Wednesday, 19 June 2013

When Storms Collide...

Last time we left off, we had secreted away on a 5-masted Hyacintho ship known as the Rayden,

Dallas Kasaboski
traveling to Aes to give a demonstration of Rayden's power.

The journey took only a couple of days but, during that time, our adventurers were busy. Kalgar’s attitude was as close to joy as his friends had ever seen him, as he marveled at being back on the water. Every day, Tong would wake, only to find Kalgar above-deck, working a line, hoisting a sale, or just standing at the prow of the ship, enjoying the crisp, morning air.

“Isn’t it wonderful, Tong? The smell of salt on the air, the power of the ship as it glides along the water. Everyone has a role to play, things to do. I was born to this.”

Tong listened and reflected on the last time he was aboard a ship. Thankfully, he had learned the ways of settling his body and found he was no longer sick. Remembering that it was his now presumed dead Master, Ting Tang Wong Gong, who taught him this technique, brought a smile which did not meet Tong’s eyes.

While Kalgar fit in extremely well, Tong was having a hard time being less than his normally eccentric self.

“Isn’t it nice how we, as veteran sailors, don’t get sick? Boat sick? Vomit.” he said.

The nearby boaters stopped and stared for a moment until Kalgar walked by and elbowed him.

Get back to the galley!” Kalgar heard whispered to him from inside his bag.

“What are you doing above deck? Go back below, you wretched sea-cook you!” Kalgar said to Tong.

“Uh, yes, right away.” And as Tong walked away, Kalgar handed his bag off to Tong.

Gnomes were not common sailors so Alvyn had been hiding in Kalgar’s bag since they came aboard ship. Alvyn had been asking questions and making suggestions from inside Kalgar’s backpack.

Tong made his way to the galley where he found a human chopping some vegetables.

“Yes, the most important thing about food is that you mustn’t eat it.” Tong said, tightening his fasting belt and falling into old habits. He received an elbow in the side for that one.

The sea-cook raised an eyebrow and tossed him a knife and some vegetables.

“Cut these.”

Tong raised his hands in the air and was about to apply a psionic monk technique to his prey, err, food, when he received another elbow in the side.

Slowly, carefully Tong.” And Alvyn helped Tong prepare the evening’s meal.

Later that evening, most of the crew was called down to the mess hall for dinner. With a shove by Kalgar, and a graceful maneuver from Tong, they found their seats. The food was your standard sea-fare; biscuits, hardtack, fish, stew, and one unexpected apple crisp, Alvyn and Tong’s work.

Across from them sat a human and dragonborn, both female. The dragonborn had an oversized lower tooth and did not look to be too chipper. Perhaps Kalgar thought this as the human was smiling in contrast.

“Exciting times.” The human said.

“Hmm.” Said Kalgar, biting half his haddock in half, as graceful as ever.

“We’re going to show Aes we mean business.”

“Looks that way. Lots of different units on board.” Kalgar had noticed that the uniforms he and the others had stolen bore a symbol with a lightning bolt held within a fist, while the females had a snake.

“Yeah, they’ve called together a lot of us, I don’t know exactly what the main plan is, do you?”

“No, we weren’t briefed; I thought we’d know by now.” Kalgar, starving after a long day on deck, ate an entire loaf of bread, happy to be putting old muscles to work again.

“Soon, I guess. Hey, are you up for promotion soon?”

Kalgar looked at his insignia and realized yes, he was.

“Yes, very soon, and you as well I see.”

“Oh my yes. It is a great honour, the Striking. I cannot wait to prove myself to Rayden.”

Kalgar’s eyes narrowed slightly. The Striking was a Hyacintho tradition where Rayden tested his subjects by striking them with lightning at certain ceremonies. If the person lived, they were well-honoured by Rayden, if not, they were said to have died well.

“I just hope I can do my best to honour the god of thunder.” Kalgar said, thinking of Kord.

Tong noticed the dragonborn and how she shied away from this line of conversation.

“What about you? Excited for things to come?”

She raised her glass and showed enthusiasm, but only for a moment.

Just then, Alvyn came tumbling out of Kalgar’s bag, still on Tong’s back.
(Mike, playing Alvyn, had seriously failed his Stealth check)

The entire table stared at him.
“Gnome! What are you doing here? I thought I told you to stay in our quarters until you had finished sharpening my weapons Filthy coalgazer!” Tong chipped in.

“I...I’m sorry, sir, I have finished and was hoping to have some supper.”

Kalgar cuffed Alvyn across the face.
“Take our things back to our room and report back at once.”

With a sheepish look, Alvyn walked off.

Tong leaned in. “Gnomes, right?”

“Who was that?” the human asked.

“New recruit. We had some trouble with him before, still working on the discipline.”

“Ah, are you excited for the event in Hyacintho?”

“What event?” Tong asked.

