02 - Necessary Evil

02 - Necessary Evil

3 months laterFost 5th, 292 AS

The last twelve weeks have been eventful but not in an unusual way. Captain Basaraba offers you a permanent position on the Crimson Falcon, a position Corvana accepted readily to see the world that is so new and foreign to her. In the Undercity, life goes back to business as usual: candles are lit in the market square for those that were taken every night for two weeks, then the number of candles begin to trail off each night until none are left. The Temple of the Golden Sun elevates a new solstice, Chaj’s younger sister, Isara, just in time for the Harvest Feast. Although Bastion Tempesta says its unnecessary, he still sees to it that security is tightened for the festival, requisitioning two extra squads of templars from Mahkhazn.

The Harvest Feast itself is more subdued than previous years, with many memorial set up around the area and a public reading of an ode to those lost by Isara. Other than that, the usual massive feast is hosted in the market square and every tavern is full of harvest meals and over-flowing mugs. Following the ode, sad memories are tucked away and the night gives away to the last grand celebration before the winter.

For those of you who have joined the Crimson Falcon crew, most of your missions have been contracts from the rahyr or Guild. Much of the Falcon’s work is patrolling the waters around the Ta’ayn and intercepting pirates and it is here that the fierce legend of Taysha and her crew is fully shown to you: there is no mercy, there is no negotiation and there are no survivors. Basaraba leads her boarding parties personally, with Alessio leading the other, and every last man and woman aboard the offending ship is put to the blade (even if they surrender), the cargo and equipment stripped and the ship scuttled.

In addition, three times the Falcon is called upon to escort a ship of some importance across dangerous waters: once to Nycromus, once to Ong Ke and once to Kulla Marro. The Captain, Alessio and Casiphia remain tight lipped on the nature of the ships they were escorting or why they were important and any questions are met with stone glares. On a pair of occasions, you are taken to seemingly trivial locations – a small, uninhabited island and what appears to be a random location in the middle of the ocean – where the Captain, Alessio and Casiphia confer for several hours and consult ancient journals, star charts and naval maps. Although the Captain and Casiphia say nothing, Alessio makes a comment to you in passing about “their borderline obsession with the sunken world.

Traffic coming and going from Illeh Shar slows for a few weeks before resuming and the word on the street is that the ambassadors from Illeh Shar have disavowed all knowledge of Zaryl’s actions and the Council of the Ta’ayn has had no choice but to accept this as truth. In your experience, Illeh Shar isn’t actually in the wrong on this one. The raiding near Ong Ke seems more frequent and perhaps more aggressive but doesn’t stray far from its own waters, although unconfirmed reports suggest they have been performing more slave raids than usual.

Corvana tends to stick near to you in person but, since the night she opened up to you about her past, she has not opened up again and her attitude remains confrontational and aggressive. She continues to quickly pick up the ins and outs of sailing and by your third outing, she is one of the best deckhands and one of the hardest working. She even starts to laugh a little (and more often in Samm's presence it seems). Poe, on the other hand, seems to take to the rest of you quite well and seems downright affectionate at times, seeking to have his head or chest scratched, an action that more often than not earns a scowl from Corvana: one directed at Poe, not the scratcher.

On this particular night in the Undercity, a light snow has begun to fall, dusting the rooftops and roads lightly, the sun long since set. At this hour, most people have finished their evening meals, their children are sleeping and they are relaxing by their fires (natural or magical), sipping warm drinks and forgetting the troubles of the world until tomorrow. The Undercity never quite sleeps though and the streets are still busy with late night vendors, shady dealings and other activities best hidden from the light.

This dark, chilly night sees the Crimson Falcon in port for its third day in a row and you are relaxing together at the Crown and Mermaid, a warm drink before you (one of many, in Thorn’s case), when Alessio steps into the tavern which has grown quiet for the evening. He is dressed as usual only with the addition of a heavy cloak, also dusted with snow, wrapped around him. He smiles easily upon seeing you and strides over.

