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Willow enjoys the show, partakes in the dancing, her natural agility helping her to pick up on the dance steps, but decides that she will keep to herself for the evening, though she is not above flirting with some of the more engaging crew members. She giggles to herself when Kadal tries to sneak off quietly, it's like a tree trying to walk about with out being noticed ... two trees if you count his lady she thinks to herself, smiling broadly before setting off for her bed alone.
Despite only travelling with the pari crew for a day, she has grown quite close to a few of them and is sad to be leaving the energetic and engaging ship. Picking up her equipment and wearing her new warm clothes, the shifter joins her companions and heads into Nethicar. She doesn't say anything to Kadal or any other of her companions who disappeared during the night, but she does give those who did a very large knowing smile ...
Thorn was probably the least shocked of everyone at the state of the crew, having run into the pari on occasion during his travels, and for the most part successfully avoids dancing, although later in the evening during one particularly rousing song, Thorn does dance and avoids making a complete fool of himself, minus a slight bit of 'stumbling' that happened to have him bump into a particularly attractive group of the pari ladies, with whom he quickly has rapted in attention through a story he once heard about a rogue who tried to steal the moon for his lady love. Seeing Kadal try to sneak away, Thorn loudly chuckles and shouts out to Kadal " Atta boy Kadal! You treat her right, otherwise we'll have to have Samm teach ya a lesson or 2! " before turning his attention back to the group of ladies who's company he's been enjoying.
Waking the next day, Thorn looks around the cabin he woke in, seeing more than one lady sprawled out in the room around him, thinking to himself "Aaaaa,, you still got it old boy, that was a fun night for sure", relaxing with a grin on his face, with the prettiest of the bunch in bed beside him still. Later in the morning, after declining their offers of dressing more in their style, politely saying to the ladies " While its such a beautiful look on you all. Alas I'll stick with my nice simple robes,, they've served my well up till now, and besides it doesn't matter much what anyone's wearing at night now does it?" giving the ladies a wink, and a sweeping bow before heading out to find everyone else before they dock.
Finding everyone else not long before the ship docks, he reassures them " Don't worry, your not rid of me quite yet, I managed to not fall over board last night, or this morning, but certainly was kept busy hahahahaha with his customary grin on his face and sparkle in his eye as he enjoys the memories of last night, letting that little nagging thought in the back of his head of the journey to come, help him lock every fun memory into his brain, not even realizing he had touched his power, and had a small acid orb that we was 'rolling' around in and around his hand.
Samm fell easily into the work aboard the ship - the past few months had given him plenty of time to bond with the crew and fit his own style of work into something complementary rather than clashing. As they skirted the storms to the north he seemed almost disappointed that he wouldn't get the chance to see if he could stand face to face with the wrath of winter. However, the cold still gave him enough to complain about to keep happy, although the good quality woollen gear, thick with fat, did a sterling job of staving off the worst of that as well, and for what cold still slipped though there was the warm rum. With Corvana still around he flirted less with Dax, and only when she wasn't looking. Silently Samm wondered where exactly the Falcon was heading once it had dropped them off, after all its stores seemed far fuller than necessary for a simple rendezvous round trip, but he knew better than to ask. Besides, a Captain he was not - as home as he might be in the tactics of a skirmish, planning the strategies of war was not his forte. Despite the odd idea he had picked up through the experience of fighting under bad generals, he had fought under enough effective ones, Basaraba ranking among one of them, to know that he didn't have the quickness of mind necessary.
He gave Alessio a firm hug when they departed the Crimson Falcon to join the pari, and a broad smile broke across his face when he stepped into the warm cocoon around the merchant ship. As the Falcon turns away, carving through the frigid water, Samm shed his winter gear and yells to Alessio across the waters, arms spread wide to expose his bare torso "Now this is more like it! You have fun freezing out there my friend, try not to lose anything important!"
He settles into the large cabin with ease, although his single kit bag seems somewhat lonely in the corner of the room, and even when he had unpacked fully his gear still seemed dwarfed by the room. As a sailor and a mercenary he was fairly well travelled, and had seen the pari culture before. In fact, he got along rather well with them in small doses - they were like a strong wine, a little made you jolly, but too much for too long, and you would swear off them forever, declaring poison most foul. However, for now, especially considering the conditions they had just come from, and the little time they were to spend aboard, Samm was revelling in the little slice of the South Sea they brought with them. Meeting his companions up on deck having shed his canvas top entirely he said, "Ah, I could get used to this. Pari are a wonderful lot... Oh terrible sinners the bunch of them, but they sure know how to have fun."
