The adventure continues, with the second installment of the story of the heroes aboard the Astrologer’s Albatross! As always, I want to thank the group for their part in creating this story. The tale picks up where session 1 left off, with the ship under attack. This was played about a week after the first session, and sees Darvic Saltbeard finally wake up from that liquor induced coma. His player was back, and amused by what Darvic managed to sleep through. So, without further ado, enjoy!
Morgaine’s hand reached for her hand crossbow as she balanced in the rigging. Below her the small set of guards the Captain had set for the night were routed, after only moments in combat with a mere three members of the crew of The Soul of Erryeth. Hardy as the crew of the Astrologer’s Albatross were, these battle-hardened veterans of legendary skill put them to shame. Barhauk, the Hullbane, was at the forefront of the assault, his metal clad form appeared to be nearly ten feet tall, unusual even for him. Yet, with the green tinged blade of his battle axe falling amongst the panicked sailors, it seemed size was far from the worst aspect of the barbarian.
In a story such as this, where perspective must he kept to that of the heroes, there are at time details which may seem unexplained or out of place. The Hullbane’s unusual size here being one such instance. However, as the GM I know why these things are, and I assure you there are reasons for all of them. Sometimes the cast will discover these reasons, and at times they will not. Can you guess what is going on to cause these strange events beyond the players’ perception? To illustrate, in this case, the Hullbane is benefiting from a enlarge person spell.
Morgaine knew the half-orc was only a part of the threat. She trained her hand crossbow on Kaudi Vraa as the witch chated and incantation in her shill voice, thinking that her bolts had little chance of harming the Hullbane or Trig, as the gnome cleric was following close behind the charging brute. Her shot sailed off, missing the tengu by inches, and with a curse she loaded another bolt.
Even as she did, the Hullbane reached the gangplank, and brought his axe down upon the sturdy board. By his bunk within the ship’s guest quarters, Takk paused from putting on his gear and groaned at the crunch of metal on wood. “I just fixed this ship!”
He snatched up the last of his contraptions and his musket and dashed from the quarters under the forecastle deck. Emerging onto the waist deck he quickly surveyed his surroundings. Around the ship the crew was rousing themselves much as Takk had. The gnome saw several faces trying to determine the threat as he was. There was no sign of the Captain or First Mate, though he spotted Cultist coming up on the opposite side of the waist deck, his hands raised to cast at a moment’s notice. Then, suddenly a shadow flitted by to the left of Takk. The machinesmith spun towards the movement he had caught in the corner of his eye, and without hesitation he leveled his musket and loosed a black powder propelled blast of metal. He saw the slim figure in the shadows flinch and swing slightly from where it hung on the wall, as if climbing up to the forecastle deck. But then it sprung up onto the deck. Takk grimaced, guessing that Azohn the Assassin was aboard the ship despite the bullet.
The rapport of the musket did not distract the crew from the more pressing threat at the gangplank and beach. In fact it was not alone. When the first cries had echoed across the water, Karth awoke from a restless sleep quite quickly. Finding himself alone in the sick bay, he levered himself out of bed, snatched his flintlock pistol and the cane he had been issued, and moved carefully and quietly though the ship. He glanced out a few portholes at the scene on the beach before crouching down by a ballista not far from sick bay and leveling his weapon out the porthole at Kaudi Vraa. He prepared the spell, took careful aim, and waited for the witch to make a move.
On deck, Cultist was about to make that happen. The sorcerer wasted no time after seeing the attackers, and unlike Karth his approach lacked any patient preparation. With a few words and motions he unleashed a forceful geyser of water from his hands, smiling as the stream knocked Kaudi off her clawed feet into the sand. Seconds later there was the rapport of a flintlock and a missile of magical energy left a porthole below decks and flew true into the toppled witch, courtesy of Karth. The feathered form did not remain still however. With a cry and a burst of sand, Kaudi launched herself straight upwards into the night sky, her chanting beginning again.