Buona Sera, mi amici,” he says, looking over all of you. “I am afraid you will have to finish your bevanda later. We have been summoned.” A moment later, you are following the first mate down the cold, narrow and now increasingly snow-covered streets, walking a now familiar path to the Rahyr outpost. You have been here many times in the last three months, enough so that the rahyr in the foyer, a young man named Carro with shaggy honey brown hair parted in the middle, nods at you familiarly as you pass through, on the way to the grand hall. Arriving there, you see Bation Tempesta seated at the head of the table, Captain Basaraba and Casiphia seated to his right. Tempesta stands and beckons you over and at the same time, Alessio excuses himself.

I know it has been many months since your fated journey to Mira Morrow, my friends, but one of our agents has finally uncovered information worth exploring further, although they cannot do it alone. You are needed once more.

Willow knew this day would come, a summons to see Bastion Tempesta again ... she just thought it might wait till after Winter ...

Over the break from the boat, Thorn quickly went back to his own ways, wandering from tavern to tavern, going on quests with the Crimson Falcon when 'they needed his skills' (eg. when thorn had to disappear for a bit for one reason or another). But for the most part, not straying too far from the city, rumour around the city saying "Thorn was waiting for someone" and of course Thorn would never deny nor confirm it. But much to the surprise of everyone else, a few weeks earlier they had shown up, and Thorn was no where to be found, not even any whispers or rumours, even to Ashara's networks, of any reason Thorn had left, except for something about the appearance of a lady with strange powers, that could match Thorn drink for drink, and story for story, who had shown up a day or 2 before Thorn had disappeared and had not been seen since his disappearance. Not that he would ever admit this to anyone, in reality what had happened, was Thorn was getting bored, and upon a 'chance' meeting with this beautiful sorceress (in reality both had heard rumors of the other one over the years, and ended up seeking each other out), ended up going on an adventure to retrieve some grand artifact, that didn't end up going to plan, but was quite enjoyable, and over the course of the adventure, they both earned each others respect, came as close to fondness as sorcerorers such as them can do, learned a few new things, got a great new story, and some vague promise that they'd have to spend some time together if they where ever in the same place again, but they both better have good stories to swap.

Showing up on the crews second night in town, just appearing outta the blue, and walking in as if he had never left, it was obvious to everyone that Thorn had a bad case of wanderlust coming on, which would time and time again be brushed off as nothing more than a need of a change of scenery, saying on more than a few occasions " I've been in this city for almost 3 months now,, longest I've spent in one place in a while, its time to check out somewhere new" before giving in to the cries of the ladies missing his company already, and the men missing his outlandish stories, coaxing another beer or 2 from them all, and staying another night, typically in the company of one of the many women who didn't want him to leave, and decided to convince him to stay (likely they where all after his 'money' not realizing that he typically swapped stories for beer and food, and not actually buy much himself, but that never bothered thorn much).

So while it was outta character for Thorn, it was no surprise to anyone who knew him halfway well, when Thorn didn't even complain, or really have to be drug away to the Rahyr outpost, although he was overheard jesting " A seer once told me not to play with fire, but I'm still here, and I just can't get rid of her hahahahahahahahaha "

Getting to the outpost, Thorn seems almost surprised at the familiarity Carro shows them all,, before remembering some of the members of this party come through much most often than the rest. Entering the main room, Thorn quickly says as Alessio is leaving, " M'ladies glad to see my disappearance has treated you well, and a little birdy tells me ya might know whom it was that I owe thanks to for a timely bit of luck, with that misunderstanding with a certain mage over some artifact they had just left lying about in the open. Now provided you remembered to stock up the supplies, where we off on some wild chase to this time?" kowing full well it was someone from the Crimson Falcon, that had saved his bacon on his quest for the artifact earlier, and trying to avoid the realization about how far their ears, or more likely as he thinks to himself, how far their seer can hear and see.

And of course being thorn, he than takes a nearby seat with a good view and lotsa room to get outta the way need be, but still close enough to whatever they where calling booze at the table that his drink can stay nice and full.

That Corvana seemed to favour him for advice and help was a fact not lost on Samm, and not one that he was particularly happy about initially. The witch's presence still made him uncomfortable, and more often than not he became flustered in her presence. He took solace by focussing on what he was doing during these times, so even if her verbal instruction was stilted, her visual instruction was superb. Nevertheless her persistence slowly lead to Samm's relaxation, and by the end of their journey home he could manage to hold a regular conversation with her. He began to realise that whilst on Mira Morrow she was unquestionably the master, that was all she had known, and out here, on the sea, she was new, even if she was a quick learner.