The play went mostly unappreciated by Samm, but he helped himself to the sweet wine without hesitation. Come the dance he stood swiftly, somehow sober enough to still do so without wobbling, or perhaps it was the ships swaying which made him stay vertical. With a bow towards his companions he grabbed both Corvana and Willow's hands and hauled them to their feet despite any protestations, real or for show. He span them each in a twirl as he took them onto the dance floor, with a laugh and an exhortation to have some fun. His own skill with footwork ensured he too was able to keep up with most of the moves, and where he didn't, his improvisation served sufficiently. After all, dancing was very similar to fighting Samm had found - footwork, and knowing where your partner or opponent is at all times.
Samm stayed up late into the night, long after most if not all of his companions had since retired, until most of the pari had retired as well. He knew, judging by the things they had seen on their last mission, that he might very well not survive this next task, and that this may be his last party, so he intended to make it a good one. He hadn't shared any such worries with his friends; he had no desire to burden them with thoughts of their own mortality, especially as young as some of them were. Besides, he intended to do anything it took to make sure it wasn't their last venture, which was partly why his own death clung so close to his thoughts.
Nevertheless, despite his best efforts, when the city came into view the next day Samm appeared sombre, standing fully dressed and ready to depart by the rail of the ship. Given his late departure, and yet still inexplicably early rising, it wasn't clear whether he had taken anyone to bed the night before, and his expression certainly wasn't giving anything away as he stared out over the grim city.
Captain Dev sees you off personally, giving each of you a firm hug and throwing a wink at those of you that spent the night with his crew members. You notice the crew smearing themselves with some sort of salve before they leave the ship, not bothering to put on more weather appropriate clothing and as they start to flit and fly all over the ship and dock, you assume the salve protects them against the frigid, bitter cold of Port Aether.
Walking down the docks, no harbor master or guards stop you or ask your name or for tolls of any kind; you simply blend in with the throng of dock workers and ship-hands loading and unloading their ships as you step onto the dark, cobblestone street. It is mid-afternoon and the day is already starting to grow darker, the dark clouds overhead blanketing the city in snow several inches deep, the streets crowded with people wrapped in layers of fur and wool to protect them against the climate.
As you begin to make your way up the shallow hill before you into the city proper, a cloaked figure, his face obscured, bumps into Samm rather abruptly and looks up for a moment. Samm sees the ruddy, weathered face of an elf with eyes bright and green. “Follow me” he says quietly and wanders off the road onto the snowbound shore. The snow is deep, deep enough to muffle your footsteps, but not deep enough to make movement that much worse, which it turns out is a blessing as the cloaked elf leads you down the shore for almost a half hour in the softly falling snow.
He finally stops and turns to face you, pulling back the hood of his dark blue, fur-lined cloak. His skin is ruddy and has perhaps seen far too much weather, his lips thin and almost invisible, his eyes the bright, deep green of healthy grass, his hair a deep brown like wet soil. He sizes you up for a moment before a half-smile creeps across his face. “You are far too healthy and well-dressed to be natives and Nethicar doesn’t see many mungo. Clearly you are the ones I am to meet, Samm, Willow, Thorn, Travok, Kadal, and Ashara,” he says, nodding his head at each of you as he says your name. He cocks any eyebrow at Corvana who scowls at him in return, but says nothing.
“I am Pharrum Leafstride,” he says, taking a small bow. “I must say you arrived in a timely manner. I have a good handle on the Baron’s operations and from what I have seen, we need to act and act fast. I have a small cabin North from here a few hours and it is well stocked. We will spend the night there and I will tell you all I know and we can discuss our plan of action. I would have begun to lead you there already but did not think you would trust a strange elf leading you into the dark woods without explanation,” he says with a smile, followed by a short laugh.
“But first, to sate your initial curiosity, about Baron Sorrowind…-“
Pharrum never finishes his sentence before all noise is overtaken by a very loud, sharp crack, a sound you recognize as the gunfire of a very large rifle, a thought which is confirmed as three-quarters of Pharrum’s head explodes in a shower of gore and bone fragments, showering the snow before him in vibrant crimson before his lifeless body propelled forward into the snow by the force of the gun. From within the woods before you a hollow, mechanical sounding voice booms out, “The Baron wants these ones alive!”
It is at this point that the figures emerge from the woods. They are clad in brass breast plate, form-fitting brass masks covering their heads, exposing only their lidless, staring neon blue eyes, eyes the color of the phologiston lamps. Between the armor plates, you can make out that their flesh is as white as the snow, covered in a network of stitches and scars and the veins beneath the flesh glow the same neon blue as their eyes.
