"Why?" I asked in disbelief. The monstrosity, barely qualifying as a fish at all, was made of stone, the size of my torso, trying to bite me, and pinning me down to the bottom of our boat. As bad an idea as holding onto it seemed, I couldn't think of a better plan.
"HOLD THE FISH," Katagume stated firmly. "It's OURS."
Ours. DarWynn's half-sister, Katagume "Kat" the half-orc, had joined our crew after a night of heavy drinking. We had to fill out the rest of the party after the tragic losses of Yalandra and Lead Tiger, and the mysterious disappearance of Myrna. Adventurers see a pretty high turnover rate these days, with all the demon invasions and possessed Dragons. The city of Covenant built a statue of old Lead Tiger. I feel like he probably would have enjoyed beating a fungus-monster to death with it. The legend of Lead Tiger's last stand had proven useful in recruiting companions- DarWynn moved a sorceress, Brega, to tears with the tale and she agreed to join our operation.
Val the dragon was so grateful to be back in his own skin that he got generous with his horde of stuff. I got fancy swords worth more than I've ever had to my name, and boots that won't make noise. Seriously, I tried. People jump when I walk up to them. Great for a burglary, not great for meeting grateful Covenant barmaids.
My plan was to found a thieves' guild in Covenant. I like Val, personally, but I think his horde is wasted on him. A few shifty orphans and street urchins with hearts of gold could probably relieve the nobles and cultists of their spare change without drawing too much attention. The people of Covenant deserve a back-up plan if something else happens to their greedy dragon warden. Unfortunately, the town requires substantial clean up before that's possible. A guild would stick out like a sore thumb in temporary housing. Next time. I might even name it for old Lead Tiger.
Our departure was punctuated by a gathering with Val and the townsfolk. As the most qualified demon killers in the area, we would have the honor of walking through a portal to another plane in front of thousands of people. Inside, supposedly, are the answers to DarWynn's demonic curse and the source of the horde of demons. Val proclaimed us his Animus, the very Breath of the Dragon. The sorceress, Brega had clearly become popular with the crowd over drinks and wowed them with two words: "Stay Classy." As they erupted in applause, and probably began to immediately do the opposite, our party stepped confidently into the magical portal.
"So how did we get from the heroic departure to such a liberal interpretation of fishing?" I shouted at Kat.
"Do not drop the fish!" She retorted, "and shut up! We got a man overboard! Or a sorceress!" Kat's body was angled up from a prone position, her shoulder thrust over the side of the boat, with her legs wriggling around the wet hull trying to gain leverage. "I gave her a rope, just pull her up!" I shot back.
At the other end of the boat, DarWynn stood poised facing backwards. The massive ethereal shark chasing our boat had been jumping out of the water after her, and she challenged it each time with claws to the face. Our river boat trip broke all the rules I know of reality, not unlike our vomit-inducing trudge from Larm's dungeon en route to meet Cantankerous. The river flowed up, down, and sideways at times, floating in thin air as a waterfall with no respect for gravity. If only there were some discipline or SKILL that could POINT me IN the right way with KNOWLEDGE of these PLANES.
The waterfall description proved accurate. Even in this bizarre abstraction of a boat ride, the familiar sound of rapids reached our ears as the sickening sight of a cliff reached our eyes. "Hang onto that fish," cautioned Kat as she finally hauled Brega back into the boat. "We're going over."
Sure enough, I felt what little gravity there was shift 90 degrees as the boat dumped over the edge. However, instead of the certain death that usually accompanies such a plunge, we floated gently! Sure, we were falling down a massive waterfall, but not as quickly as one would expect. The only real element of danger was the giant extra-planar shark falling slowly behind us, jaws agape. DarWynn, taking a pause just long enough to understand the gravity of the situation, leapt up off the back of the boat and sunk both claws into the shark's eyes. It would fall lifelessly beside our boat as we all landed in the pool below.
A peachy-white sky surrounded us on all sides and even below the stone platform as we swam to its shore and climbed out. "I lost the damn fish," I shrugged at Kat, who stared in disappointment for some time as everyone dried off. The fish had the advantage on me after we'd landed in the water, and I wasn't about to go back in after it. I busied myself searching the platform, and found a curious loose stone tile. Beneath it were stairs that would lead us to a great puzzle... a great puzzle I hope doesn't kill me.