When they returned to shore three months ago, Samm surprised himself by also returning to The Mermaid. Revisiting an old haunt was unusual for him, but then he had never really had any companions to return to or with. An odd mixture of anger and happiness washed over him as he realised, that, despite his best attempts, these companions were now he friends as well as his allies.

Corvana returned with them, a fact that did not surprise Samm since his realisation of her position, and he was rather protective of her. He had no doubt that she could put a stop to any unwelcome advances herself, what he was worried about more was what state she would leave the man in afterwards, and how he would explain it to the local Rahyr. Whilst they ewre tolerant of the occasional fight along the docks, provided it didn't get out of hand, he didn't know how they would react to anything more, considering they tended to step in as soon as blades began appearing.

As they entered, whilst Willow bowled over Carmel with an enormous hug, he tossed the suit of chainmail he had borrowed back to Gregor; “That thing sure saved my hide a couple of times out there, thanks for letting me use it. Managed to salvage something that fitted a little more snugly though,” he said gesturing to the other suit he carried and patting his stomach with a smile. “Any chance I could store it on the stand with that, at least for a while?” he added.

The barman gave a hearty laugh and managed to shoot off a quick nod before the furry ball of energy that was Willow leapt onto him too, and Samm arranged both suits on the dummy with care, making sure to string a sheet of linen between them so they didn't rub, and making sure that the older suit was on top. No sense in attracting trouble.

Once he had finished he went over to buy a pitcher of beer for the group, and joined them at a table, stretching out and relaxing for the first time in since, well, since the last time he had been here. As he drank and chatted he thought back to his earlier conclusion of friendship.

“Mind you,” Samm thought, “who could share what they had together and not be brought closer by it?” Although it had started out as one their last trip had become more than just another mercenary gig – and more than once he had been saved by the quick actions of his comrades. Together they had faced thing Samm had never seen before, and together they had survived. Samm's loyalty was hard-earned, but this, surely, was a hard set of circumstances.

All these justifications for their friendship continued to roll around his head for a week or so, until he finally accepted that, damnit, he liked them and there was nothing he could do about that, so he best just get used to the fact, and ensure that the unthinkable never happened. In celebration of the fact, he managed to get roaring drunk that night and had to be carried back to his room, even as he assured everyone in slurring tones, that, should they ever need anything, he had their back. Given his alcohol tolerance, he drank a lot of beer that night, and the amount of money he laid down, along with the barman's friendship to Willow meant that any, well, distractions shall we say, of the other patrons was forgiven the next day when it was clear this was a one off event.

Samm was quick to take up Basaraba's offer to return to their ship in the intervening period – after all, sailing was what he lived for, and was a little surprised to see Corvana volunteer as well. Although he had grown more comfortable in her presence though familiarity it still wasn't the same as talking to any of his other companions. Still, he had no intention of trying to tell her what to do, and so once again he was aboard the Crimson Falcon, reminding Corvana a little more regularly than was necessary, exactly how she should tie off the rope after taking in the sail. Somehow she always seemed to be on the same watch as him.

He was pleasantly surprised to find that as crew, he didn't eat particularly worse than they had at the Captain's table, and his respect for her grew somewhat. He had been on many missions where the standard fare for his lot had been gruel, whilst the Captain and Officers feasted on fresh meat every night. Clearly Basaraba understood the advantage of a crew well fed in maintaining a tight ship.

Samm also happily joined in the raids they ran, although he was shocked on the first one to see those who had surrendered be cut down. He once again thanked his lucky stars he had never had the misfortune of being on a ship caught by the Crimson Falcon, for he had no doubt that he would be feeding the fishes if he had. Why, it was enough to make a make swear off piracy for life. Almost. When he really thought about it, Taysha was sort of a pirate herself, except she was just a state licensed one. She took just as much thrill in the hunt as the few he had sailed with.

During their explorations of the sunken cities he simply rolled his eyes (although never in Caphasia's presence). However the shattering had happened, as far as he could tell it wasn't likely to be going away any time soon, and he was perfectly happy with the way things were. Personally he found it plenty of work trying to make his way in this world without rooting around in one of the past. Still, they were easy trips, and easy money, so he didn't complain too much.