“The big celebration. You know, the one where we finally show Kord who’s boss. Everyone knows about it!”

“Ah, well, we had trouble with our gnome so we missed those details.”

“Well, it’s scheduled for when we get back so I’m looking forward to that. First Aes, then Kord.”

Meanwhile, Alvyn had not in fact gone to their quarters. He was exploring the ship. Featuring 4 decks, the ship was quite massive, and didn’t seem to have a kraken on board. Finding the ship’s magazine, where the complement of black powder would be, he set to work.

Alvyn drilled a tiny hole in the ceiling just below the table his friends were at, and fed a tiny rope through it. On the other end, he secured 3 vials of alchemist fire, with a cork attached to the rope. He then found some tar and powder, and smeared it onto the vials and the hole he made hoping that, with the low lighting and odd setting, no one would see it.

Making his way back up, he stowed Kalgar’s bag inside his bag of concealment, and joined his friends.

“Sir, when you’re done, if you want, I can clear the table.” Alvyn said looking at Kalgar as he pulled his seat in, grabbing the rope on the floor.

“Fine, eat.” Kalgar ordered, getting the message.

Such drastic measures did not seem to be in order, and looking around, Kalgar spotted a large dragonborn, with a thick brow. “Hey! You look strong.”

“I am strong!” the dragonborn shouted.

“Let’s put that to the test!” And Kalgar cleared the table, making room. He threw down his arm, readying the table for the classic strongarm competition.

People gathered around, and soon bets were being placed.

“What will you wager?” the grunt asked. “I’ve got these.” He placed some golden bracelets on the table. Alvyn leaned in and with his years of studying magic evaluated them.

“They look good, boss.” He said, recognizing that they had some ability to reflect lightning back to its source.

“Strength is its own reward but...gnome! What do we have?”

“Well, there’s some old weapons of yours, or that bottle of Black Lotus wine.” Alvyn noticed the dragonborn’s eyes glisten at that.

“Alright, your bracelets for our wine, what do you say?”

“Let’s do this.”

As they started off, amongst cheers and jeers from the rest of the crew, Kalgar had a tough time of things. The other dragonborn’s arm was not moving, and he wasn’t breaking a sweat. His muscles bulged, and his veins become more prominent. Kalgar leaned into it, and he started to gain the advantage.

“Yeah, that’s what a woman wants, a vascular man!” Alvyn said, taunting the grunt.

In that moment, when the dragonborn looked up at Alvyn, Kalgar slammed his arm against the table. Cheers went up, the contest was over.

“Well done. That was a challenge. It was an honour.” Kalgar said, embracing the love of physical challenge.

Looking a little sad about losing the match, the dragonborn said, “How about best 2 out of 3?”

“That’s not how we roll aboard the Rayden!” Tong threw his hands out wide and the crew cheered and laughed with Tong.

Kalgar leaned over to a human and said, “Hey, sing us a song! You must know some good Hyacintho sailing songs, we’re on our way to victory aren’t we?”

Stomping the deck and smashing his mug, Kalgar convinced the rest to join in and soon the mess was filled with the sounds of merriment.

Over the next few days, Kalgar worked to become popular among the crew. He was loving being back aboard ship and moved with a grace and energy not seen hitherto. At one point, the Captain, who spent a lot of time at the wheel of the ship, called Kalgar up.

Knowing that only those above a certain rank could approach the upper deck, Kalgar donned the appropriate attitude toward the honour being bestowed upon him.

Tong, finding himself with little to do, was pacing around the front of the ship.

“You called for me, captain?” Kalgar said.

“Yes. I have noticed you these last few days. Among the crew, on deck. How would you like to join my crew, serve on my ship after this?”

“It would be a great honour, sir.”

“Good. Go back to your duties.”

Alvyn had decided they would need an escape plan and, in between shifts here and there, had set up a trap in the magazine. Vials of alchemist fire were attached to the magazine storage and a rope was fastened outside the ship and up toward the main deck. With a single pull, he could disable part of the ship and cause a mighty distraction.

Tong had been trying to learn a little more about the Codex Caduceus fix/spelling and had been trying to learn if it could be a weapon. At over 5 feet long, made of stone, the tome glowed faintly even beneath the cloths he had covering it. As he waved it around, a burst of energy shot from it, through him, and caused him to flashkick the mast in front of him.

With a loud crack, the mast splintered and began to fall.

“Uh...uh...Ioun! Ioun! Ioun! Help!” Tong called as the mast threatened to tip over.

Kalgar leapt to his side, holding the mast up, calling out orders to the crew. “You there, look alive! Grab some rope. You, human! Some tar, come on now you sea-dogs!”

As he looked over to Alvyn, the gnome pointed up.

Kalgar understood. Closing his eyes, he called for Kord’s help. He summoned some storm clouds and soon lightning was seen.