The noise of battle was loud now, enough so to rouse the dwarf who for the last three days had been left amidst the empty barrels of ale. Shaking the sawdust from his beard, Darvic Saltbeard opened his eyes, took a long drink from one of several flasks fastened on his belt, and leapt to his feet. The dwarf showed surprising grace as he drew forth his temple sword from across his back, and with blade in one hand and a flask in the other he darted across the deck. Dodging crew mates the dwarven monk came quickly to the top of the gangplank, and faced the armoured behemoth known as the Hullbane. The half-orc bellowed, and charged up the gangplank, the recently hacked wood straining his metal encumbered form. Darvic held his ground and the Hullbane did not slow. His axe swept before him, and Darvic lurched backward. He felt the metal shear across his chest, leaving a red hot line that rabidly became a searing pain. The mighty barbarian did not halt, thundering over the fallen dwarf and onto the deck. As he gasped, Darvic saw the petite form of Trig standing over him, but she paid him no heed.
Trig raised her right hand, displaying the wood carving she held high. The wood had been shaped with impressive care into a butterfly, its wings stamped with the sun, moon, and two stars. It was the symbol of Desna, goddess of the travelling dream, a holy implement through which Trig brought forth the power of her goddess. Though she whispered, Darvic was near, and heard her prayer.
“Goddess, buy your will, let these oppressors feel their freedom challenged.” A golden light shone from her holy symbol, and in nothing resembling her former whisper the gnome issued her command, “DOWN.” Her lone word compelled all who heard it. Darvic, Takk, Cultist, even Morgaine felt the impulse to fling themselves upon the deck. Many of the crew heeded the command, unwilling but unable to resist. Takk and Cultist fought the compulsion, but after a moment they too lay against the wood surface beneath their feet. Only Morgaine, Darvic, and a minority of the crew had the strength of will, or luck, to resist the god given order. For Darvic, already on his back, it was largely a symbolic effort, but for Morgaine, how crouched in the rigging over a hundred feet above the deck, it was an act of pure survival.
However, Morgaine was still not spared from the enemies’ onslaught. Despite the combat below she had kept her eye on Kaudi Vraa after her sudden takeoff. Despite the difficulty of spotting the black feathered which against the night sky, Morgaine still fired a bolt at the tengu. Her shot, while near the mark, flew low, and Kaudi affixed her attention to this new threat. Swooping low, the witch cawed the last words of her spell, swept her arms wide, and loosed her magic upon the changeling woman. A thin jet of black cloud struck Morgaine in each eye, and as the witch flew past Morgaine was left with nothing to see but her newly imposed blindness.
Below, the Hullbane charged on, over the prone forms of crewmembers to swing his axe with all his might at the central mast. The blade met the wood and passed through cleanly, leaving a deep cut in the forward facing side. Green caustic drops were left in the deep groove, and the mast began to creek. The Hullbane, however, moved on, continuing his charge across the deck.
“I just fixed this ship!” cried Takk again at this new injury to the vessel. The compulsion Trig and before was already wearing away. He snatched out a mechanical turret, and flipped out its tripod as he set it upon the deck. “Her” he commanded pointing at Trig, and the turret fired a bolt wide. Less than pleased, Takk called out to his construct, Rusty. Resting in the shallow, just beneath the waves, the four legged turtle like automaton lurched to life, leaving the waters and approaching the gangplank. Soon it was on the already damaged wooden plank, which creaked beneath the metal construct’s weight.
The machinesmith class for pathfinder is a version of the wizard class that replaces spells with contraptions with similar effects. Of course, how these devices work is vaguely explained at best. As a result I get to have some fun here imagining how they might appear. So, do not ask me for exact specs of how the turret works, but allow that it does. Imagining is part of the point of this after all.
That sound struck Darvic’s ears, but by then the drawf was no longer lying at the top of the board. Moments ago he had surprised Trig by rising up and striking the cleric with his temple sword. The monk had waited for her to call upon her goddess once again, and was pleased to have caught her off guard. However, the gnome’s surprise turned to a grin grinned as the monk’s blow stuck her new summoned armour, the product of the prayer he had so cleverly taken advantage of. Darvic gasped as the gnome’s morningstar swung up with surprising force for one so small. The blow caught him in the ribs, and he bent slightly and stumbled. He heard Trig curse as Takk’s turret managed to graze the cleric. It was then that he heard the gangplank crack.