The men were good fighters, their discipline and training telling during the battles, ensuring they rarely had anyone wounded beyond repair. As one man fell another stepped smoothly over him to fill his place, maintaining the line and allowing the wounded to recover, or be taken back to the Falcon. However, though the battles Samm did notice the downside of their rigorous training. Their fighting was choreographed, repetitive, and it left the vulnerable. With Taysha's blessing, and with swords and spears exchanged for staves, he offered a challenge to the crew members to fight him on the deck. After all, he was just a stringy old man. As it was, the crew had already seen him fight a number of times, and didn't fall for the helpless old man act - they all knew Samm was as quick as a snake, and had many years of experience in staying alive. With much cajoling he managed to persuade some of them to take him on in the ring, and sure enough, after dodging their strokes a couple of times, he quickly floored them with a low sweep of his net, or a swift club around the head with his stave. He then proceeded to explain to them how, because they had all been taught to fight in strict order, it was easy to discern the pattern in their strokes, and from there to predict and exploit it. None of them needed it explained how this would serve to get them killed.

Samm spent the next few days working them out of their habits as best he could, encouraging them to try and switch styles between strokes, fall back to lure the enemy in, anything to make them hard to anticipate. About a week later one of the quieter men stepped into the ring against Samm, holding his 'sword' high. Samm fell into his typical low crouch, and they danced around the ring for a while. The marine was following his training to the letter, repeating the same set of moves over and over again, not even varying his style or speed. “He hasn't listened to a word I've said,” thought Samm irritably as he moved in to end the crewman's robotic dance. As he stepped in close, knowing the man would be recovering from his previous stroke, the soldier swung his free hand up and planted a fist hard on Samm's cheek, leaving the fighter dazed and surprised. With a swift step back the marine had his stave at Samm's throat, a killing blow had they not been training. A hush fell over the deck. Then Samm burst into laughter, relieving any building tension. “Thats my lad!” he yelled as he pulled himself upright. “Take note everyone,” he addressed the sailors, gesturing to the marine who had bested him and was now grinning ear to ear, “You've more than just your sword to fight with, and don't worry about fighting dirty, cuz the guy trying to kill you sure wont be!” Still chuckling he turned back to the crewman, asking him his name. “James,” the young man replied. “Well James, that was a fine performance out there, I fell into exactly what I've been telling you boys to avoid – I repeated the same tricks and it got me beat. But don't expect to be able to pull that kind of thing off in a ship battle laddie! Another man reading your strokes might not chose the same methods I did, and you wont have had a week to watch him beat your fellow crew!”

Although Samm enjoyed the captures they made, and joined the battle heartily, he had no stomach for the slaughter that followed afterwards. He made a habit of quickly returning to the Falcon upon the surrender of their enemies as he lacked both the idealism of Basaraba and the devotion of her men to perform such acts. During these times he usually found Corvana waiting for him - he got the impression she approved of his refusal to take part in such things, and occasionally she offered to clean his wounds with a scowl, which he was grateful for, as it relieved Mr. Slate's work. At least that's what he told himself. It wasn't like he liked a sorceress or anything. Nevertheless, whenever Caphasia stalked the deck there was a notable role reversal, and Samm was somehow always near to Corvana. Magic wasn't something he could cope with, but she had proven herself adept. And, after all, a blessing could counter a curse couldn't it? Not that Corvana had offered him a blessing or anything.

When the festival came round again, the niggling thoughts at the back of Samm's mind resurfaced. With the memorial service he was reminded once again that they had never found the taken, in fact, all they had found was more questions.

The night Alessio came to the pub it was obvious immediately he was not simply here to drink, In fact, Samm's suspicions had been growing with each day the Falcon remained docked. Basaraba was usually in and out of port like a flash, eager to get back to the ocean, something Samm had developed mixed feelings about. Before leaving Samm excused himself to collect the chainmail that hung on the dummy, Gregor wishing him farewell and a safe return with a silent nod that spoke of one who knew Samm carried with him the burden of duty.

During their walk to the office Samm quickly sobered up, the cold air and the topic he presumed to be forthcoming working together. He entered the office with a grim expression, all to aware of the dangers that lay ahead. Judging by what they had encountered on their last trip, he couldn't even begin to predict was they would see this time, aside that it would doubtless be perilous. Except this time he had the added burden of friendship. His eyes shot to each of his companions as the man spoke, as he mentally assigned them under his watch, and prepared himself for war once more.