Some of them have wicked, serrated claws extending from their bracers, the lower parts of their masks removed, revealing lipless mouths full of serrated teeth, and they move quickly and hunched over, bounding through the snow like feral animals. Others have long, metallic coils extending from their bracers and they whip them around as they walk, the metallic sound snapping, hissing and echoing as coils flash through the air. The smallest ones are covered in thin spines puncturing through their skin from inside, pulling the spines from their body and holding them like throwing daggers as they draw near, think streams of the neon blue blood trickling from where the spines were pulled.
The last one to emerge from the shadows stands up straight and its eyes contain a hint of sinister intelligence far beyond its allies and blue lightning seems to flash and spark from its body, leaping out to a distance of over three yards. As it sees you, you hear it hiss loudly as it points at you and all of the creatures start to move cautiously toward you, hissing and snapping, their vicious weapons ready to engage.
Samm cursed as their guides head explodes in front of him. He let loose a shout as he assessed the situation, spittle flying from his mouth, "Kadal, hold off that right flank; Thorn, give him some covering fire to help. Willow, with me!" Without even stopping to wipe the gore from his face he leapt towards the emerged creatures, drawing his net clear from his body as he moved.
As he drew close to them he put on an extra burst of speed, heading for the one furthest forward, clearly off-balance from its dash down the snowy slope. He slammed into its unsuspecting frame, wrapping his net around its legs and pulling it to the floor, hard. Without pausing punched his trident down towards the fallen warrior, letting his momentum to lever himself forward and up, over it. Luckily for his intended victim the warrior rolled to one side just in time, and the trident's spikes thudded into only the iron ground.
The other soldier, on his guard after seeing his ally so brutally floored, managed to side-step the weighted edges of the net as Samm swung it through the air on his flight. However, his ally behind him was not so lucky. Thinking himself safe from the whirling frenzy, it was too late by the time he noticed Samm's assault had not stopped when he had landed, and the net, still arcing round from the missed shot against the Lasher, swung into the side of his head.
Crouching low, Samm surveyed the enemies now surrounding him, although none of them quite managing to flank him yet. His assault hadn't done as much damage as he might have hoped, cannon-balling into their lines as he did, but he certainly had their attention, which meant they weren't about to stick his friends. "I only hope Kadal can handle the other side," he thought to himself as he awaited their inevitable response, "We need to keep them split, slice up one side, then the next."
Willow smells the gunpowder in the cold crisp air, an alien smell on this shore as the elf's head is smashed by the gunshot. Samm does not need to look to see if the huntress is behind him, her familiar deep growl keeps him company as he crashes into the front line of these freakish looking creatures.
The huntress, all her senses on alert and her body streaming with adrenaline is even more agile then normal and although she starts ten feet behind Samm, she hits his initial target only seconds after him, she doesn't slow down at all, nothing in her eyes but her prey, her kukri tearing into the creature Samm has left prone, before ripping into it again with both kukris.
As Samm stops his assault long enough to assess the situation, the creatures all shriek and fly into a rage, their movements jerky and unnatural, limbs bending at inhuman angles, movement changing mid-beat and coming from unexpected angles, the lasher’s slicing coils filling the air around you, making every dodge and parry seem like a fool’s errand as the creature seemingly builds a cage of whipping steel coils around you. As these coils whip around you, you try your best to keep up with the parrying, your breath creating large clouds of fog before you, sweat already beading on your brow. You almost don’t notice the drover’s blade as it pierces into your upper thigh, soaking your wool pants in your own blood.
As you shout at the pain, the creature weaves back like a snake rewinding before you trident can find purchase and you feel one of the steel coils slash through your cloak and cut your back, forcing you to return your attention to it. As the frantic coils continue their dance around you, the creatures continue to grunt, shriek and howl behind their brass masks. Experience sailor and veteran warrior, you have still never fought anything like the abominations before.
Seeing the look of panic rising on Samm’s face, Willow insures the one lasher that is down stays down, trying to find an opening to help the old salt get back on level ground against the bizarre creatures. With both of you distracted trying to get Samm’s situation back to tenable, you don’t even notice the spiner bound through the snow toward you, its spine covered arms dragging through the snow as it hops up beside both of you. With another inhuman shriek, it throws its arms forcefully up into the arm and a dozen of the spines in its body burst out from it, pelting off of Willow and the lasher’s armor. One spine manages to catch Samm in the neck though and both of you witness, in horror, as the same blue liquid that runs through the creatures veins drains into Samm, the flesh around the wound immediately starting to necrotize.
As they enter the halls of Rahyr outpost, the atmosphere helped dispell the remaining feeling left by the beer from earlier. Travok gathers with the rest of the crew, and the others who hadn't taken the captain up on her offer. Tempesta explains why they have been summoned, and the nature of the job that is laid in front of them. As Tempesta finishes explaining and notes that this is the time for questions Travok looks up from the map and asks "So we're ta infiltrate this island. When ye' say that this Pharrum Leafstride has taken care of the arrangements, does that mean that there is a plan in place to get to this Baron, or will that be up ta us?"