Takk repeated his refrain as the gangplank gave way, dropping Rusty back into the surf. However, the gnome machinesmith barely had time to consider he construct’s fate. Already he was in the midst of drawing forth a hose coiled about him with one hand while his other pumped a leveler upon a small barrel from which the hose flowed. As the pressure reached the desired point, Takk aimed the nozzle of the hose at the deck before the rampaging Hullbane, and hoped his plan worked. Dark black grease spewed from the nozzle, depleting the barrel in seconds, but still managing to coat the targeted area in a liberal layer of the slippery substance. For the Hullbane, a muscular half-orc completely covered in thick metal plating and magically enlarged to stand nearly ten feet tall, there was no stopping now. The armoured barbarian stepped upon the grease patch and fell heavily. Momentum and lack of traction carried him onwards, but Barhauk made no effort to fight his fate. In fact, Takk would later swear the metal clad monster was laughing as he careened through the wood rail at the ship’s side and out into the ocean. “I just…” Takk gave into a sigh and made no effort to finish his mantra.
As the Hullbane struck the water, Cultist, who until now had determined not attracting the half-orc’s attention to be wise, began casting. Moments later he loosed another jet of water, this time arcing it across the deck to hurl Trig onto her back. With a chuckle Darvic slashed the fallen and wet gnome once more with his blade. He did not get another blow. Without hesitation, Trig whispered a prayer and rolled over. Gripping the edge of the deck where the gangplank had been moments before, she pulled herself over the edge to join the Hullbane beneath the waves.
The crew and heroes paused, suddenly free of attack. Darvic began to inspect his wounds. Cultist stood up off the deck, along with many of the crew. In the rigging, Morgaine struggled to descend despite her blindness. It was a feat impossible for most, but Morgaine’s dexterous form and knowledge of the rigging allowed her to do so without injury. Takk sprinted beneath the deck. Takk alone was not finished with the fight. Reaching the ballistae, he loaded one and searched the night sky for his target. As he hoped, his eyes caught sight of the fleeing tengu form of Kaudi Vraa, a black shape moving in front of the stars. With a grin he loosed the bolt and watched it soar. He held his breath as the spear sailed across the sky. Then, he yelped and leapt into the air as he saw the form of the witch tumble from the sky. Despite the damages to the ship, his project, Kaudi Vraa was downed.
Here we have a prime example of how players in D&D or Pathfinder can surprise you. I had not expected an action like shooting down Kaudi Vraa, and therefore I had no plan for it. But, nothing in the world says this could not happen. This is where a GM has to be able to improvise. Otherwise, you have to block the action, and believe me, a player will always notice when you are blocking an action. Pulling an excuse like, oh the ballista was not loaded, and if you load it she will be gone, will seem like an invention if the ballista being unloaded was not mentioned before. Unless it makes sense, they will notice what you are doing and loose immersion. So, you give them a few checks and hope they miss. Of course, they do not, and one ends up improvising a lot. Still, I cannot complain with the resulting story.
However, even while Takk headed back on deck with this good news, Karth emerged from the ship’s interior with ill tidings. After firing upon Kaudi Vraa, the tengu had taken flight and Karth had lost sight of any target. While he heard the battle above, the wizard was reluctant to risk further injury while still hobbling on a cane. Carefully he moved into the galley to face the stairs to the waist deck, pistol at the ready. For moments he listened, hearing the thudding of heave footfalls above, cries, and combat. Suddenly he heard a crash behind him, followed by thudding. He whirled and though the opted galley door he saw a figure compete its tumble down the long flight of stairs from the sick bay. Carefully, he moved to the body, watching the stairs from which it came. He knelt, seeing the man to be the physician, unconscious, but relatively uninjured. He moved up the stairs, ever cautious, flintlock ready and a spell on his lips. He moved into the sick bay, immediately noting it was in a state of diary unlike when he had left it. Bunks were overturned, bottles broken, their contents spilled, and a breakfast tray overturned. But most noticeable was the window, a large glass affair looking out the back of the ship, now shattered. Karth saw no glass of the window in the room, and raced to it, knowing it had been smashed outwards.
As he expected, he saw a small boat being rowed from the ship. The rower was unmistakable, long brown hair tied back, worn, stubbled face, and a tattered green Company captain’s coat. It was Jalastar, captain of The Soul of Erryeth, and in the bottom of his boat, another man dressed in a captain’s coat. Karth swore and took aim, whispering a spell. Jalastar had kidnapped Captain Nerova. Karth fired, sending a ray of fire down upon Jalastar. The shot stuck the boat, setting it alight as Karth had planned. However, he saw it would slow the wanted man little as the Captain turned the boat towards shore, not even bothering to fight the fire. Soon he would be ashore easily able to disappear into the jungle with his prize.