Alvyn patted a sailor on the back who had not seen the situation. “They say it is good luck when Rayden strikes a ship before her quest is done.” Looking enthused, the sailor nodded in agreement and went below, sure to spread the tale as sailors do.

Soon, they came upon the Aesian border. Far ahead, Kalgar recognized illach dos, the wall of islands and rock which had served to stop Hyacintho invasion forces for hundreds of years.

Not too far ahead was an Aesian patrol ship, moving fast, toward them. Something about the ship seemed familiar.

As the crew saw this, they ran to their stations, waiting for the captain to demand cannons.
He didn’t. Instead, he ordered them to drop anchor.

“Shouldn’t we run up the cannons sir?” Kalgar called. The Aesian ship was coming fast.

The captain said nothing.

“What’s going on?” Alvyn asked.

“Well, there hasn’t been a treaty or talks between these two peoples for a thousand years, so either the Aesian ship is working secretly, which I cannot believe, or our captain is about to give a show of strength, of power.” As he said this, the other ship began to turn.

“Typical Aesian tactics here dictate they will turn broadside and run up their cannons. A ship of that size has us outmatched in speed only, they will use...those sails...are they black?”

Tong raced to his side, “Yeah, they are, and unadorned.”

“ can’t be...”

But it was.

As she turned, Kalgar saw that it was the Vutha Kepesk, the Black Storm, his old ship! After a battle in which Kalgar and a few others stole aboard an enemy’s ship and challenged their captain, the Kepesk had changed her sails and added the draconic word for black to her name.

The captain on board the Rayden took out his kraken amulet and began to mutter. Through the wind and the waves, Kalgar caught two draconic words: Awake. Attack.

Deep below, a low, rumbling sound was heard. Like an earthshake or a far off storm, the sound was just at the edge of hearing. The water started to bubble and as the Vutha Kepesk began to bring their cannons to bear, a kraken rose from the deep!

With flailing tentacles, the kraken quickly seized the other ship, holding her in place. Kalgar could see the crew, standing horrified, as the captain and the executive officer were grabbed and thrown into the sea. The monster was just as large as the other ship, with a beak-like maw, and was constricting both the ship and her crew.

Alvyn leapt up. “Alright, Kalgar, we need to get you to the other ship. Tong, get that medallion.”

Tong brought his hands together and shouted. His body shimmered and became transparent. Summoning his ghostform, he raced past the others toward the captain. Still mumbling orders, the captain looked down to see a hand emerge from his chest, yank the medallion off his neck, and a man continued through his body. Tong sprouted ethereal wings and leapt off the Rayden, looking back to say, “The natural world is not a place to trifle with.”

At that moment, Kalgar brought his weight to bear against the mast in front, the same one Tong had wrecked days earlier. It came crashing down, missing the captain by a few feet and making a bridge between the two ships. He drew his javelin and katana.

Upon seeing this, the crew grabbed their weapons and moved toward the front of the ship. The captain drew two rapiers and sliced at both of Kalgar’s shoulders. “Who are you!? What do you think you are doing!?”

Alvyn ducked up behind Kalgar, reaching into his pack. He drew something, a staff? No, it was a warpick, and as it folded out, Alvyn hooked it around the captain and ordered Kalgar to attack.

Letting the shreds of the Hyacinthan uniform fall to pieces at his feet, Kalgar summoned the storms. Winds began to whip the sails, and clouds loomed overhead.

“I am Kalgar Drakeswynd, the Eye of the Storm!”

Lightning flashed, and Kalgar lifted his javelin into the air.

“The bearer of Bad News!” Thunder boomed.

“I have fought devils, demons, ghosts, and dragons, and I will not let your blasphemies stand. This attack on Aes was without honour. You fight for Rayden? Well, Kord is my strength and my sword is his!”

Lowering his shoulder, Kalgar smashed the captain back. Flying through the air, the captain attempted to use his double rapiers to catch the ship, but he missed and fell into the water.

Alvyn flipped the warpick over his shoulder so that the handle pointed straight out in front. As he did so, Kalgar saw that the edge of the handle featured a crystal which flipped over. The hollow handle made a faint noise and, like a cannon, fired off at the kraken. The kraken’s wake was too tumultuous, however, and the shots went wide.

“Kalgar! Disengage!” Alvyn called, fending off some of the crew who now realized they had been spied upon. His warpick had handles on it and he wielded it almost like a scythe, whipping it around, tripping one sailor and throwing another.

Kalgar looked at the Kepesk, its crew still disorganized fighting the kraken. Sailors were converging on all sides. Kalgar switched javelin for rope, looked up to the sailors closing in from all sides and said, “Just so you know, I have nothing but respect for you, but none for your god.”

Kalgar shifted and charged across the mast, still connecting the two ships. He landed hard on the deck and looked around. There, near the cannons, was Sora.