As you gather at the table, Tempesta remains standing and silent as you sit. He has his arms crossed over his chest and is absent-mindedly stroking his goatee and before him on the table is a map of an island you have never heard of, a small island named Nethicar. Tempesta seems to realize what he is doing and stops, uncrossing his arms and leaning forward on the basalt table, placing his hands, clad in think leather gloves, upon its surface.

Days after your return, when we had sorted through all of the information you have provided, we dispatched agents to Ong Ke, Kulla Marro and the Black Isles to begin investigating what little leads we had into these men in white and, until yesterday, we had only met with false starts and dead ends. But now, our agent in the Black Isles has sent message that he has finally pinned down the F. Sorrowind mentioned in the letter to Admiral Zaryl.

The man in question is a Baron on one of the smaller islands under Emperor Ferren’s rule, although it is rich in adamantine deposits and the Baron has made quite a life for himself, apparently. Our agent has gathered information on the local politics and geography and thinks it is possible to isolate and question Baron Sorrowind but he does not have the resources to do it himself. This is where you come in.

At this, he turns to Basaraba and nods before sitting. The Captain nods in return and stands, reaching over and turning the map toward all of you. “The White Dawn was a pirate vessel that raided Black Isles waters for several weeks before fleeing into Ta’ayn waters. Not wanting to violate any treaties by sending Black Isle war ships into our waters, Emperor Ferren placed a generous bounty on the vessel. If you recall, we dealt with the White Dawn two weeks ago,” she says with a satisfied smile.

The Crimson Falcon will head to Nycromus under the pretense of meeting with the Emperor and collecting the bounty. En route, we will rendezvous with an allied merchant vessel that will take you to Sorrowind’s barony, the isle of Nethicar. There, you will meet with the Rahyr agent, an elf named Pharrum Leafstride, who has taken care of the arrangements on his side. You will detain the Baron, find out everything he knows about the men in white and the missing Than’Durans and leave, ideally before anyone is the wiser.

She pushes the map forward for you to get a better look at the island and then sits again. Tempesta leans forward, his baritone voice drawing your attention from the map. “You will be alone on the island save for Pharrum, who is one of our best agents, but after your performance on Mira Morrow, we have the utmost faith in your ability to handle this situation. As with all of the Black Isles, the climate is quite unforgiving this time of year but we will be providing you adequate supplies to deal with such conditions. If you accept, the Crimson Falcon will sail at daybreak tomorrow. If you have any questions, now would be the time to ask.

Like many of the dwarf's decisions, choosing to accept Captain Basaraba's offer takes some deep thought. As he returns to the ship the following day, he is greeted by Alessio saying "Welcome to the crew mi amico." Travok is startled, grimacing, but then gives up and chuckles as the first officer continues with a wink "You've just earned me a few coins, dwarf. Most of the crew thought you'd take another day at least." Travok stands uncomfortably for a moment, before simply playing along. "Well lad, I'll just have 'te make sure you don't win the next one." Alessio gives a warm laugh, then tells the dwarf that he gets to keep his own cabin, for the time being at least.

Before they set off for their next job, Travok works himself up to giving up the rooms he had shared with Willow and Kadal. As a shaman in training, he spent quite some time travelling. He'd enjoyed the feeling of having a home again. His friends give him strength of course, including his new friends, Thorn, Ashara and Samm. He always found he had a connection with someone he'd healed. It was hard to look at someone the same way after your spirits had touched.

The dwarf quickly adapts to life on the ship. As usual with the path of the shaman, the spirits had provided exactly what he had needed long before he knew it in sending him a new spirit guide. He needed to learn about all the spirits, not only the spirits of the earth as his nature dictates. The water spirit gives him comfort on the longer trips, and teaches him about the spirits of the deep ocean.

Travok is forced to strongly consider his position on the ship after the first encounter with pirates. After they return to the Falcon, he immediately withdraws. After a sleepless night and no resolution, he speaks with his friends. He finds no help unfortunately. Willow has too much of the hunter in her blood, Samm is too jaded, Kadal, though sympathetic, is too religious; Travok needs a different answer. Though their friendship is growning, Ashara is too reserved, and Thorn too.....loud. Travok almost gives up before he finds himself talking to Mr. Slate. His position as ship's medic gives him the perspective that the dwarf needs.