So it was that the crew was given two articles of news. Kaudi Vraa lay not far away, injured in the jungle, and in that same jungle the captain they hunted carried off their Captain. The first mate was dead in the navigation room. The crew was unsure of what to do. Morgaine, possibly the more senior and respected among the remaining crew was blind, and therefore both unconcerned with much else and out of commission. Meanwhile, Takk was determined to hunt down Kaudi Vraa. However, many in the crew favoured rescuing the Captain. They owed him their loyalty, and if nothing else, without him, the company would be unwilling to pay them their wage. Takk was clever though, and brought the crew and heroes up to speed on what he had already determined. Clearly, he pointed out, the attack was a distraction. The bold frontal attack of the Hullbane, Kaudi, and Trig had been to distract the crew in order for Jalastar to kidnap Nerova. They could then expect that the wanted Captain had an escape route planned. In the jungle at night he would be a hard man to catch, even if he was weighed down with his prisoner. Kaudi on the other hand, should be injured and alone in the forest. Furthermore, she would be able to tell them all they needed to find and rescue the Captain. The crew saw a plan, and set upon it. Thought it was nearly midnight, Takk soon set out with thirty of the crew, Cultist, Karth, and of course his construct, Rusty. Cultist, concerned about the potential for owlbear attacks, rode atop Rusty. It did not take them long to find the witch’s crash site.
The site was clearly what they sought. They could see the crushed foliage where Kaudi must have landed, and the broken branches above from her swift decent. Blood was found by Karth on the leaves, but the witch was nowhere to be found. Determined not to allow her to elude them, the searchers examined the area closely. It was Cultist who, despite a lack of training in such matters, spotted light boot prints leaving the site heading east. “Azohn” muttered Takk. He wished that he had pursed the assassin after their brief encounter during the skirmish. It seemed not the elf had rescued the tengu. But Takk was determined not to give in to easily, and with Cultist watching the trail left by the assassin, the search party gave chase.
Moonlight barely penetrated the dense jungle, and torches were broken out. With Rusty and Cultist leading, the pressed on for over half an hour. Soon they came upon a small clearing, and the corpse of a sizable boar. Brief investigation told them the beast was recently deceased, and from the clean cuts it seemed it was swiftly butchered and left to bleed. Takk was eager to press on, however he, Cultist, and Karth, were unable to find and tracks. Takk began to ask around amongst the crew members, and he eventually found a woman and man who together had moderate tracking experience. These two, Tarle and Joth, managed to find a set of tracks, and they were off once again. They were not far from the site however, when they heard a sound rising up over the trees, a familiar deep screeching; the eerie call of a hunting owlbear. Cultist instantaneously proposed a hasty retreat and began examining the potential of fitting himself inside Rusty. Though the construct was made for a gnome sized passenger within it, the human follower of Dagon was particularly motivated. Takk quickly moved to calm him with a laugh. “Don’t worry, Cultist, it is just Azohn. The clever bastard is imitating an owlbear with the hope that we will flee. We have them now.”
The owlbear attacked three minutes later. There were cries from the rear of the procession, screams of pain and terror mixed with bellowing and battle cries. By the time Karth and Takk arrived on the scene (Cultist was attempting to fortify his position atop Rusty) they caught sight of only the predator’s rear as it retreated. Two of the crew had suffered serious wounds from the beast’s claws and beak, while another was reported to have been carried off. Unsurprisingly, this time when Cultist proposed a hasty return to the ship, even Takk was amenable.
It was still dark when they arrived back at the Astrologer’s Albatross, though it was well into the early hours of the morning. The searchers promptly slept, though a more substantial guard had been set upon the ship. In their absence, the physician, once again conscious, had treated many of the injured among the crew. Darvic’s cut from the Hullbane’s axe had responded well to a healing potion, though the acid had assured it would scar and sting for some time. More impressive was the portly man of medicines efforts in dealing with Morgaine’s blindness. It had taken him time and, he admitted, some luck, but he had managed to create a makeshift cure for her sightlessness from measures of a few potions and some rare ingredient. He was careful to warn the crew that next time they received such a curse, he would have little chance of performing such a miracle again.
