the cost of building the Characon and paying my rather mercenary companions.
According the maps made by Kurye the entrance to the Leviathan Pool is marked by a pair of stone bluffs. Within the lbuffs lie the edge of the Whalebone forest, an area marked by the impact of smaller whales who tend to drift as they sink. The closer one draws to the center of the Forest, the thicker and larger the bones become as the larger species and individual whales tend to drift less during their final dive.
The whalesong has passed, and we are pressed upon by an erie silence. The only noise besides our own breathing is the steady mechanical vibration of the mutltiple gear system that enables the Characon to crawl across the bottom of the ocean. Progress is now very slow as the ‘forest’ has been reached. The bones here now tower over our bathyscape, itself an impressive fourteen feet tall. The ribs, there are so many. I do not think we have touched seafloor in some time, and are wimply walking on nothing but remains. I am troubled by this thought.
Despite this, it is quite peaceful, the silence. Even my companions have quieted. It is now that we finally enounter our first denizen of the forest. It is a species of lobster, though it is impossibly larger, nearly eight feet in length and covered in a coat of what looks like white spines. Indeed the entire creature looks to be made of bone. My companion likens it to a stalking creature, hiding among the bone of the forest to pounce on its prey.
The Whale Lobster
This crustacent is native to the Whalebone Forest and reachs impressive size since there are no fishermen to disturb their lives and the whales here are not crab-eaters. some specimens reach up to 18 feet in length and are voracious scavengers and predators. Despite this, they are shy when exposed to light and presented little danger to the Characon. Had they decided that the gnome and his bathyscape might be tasty, they would have dismantled the craft with relative ease.
What a find, in the deep we glimpsed a ray, or perhaps an eel like creature. Lights flickered along its sides and its fins, dazzling us with such colors as we had never imagined. the creature was so very fast, it was if it actually flew away from us rather than swam upon fins and water.
The Sea Ghost
Also known as a whale ghost, this semi-translucent and bioluminescnt creature is distantly related to skates and rays, but diverged long ago. It feeds on the microscopic creatures that swarm around the whalefalls. Sea Ghosts have a natural immunity to illusionary magics, and have a strong resistance to magic in general. some speculate that the Ghosts might actually be intelligent but there has been no attempt at communication with these large and delicate creatures.
We were attacked, the creature was most bizarre and if I were not studied in the species of sharks known I would have called this one. It appeared with a great gaping maw and many small teeth. Lights flickered within the roof of its mouth as it swam at us. It hit us amidships and knocked a few rivets loose. There was some panic until the rivets were fastened and the leaking stopped. After getting one metallic bite on the number 6 leg, the creature decided to find better feeding elsewhere.
Native to only the deepest waters, the Dragonmaw is an opportunistic feeder, and one that is attracted to metal objects. With its large mouth it seeks to sweep smaller creatures in and swallow them whole. Rather than fight its prey, the shark is more content to find more docile prey elsewhere. These sharks are rare and bear no resemblance to dragons, despite the name.
The Forest is very thick now, and we must stick to what best approximates pathways. I have suggested that the white lobsters create these paths as they roam the forest. We also encountered our first major whale falls. We crossed nearly a dozen corpses in various stages of decay, one looked to have been a year on the bottom and the ribes were begining to show near the summit of the heap. It was impossible to tell the species for the creatures that swarmed over it. They were scavenger crustacents, and here and there among them small tentacled creatures flitted, snatching the small star shaped crabs from the corpse.
Resetting our glowstone reflectors to shine a wider beam we found the water to be swarming with creatures as tiny as houseflies. We suspect that they are some sort of scavenger/parasite, and there were a number of pale fish that swam about nipping at them here and there. This scene was repeated at each of the other corpses, it may be a while before I eat another fish after seeing what many of them eat.
The last whale fall we encountered was very large, and it bore the scars and old injuries of a whale that had encountered the whaling fleets. We counted no fewer than six harpoons in its sides, the wounds covered over with thick scar membrane. One of my companions has named this whalefall Bismark, and we have marked him on the map. his location could serve as a navigation point for several years before the scavengers scour him down to his bones. I wonder if this might be the whale written of by old Lord Ahab? My companions disagree.
It has been nearly two days since we passed the bluffs and we found the heart of the forest. There are strange creatures here, with long cylindrical bodies capped with large almost flower like structures. They move in a cadence with the echo of whalesong that we all seem to be semi-hearing. On occassion, one of the things, each nearly thirty feet in height, will collapse around something and the red crown will swallow down into the neck.
Some of the companions whisper of hearing voices, a mother, a former fiance, all of them warnings. I brush aside such frivolous superstition and edge the bathyscape forward. Now the Sea Ghosts are starting to swim around us, their own multi-colored glow dimming the light from our glowstones. I feel a strong presence now.
These tree sized worms live near the very center of the Forest of Bone, they evince strange powers according to the logs of the Characon. Hypnotic voices, minor hallucinations, and suggestions are the most common powers mentioned. some believe that these conditions were the result of being confined within the Characon for as long as the crew had been, and deprivation from fresh air and sunlight.
The Sea of Pearls, there are hundreds of thousands, they heap atop the bones like a carpet of glittering snow. We spend nearly an hour stuffing the cargo baskets of the Characon with the pearls before we begin our return trip. All sorts of small wriggling things scattered as we gathered the pearls, and some of the men whispered Whale’s ghosts. They didnt persuade any of them to return the pearls.
We put the Characon in full drive, making quick time back. We followed a slightly different path, a second set of lobster paths that we hadnt seen on the trip in. There are strange sounds, like something is following us, but when we turn the Characon, there is nothing in sight, not even the furtive scuttlings of the Whale Lobsters.
The last entry in Kurye’s log…
Almost out, and I am plagued with nightmares. I sit at the halm and drowse, and then I hear something, my eyes open. I see my mother, now dead for 20 years. Her skin is pale and she slaps at the port window, her mouth is a rictus of anger and I am terrified. How long since her ship sank, and I feel the urge to cry. The Characon isnt moving, I’ve stopped it in the midst of the dream and when I awaken, the bathyscape has indeed been halted.
I want to escape this place, I can’t let myself be so caghut up in all of the Ojjiwa legends about it. It is a place full of dead whales, nothing more, nothing sacred…
After the Expedition
Kurye indeed escaped from the grasp of the Whalebone forest, but not for long. After returning to port and unloading the cargo of the Characon Kurye was found dead. He died a wealthy man as his portion of the pearls earned him a substancial amount of money and property.
Coming soon, the Kurye’s Cursed Pearls.