After the briefing, Travok returns with the other crew members to stay on the ship before they embark. Somehow the dwarf hadn't expected a commission for work that was so....subtle. That fact keeps him from a good night's rest as he considers the make up of his group of friends, they don't appear to be a good fit for subterfuge and interrogation.
The cold and dreary dawn seem to fit everyone's mood as they meet on deck; no one looks well rested. The warm cider is a welcome blessing as they prepare to head off into the cold grip of the season. The fact that the trip is so uneventful puts several people on edge, including Travok, but fortunately nothing happens, and they meet with the merchant ship, leaving him feeling slightly anticlimactic.
Everyone perks up upon boarding the Radiant Splendor of Nimba, though Travok and some of the others avoid looking too comfortable until they've parted ways with the Crimson Falcon.
As loud and rowdy as dwarven celebrations are, they do not compare to pari culture, and the sensory overload leaves Travok reeling. His sense of propriatry, his unfamiliarity with pari culture lead, and his surprise at the offer itself, lead him to decline company for the night when it is offered.
The transition from the ship to the city of Nethicar is not nearly as jolting, and Travok breathes a sigh of relief at escaping the high energy of pari life. Travok tags along with the rest of the group as they start trudging through the city, wondering if they should find lodging so their contact can find them. His curiosity is soon satisfied as a hooded figure calls them to follow him. Not entirely trusting, Travok assesses Samm's reaction, and seeing no signs of Samm being on guard, or rather, no more on guard than usual, he feels comfortable following.
Travok sighs as the Pharrum introduces himself, and eagerly listens as the elf begins to describe their next steps on the mission. He freezes in shock as the elf is violently killed in front of them, and comes to his senses to find that a fierce battle has already begun.
Ashara stands on the beach with her companions and tries to focus on the man speaking to the group, but her attention is focused on her instinct. Her "itch" (as she refers to it on the rare occasion she mentions it at all) almost always means trouble of some kind, or a missed opportunity. This time her eyes scan the beach, and while she sees nothing she finds herself on edge and is not overly surprised when the shot rings out. Ashara takes a moment to asses the beach as Samm and Willow rush into the middle of it "as always" she thinks to herself. Finally she is about to run after them, when she sees the poison take effect on the two who ran in and she swiftly decided to stay at a distance. Using her friends as a distraction, she quickly pulls her pistol and takes aim at the back of the poison wielder and fires the lovely pistol taken from the late Pirate captain.
The shot rings out across the beach and the bullet rips through the attackers shoulder, jolting him with the impact.
As the bullet tears through the spiner’s shoulder, neon blue blood spills out across the snow and the creature howls and snaps around to look at Ashara, it’s lidless eyes staring intensely, it’s hands clenching and unclenching spastically.
Near the water, two spiners, two lashers and a drover dash forward, bounding through the snow like savage animals, the drover falling to run on its hands and feet like a feral beast. As the spiners take up a position near the shore, they both whip their arms forward, unleashing a hail of spines that stick into but fail to penetrate the mungo’s armor. The lasher’s both stop and appear to be dancing, twisting and gyrating their awkward, gangly bodies for a moment before their steel coils lash out, failing again to penetrate Kadal’s armor but leaving a lengthy, deep lash down Travok’s face, splitting his cheek open.
As Kadal defends against the relative onslaught from the aberrations, the drover dances in, twirling and spinning around and slashes the mungo deeply across his abdomen with its three lengthy blades before it continues its swirling dance, stopping near Travok, its blades blocked by his new totem.
Behind them, Corvana throws her hood back and points to the abomination standing near the tree line. Her eyes begin to glow a dark, intense red and you swear she has become bathed in bright moon light. “In the name of the Dark Moon Goddess, I, the Mistress of Mira Morrow, declare you anathema. Fall to your knees and weep,” she speaks with an intensity you have not yet heard from her and despite the softness of her words, you can all hear them crisply and cleanly. The creature in the woods shrieks, a horrific, unnatural sound, and grabs its head with both hands, falling to its knees.
As the creature collapses, the teenage witch turns and strides confidently toward the other group of abominations, an unseen wind picking up and blowing her cloak and hair back as she moves forward, exuding confidence and power. She stops in front of them and holds her hand up, fingers spread, and again, although she speaks quietly, you can hear her words perfectly. “You shall not stand before me,” she whispers and three of the creatures shriek, their already dead flesh withering and beginning to flake away before Corvana’s arcane might.