Here I intervened using the physician to cure Morgaine. Why? Well, blindness is a permanent spell. Therefore, I could have let Morgaine remain blind here. Without the physician’s cure she would have remained blind until she could find a cure for herself. At her level, that could have taken some time. She might have preferred rolling a new character to roleplaying though the blindness. Now, one might argue that’s what I should have done. The players would learn that there are real threats to their characters, things would become more exciting for them when they faced death, and Morgaine could become a very compelling character as she struggled with her disability. However, I know my group, and I have a different belief about roleplaying games; “game” being the key word there. Despite how much I love the story we are creating, I am willing to sacrifice a story of struggle like that because I know Morgaine’s player likes her character, and would enjoy the game less were that character she’s attached to be handicapped like that so early on in her adventure. I want to make sure the players enjoy themselves. Additionally, I have seen how players who are attached to their characters react to a threat. They run, become overly cautious, and overall become less interesting and troublesome to deal with story wise. You have not been frustrated as a GM until you have watched your players almost die to army ants because they are all too afraid of character death to fight them. With this solution, I imply some threat, but also assure them that while that threat is there, I am not out to screw them over.
Events were not going as the heroes had hoped. Their once nearly repaired ship now required days’ worth of further repairs, and they were without a captain. The crew was disheartened. Takk was determined that he could affect repairs swiftly, with the quartermaster’s aid, but even this did not address the captain’s loss and the continuing threat from the crew of The Soul of Erryeth. However, hope would soon arrive.
It came in the form of the merfolk druid Natava. She returned, with Archie in tow, from her scouting mission around the island at about midday. The news she brought was exciting indeed. The Soul of Erryeth lay just on the other side of the isle, and thanks to Natava’s sabotage, the ship would be there for some time. When they attempted to set sail they would find a foot of the rudder chain was missing. It would then take them days to manage repairs. Suddenly, there was a new fire in the crew. Praising their good luck charm found in the merfolk woman, they set to work repairing the ship under Takk’s guidance. It was decided that repairing the ship was the best strategy. With it they would have a fully functional warship to strike at the foes’ stranded vessel. The decided an attack on the bay at sunrise would put the sun at their back, giving them more than enough advantage to capture Jalastar and his crew and free the Captain. The crew elected Morgaine captain the vessel in the absence of Nerova or the late first mate. Within a day they were ready, and repaired and ready for war. The Astrologer’s Albatross set sail, the journey timed perfectly to see them arrive with first light, prepared to strike.
With the sun shining on the horizon, the sky and sea golden with its light, the Astrologer’s Albatross swept around the headland on the northern entrance to the bay, and prepared themselves to attack. But all they saw was fog. The bay lay smothered in a thick blanket of mist, making sighting their prey impossible. Natava was called upon to scout ahead, and the ship remained facing into the bay at its entrance.
Natava approached carefully towards where she remembered seeing the ship of Jalastar of Erryeth. As she neared the beach however, she saw no hull, only driftwood, splintered shards of boards, some nailed or bound together. Amidst this strange evidence (evidence of what she was not yet sure) Natava spotted a raft adrift near the center of the floating spars. She poked her head above the water, and gasped at the sight. A pole rose up in the center of the raft like a mast, however, in place of a sail, Obran Vosi hung from the pole by the rope lashed around his wrists.
Weakly the Halfling looked up to her. She quickly clambered up on the raft and struggled to reach and climb up the pole to untie him despite her lack of legs. Archie emerged too, steadying the raft while she worked. With minutes Obran dropped free. He struggled to his feet as Natava slipping back into the ocean.
“Where is the ship?” the Vosi grunted, “We must warn them.” The question of what they were to warn their compatriots of was on her lips when the answer came. In a burst of spray the metal clothed form of the Hullbane burst from beneath the waves behind Archie, his battleaxe held overhead. The blade swept down, reaching over Archie to slice diagonally into Obran. Natava saw a burst of blood, before the axe was gone and the late Vosi was tumbling into the water, his flesh parted from his left shoulder to right hip. Blood filled the water as Natava reached out, grapping Archie even as she yelled for him to escape. The great sea turtle needed no second urging. In seconds they were racing off towards the ship, with the Hullbane not far behind.