Resolute, the next evening Travok requests a meeting with the captain. Businesslike as usual, the captin gets straight to the point"Good evening Travok. What brings you to my cabin?" Having reached his decision, he does not hesitate to say "Captain, I mean no disrespect when I say this, but I can nay be part of boarding parties like that. It goes against my path as a shaman. I'd like to assist Mr. Slate as ship's medic instead." She nods sharply and replies "Very well. Report to Mr. Slate for duty tomorrow morning. Was there anything else?" Travok shakes his head slightly "No captain. Ye' have my thanks." From then on Travok feels content with his position assisting the crew. He also enjoys the comradarie with Mr. Slate as a fellow healer, though their methods differ, they both learn from each other. And true to Willow's joke, the normally taciturn surgeon does talk a lot.

One of the few events that breaks the dwarf's new routine are the seemingly puropseless visits to the uninhabited islands. During those visits, Travok is deeply disturbed to hear echos of the screams of the earth that woke him to his calling. Regardless of the captains methods, Travok is now part of the crew, and so when he finds a moment of time he speaks to Casiphia, and explains how he first heard the voices of the spirits, and he has never since heard the screams of the land like that. He offers her, and the captain, any assistance they may need with...whatever it is they are doing. Casiphia does not acknowledge when he refers to whatever is she and the captain are looking for, she simply thanks him for the offer, and tells him that he will be asked if his assistance is needed. Not rude, but making clear that there would be no further discussion of the matter. Travok was expecting such an answer, but had to make the offer.

After months of sailing, Travok is enjoying one of the brief stays in port, drinking at the Crown and Mermaid. Everyone is enjoying themselves, including Corvana, which is surprising in that it's no longer surprising. Travok settles in for a bit of a contest with Thorn, quietly matching him drink for drink as he makes himself the centre of attention with one of his tales. As Thorn starts to show signs of his drinks, Travok catches his attention and gestures to the empty mugs that he's collected. Thorn looks to his own collection, and his smile widens to a grin as he orders a round a drinks. Alessio walks in just in time to hear Thorn place his order, before he breaks in with "I am afraid you will have to finish your bevanda later. We have been summoned." Travok cannot speak for Thorn, but the words do a fair job at sobering him. Not that he was particularly drunk, with dwarven constitutions being what they are, but as they make way to the Rahyr post, he takes the somewhat exaggerated steps of someone who needs to focus.

The longtooth shifter looks from Tempesta to the Captain, "Ready to shove off when you are Ma'am," she says throwing a very sloppy but respectful salute at Basaraba and looking around at her friends, "I'll need to collect my gear, but I'll be on board and at my station for first light Captain," she adds reinforcing her enthusiasm with a smile.

When they were summoned to the Crimson Falcon, Ashara went with excitement. She stayed quiet as the plans were discussed, politics being over her head. She studied her companions an saw their willingness to join and decided if they were in then so was she. After leaving briefly to gather her things, she was back on board, claiming a hammock.

The next morningFost 6th, 292 AS

You do not sleep entirely restful that night, the anticipation and apprehension of your new mission stirring in your minds. Three months since the events on Mira Morrow and you find yourself once again reliving the loss of those Than’Durans taken by Admiral Zaryl. A pirate, yes, but a woman who had no control over her actions, a woman that had been forced to put her own pride and ambition aside and work for people you only know as the men in white.

You arrive at (or wake upon) the Crimson Falcon in the early morning and the Captain, Alessio, Mr. Slate and Casiphia, and Dax are on deck waiting for you. Captain Basaraba has a large, white fur cloak around her and her eyes are awake and vibrant; you have noticed in these last three months that she is always her most radiant and beautiful on the mornings you begin a voyage, the excitement visible in her demeanor and voice. She is truly a woman with a passion for her job, a passion you have seen the good, the bad and the ugly since meeting her. Alessio stands next to her and although he looks to be dressed as normal, he is actually wearing thicker, wool version of his normal clothing and, as ever, is the best dressed of the officers; whereas the other officers take pride in what they do, Alessio is just prideful.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Slate and Casiphia wear nothing extra to protect them the cold and, like the rain before, the light snow falling never even touches the seer, melting inches from her body. Dax, standing off to the side, is also wearing a large cloak and carries a tray with several goblets on it and before you even reach them, you can see the steam rising and smell the rich, earthy smell of cinnamon and apple. The Captain does indeed know how to treat her crew well.