Natava assumed she would find safety in the shadow of the ship she served. She was mistaken. Even as she had worked to free Obran, cries had gone up on the Astrologer’s Albatross, cries of warning and urgency. Emerging from behind the southern headland, sailing straight towards them was The Soul of Erryeth. The colossal splash of the first trebuchet propelled boulder was the first sign of trouble. In moments the crew had spotted their attacker. But now they were the prey, caught out of position, their rear facing the enemy, and the sun in their eyes. Morgaine gave orders to fire the ship’s rear trebuchet, personally overseeing the process, while Takk raced to Rusty, clambering inside the construct before ordering it to plunge into the waves. The mechanical amphibian then sped off towards the attacking ship with the gnome machine smith within intent upon causing trouble.
The ships exchanged shots as they closed in on each other, both starting with misses but scoring a few hits. The Soul of Erryeth saw boulders crash into the upper rail on the prow, plowing through sailor and deck alike before exiting on the other side. The Astrologer’s Albatross saw a sizable stone smash through the stern, below the upper deck but below the waterline, opening up sick bay to the world. Then The Soul of Erryeth leaned, swerving and slowing to fire a broadside. Morgaine saw sailors alongside Jalastar on the enemy ship preparing to swing aboard, and she ordered the crew to ready themselves as she brought the ship around to perform a broadside of its own.
Beneath the waves, Natava, still clinging to Archie, had heard the crashes of the boulders as the struck the water, and was well aware all was not well. Spotting the hull she had entered the bay to seek, she urged Archie to head for it, swimming swiftly past her allies’ ship. In her rush to aid her friends, she did not notice that the absence of the Hullbane behind her.
Takk arrived at the hull of The Soul of Erryeth well before Natava, and having seen the ship turn, he headed straight for the rudder, wondering how they had managed to repair it so swiftly. However, what he found when he faced the ship’s read was a rudder that was wedged in place by wooden spars nailed into place. The rudder was straight, and upon it sat a small vibrant blue octopus, no bigger than a human hand. Takk stared at the rudder and creature in confusion, no longer sure how the ship was steering itself, or how he might damage it. However, he was spared taking action. The little octopus seemed to glow a brighter blue for a moment, and then magic burst forth from it, striking Takk within Rusty. The gnome ordered the construct to attack, but it made no move. He tried again before realizing he was not moving his mouth. He could not move at all. Paralyzed, Takk was left helpless as the ship left him hovering in place, the little blue octopus waving a single tentacle in his direction.
Natava reached the ship’s rear only seconds later, and seeing the octopus she attempted to commune with is using her druidic magic. She asked the little one what it was doing, trying to convey that she meant it no harm. Its response was unexpected. A wave of feelings and images washed over her mind. A calm, a neutrality, a sense of necessity in its actions. She saw a host of magic symbols, and sensed the arcane at work. Then, she gasped as the creature spun and blasted her with its ink. She spun about, clearing the black cloud with a few swipes of her tail, but when the ink cleared, the odd octopus was gone. Behind them, Takk focused his mind and managed to break through the paralytic enchantment, and ordered Rusty on. Together Takk, from within Rusty, Natava, and Archie, flung themselves against the hull of their enemies’ vessel. Yet their efforts yielded little in results, unlike those of the Hullbane, who was then laughing as water spayed into the stempost workshop. These reports were reaching Morgaine as she, Karth, Cultist, that their crew braced for the oncoming barrage and boarding. Karth cried out to look above, and they saw, bound yet standing, with a noose about his neck, Captain Nerova in the crow’s nest of The Soul of Erryeth’s central mast.
It seemed in moments they would visit death upon one another, yet at that moment, before either side ordered their attack, Jalastar cried out with a deep commanding tone for his crew to hold. He held out a hand towards Morgaine, bidding her to do the same. The Captain’s life weight heavily on her mind, and she waved for the crew of the Astrologer’s Albatross to stay their hands.
“Thank you, Captain,” Jalastar cried out, so his voice was heard by all. “It seems we are in a position to do great harm to each other, however, that need not be how this day goes. I recognize that you are a crew bound to your ship and Captain, and your loyalty to them prevents you from choosing another path and this one that your masters, this man,” he orated, indicating Nerova above them, “and the Company and nation behind him. In recognition of this, I am willing to spar your lives this time. Now you have a choice, and should you see the error of hunting free men and women criminalized by defending a home sold from beneath their feet, you will leave this place alive. Otherwise, a great many of us shall rest beneath these waves. However, your Captain and the Vosi who led you here cannot be so easily forgiven. They knew what they did and while they served, they had the capacity to avoid their orders, to seek another mission. By choosing to hunt us they forfeited their lives. The Vosi is dead, and your Captain will soon hang. You are free to make your choice.”