As you sip your ciders, Taysha goes over some minor details on shifts, working in the cold and other things that the sailors among you already know. She also shows you the supplies the Rahyr have gifted you: wool coats and caps, linen shirts, heavy cloaks, thick, water-proof boots, thick pants and heavy fur cloaks and gloves. With the official business over, you head to your cabins or stations and the Falcon sets sail.

The waters outside Rosha Than’Dur are calm and the day’s voyage is uneventful. Corvana seems to have fallen into a comfortable rhythm, even when not around Samm, although she continues to stick mostly to herself, most of her conversation being related to the task at hand, not small talk. She seems to have found some common grounds with Casiphia but the seer remains even more enigmatic, only having full conversations with the Captain and occasionally Alessio.

On the 9th of Fost, you pass the North-West pharos and break the waters of the Ta’ayn, delving into open ocean, the hunting grounds of the Falcon. The weather remains a mixture of rain, slush and snow and each day seems to get colder as you head further North, toward the Black Isles. The traffic is light and you pass very few merchant vessels and see little other life outside of your own ship. The seas remain surprisingly calm despite the time of the year although you change course one day to avoid a stormfront in the East.

You find yourselves broken up during the shifts, no longer working together exclusively as the Captain, accepting you as full crew members, uses you to shore up weaknesses or team you with more able sailors as needed. Although a longer journey than the one to Mira Morrow, it is far less eventful. The Captain doesn’t make any of her customary stops along the many small islands you come across and the food stores below deck are far fuller than before. One day, Alessio even comments how slow the journey has been, only to have Casiphia comment off-hand on the calm before the storm, eliciting a head shake from Alessio.

Finally, on the 15th, you meet up with the merchant vessel that you will finish your journey upon, the dark clouds of the Black Isles looming ominously in the background. The merchant vessel, the Radiant Splendor of Nimba, is larger than the Crimson Falcon and bears the colors of Plenta Marosa, the nation of the pari. The captain is a thin, attractive pari (like all other pari) with a strong jaw and twinkling purple eyes and introduces himself as Captain Dev of Nimba and greets each of you with a strong hug. Boarding the Splendor, you find the entire ship to be covered in an invisible barrier of warmth and find your snow gear to be unnecessary, stowing it in your shockingly large and opulent cabins (of which you each get your own).

You quickly realize the entire crew is made up of pari men and women, all scantily clad and covered in tattoos, piercings and jewelry and the whole ship just drips with pari culture, exposing you to a mild sense of culture shock as, in one day, you are treated to a play (a comedy about the exploits of a famous pari rogue who won the princess’ hand by stealing the king’s castle), a dance, a lavish feast full of rich, sweet meats, fruits, breads and a syrupy and intoxicating wine that is as potent as dwarven gutbuster but far, far smoother. By the time you are ready to sleep for the night, each of you has had a host of invites to share the beds of crew members.

11 days since leaving Rosha Than’DurFost 17th, 292 AS

The next afternoon, you arrive at Nethicar, at the docks of Port Aether. As you pull into dock, you can see that the city is quite large, perhaps half the size of the Undercity, and full of narrow, cobblestone roads and tight alleys between tall, thin buildings made of dark stone, all bathed in the icy blue light of phlogiston lamps. Many of the buildings are surrounded by black, iron-wrought gates and covered in large statues of the human form in various, majestic poses, all of the statues depicting the peak condition for human form.

Kadal is visibly shocked at the state of dress of the crew and pretends to be disinterested and shocked at the performance, although Willow notices small smiles sneak out occasionally.

He politely refuses the advances of the crew at night. He is almost too bashful in his refusal and attracts even more offers.
He looks around, confused at all the attention and unsure what to do when he spots a mungo female hanging back slightly out of the chaos of the crew.

The two of them quickly disappear for the evening and in the morning Kadal is wearing clothing more representative of the crew and accents his large muscular chest


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