The sudden stillness saw Takk and Natava emerge from the water during Jalastar’s speech. The crew seemed unsure of how to react. On the one hand they were loyal to their captain of many years, while their own lives weight heavy in their other palm. Karth, loyal to Gyleaon at his core, prepared to fight. Though the wizard feared for his life, he saw little way out of the conflict. Takk similarly saw the chance for victory. While it might cost them the captain and more, they had the numbers and ability to overcome Jalastar and his allies. For Cultist, survival was paramount. The Captain was a good man to him, but his life and the lives of the crew mattered more. For Natava, ever the pacifist, the willingness Jalastar had to talk seemed promising. For Darvic, the Captain might perish, but the ship, the Astrologer’s Albatross, would sail away. That was an acceptable result. But for Morgaine, the Captain’s safety remained paramount.
She called out to Jalastar, saying that the Captain was following orders as they were, so he did not deserve death. Jalastar replied simply, noting that he, a captain, had defied orders. On his ship, a Captain had free reign. Morgaine, annoyed told Jalastar that she would not leave without the Captain. Cultist quickly stepped in trying to make clear to her how she was going to get them all killed. But Morgaine was determined. Stepping past Cultist, she asked Jalastar what he would do. Jalastar smiled.
“Your loyalty to your captain is impressive. If his life is your price for peace this day, I will surrender him to you. However, I shall extract a promise in return, and make a promise myself. If I allow him to live and return to you, you must give me your word as a captain of the Company that you will make no move to harm us and leave here immediately. As for my promise, I tell you that should our ships cross paths again, and that man remains at the helm, I will spare no mercy for anyone aboard her. As long as he Captain’s the Astrologer’s Albatross, I will aim for nothing less of the death of all her crew should I cross her path.”
Natava cried out from the water. “This will not change anything. The Company, Gyleaon, and Tamherang will still hunt you. Come with us, and we can end this. That’s the only way to truly get peace.”
“No,” said Jalastar with an air of regret, “There are other ways and they are not so easy. I have made my offer. Well, Captain Morgaine, do I have your word?”
“You do,” Morgaine replied promptly, he jaw set. So it was that Nerova was brought down from his perch and transferred back to the ship. By now, Takk was back on board. All around, the heroes were unsure of Morgaine’s decision. She told them this was loyalty to the Captain, something each of them owed to Nerova. Takk suggested that his loyalty to Gyleaon came first. Karth joined him in this sentiment. Cultist said they should not have pushed matters, but as long as they left alive he was satisfied. Most surprisingly of all, Natava addressed her thoughts to Jalastar. She saw in him not the villain the Vosi had portrayed him as, merely a man fighting oppression. She asked him if she might join him. The Captain of The Soul of Erryeth paused at her request. When he responded it was a careful answer. He told her honestly he could not trust her given the circumstances, but should she ask again when they next met, he would again consider it. This too evoked debate, but Natava’s action garnered her no reprimand.
I was pleased to see the players get into a real debate here. Questions of loyalties and the justifiability of the “evil” label applied to Jalastar were discussed. The players kept a firm eye on what their characters would think though, and as a result I think some real characterization emerged from this. We see Takk and Karth siding with a national loyalty that might require them to make sacrifices, while Morgaine followed a personal loyalty. I look forward to seeing how we see these characters develop, and I hope you do as well.
Nerova, Captain still but for how much longer no one knew, ordered the ship back to the Isle of Dis, from where they set sail almost a week and a half prior. He gave Morgaine command for the journey, while he said he would prepare a report to deliver upon his arrival. They set sail, leaving The Soul of Erryeth floating on the waves behind then, its famed crew watching their departure. Throughout the crew a sense of failure was strong, yet their survival despite this was a pleasant gift. They would return to face the company and country they served, and none knew what would happen next.
That is the end of this chapter. Next time the crew returns to the Isle of Dis to report their failure to the Company. They do not know how the Company will react, or what their fates will be. I hope you come back to find the answers. If you like this, please let me know below. Let the dice keep rolling.