Like all Aesian-born, Kalgar had been taken from his birth parents and made to serve in the navy. Being a dragonborn, he physically matured much quicker than humans and so had lived aboard ship since the age of 2. Years of intense training made him a competent sailor, skilled in battle, and prone to the dragonborn virtues of courage and honour.

Kalgar had risen quickly through the ranks. Like all dragonborn Aesian sailors, his innate dragonbreath ability had been trained out of him, as sailors who could breathe fire would pose a considerable problem aboard ship. Instead, Aes showed their dragonborn how to stand their ground, and showcase their ferocity. At an early age, Kalgar had harnessed this dragonfear ability and used it to gain respect and command. The loyal soldier, he pushed himself hard and became noticed for his efforts. Once, as an Ensign, he became angered when he was not allowed to join a boarding party. Seeing that the party needed more help but knowing the gangplank could not reach, he seized a javelin, tied a rope around it and threw it at the other ship. Secured into a mast of the other ship, he swing across and joined the fray, saving his commander’s life.

While unorthodox, it seems the strategy caught on as Kalgar noticed other sailors using the method. As time went on, however, Kalgar had begun to question the Aesian way of things. The use of superweapons was not honourable, not controllable, and it spread destruction, something both the gods Melora and Kord had a problem with. He did what he could to try to change things, but Aes is a strict and loyal country.

Among Kalgar’s closest companions at the time was Sora. A female dragonborn with a tongue as sharp as her daggers, she had been the voice of reason among Kalgar and his close shipmates. More accurately, she never failed to let you know how foolish she thought your plans, no matter your rank. She and Kalgar had formed a closer relationship, nothing serious, but more than friends.  

Kalgar had faked his death in order to escape Aes. In a way, he had died, as the loyal and unquestioningly obedient soldier gave way to what he was now. He found strength in Kord’s ways, and has been working to try and balance the shifting power in Cyfandir.

And here he was, back from the dead.

“Sora.” Kalgar said.

“Traitor!” Sora called, and drew her sword on him.

At this, the nearby Aesian sailors turned their attention on Kalgar.
“Tell her to fire the cannons!” Alvyn called from the other ship, dodging attacks.

“Sora! Fire your cannons! Kill the kraken!” Kalgar shouted out the obvious. But Sora had nothing in her eyes but a glazed hatred.

Tong, also aboard the Vutha Kepesk had been striking at the tentacles as they wrenched the ship this way and that. Seeing the crew focused on Kalgar, he took a quick look at Sora.

“Something is wrong with her mind, true knowledge is hidden from her.” He called out.

Kalgar understood. The secret police were Aes’s assurance against treason. Their main job was to track down such suspects and kill them on sight. Kalgar, Tong, and Alvyn, had met one agent back when they were northern Aes. It would seem that, in place of killing him, they had brainwashed everyone against him.

“What are you doing? Fire your damned cannons!” Alvyn leapt into the air, flipped his warpick around, and fired it at the kraken. This time it hit, but he had fallen overboard. As he surfaced, he saw the captain, using his rapiers, climbing back on board.

Alvyn was a natural leader, and his voice of command brought Sora and her crew to attention.

“You heard him! Load the cannons, bring the short nines to bear!”

Loaded, primed, fired, the cannons smashed into the kraken, causing it to shake, but not to loosen its hold of the ship. Its tentacles reached up and grabbed two cannoneers, throwing them into the sea.

Kalgar and Tong leapt across the keep the kraken’s attention, but the captain of the Rayden had crossed and brought his rapiers down upon them.

Kalgar deflected the first attack, took the second, he returned one of his own. “Melora! Reach up to Kord and fight with me!” Kalgar called upon the goddess of the sea.

Tong, protected by Kalgar, flipped over the cannons, and smashed his knee into the kraken. Kicking off, he landed near the other side of the ship where he drew a bead, an orb of discipline as he called it and launched it. The ball wizzed through the air, glowing with the blue light of Ioun, and hit the kraken, pushing it back from the ship. Its grip had finally loosened!

But not for long. It moved back, cannons fired but that didn’t stop it from reaching up and tearing 2 cannons right off of the ship. It then used its other tentacles to grab Tong and Kalgar.

“You think this is where our gods meet? You are wrong! If you survive this, in 4 days time we shall finally see who the pretender is.” The captain called, his face half illuminated by lightning.

Calling upon the strength of Kord, Kalgar ripped himself free! He deflected the captain’s first attack and took the second one smiling, even as he bled.
“I serve Kord, the true lord of storms. Kord who earned the respect of all men and beasts and even the elements themselves.” He reached up with his katana.

“If you survive, I’ll show you who truly rules the skies.” Lightning struck his katana, glowing green, then white, then emblazoned. He struck, and the fire and lightning slammed into the captain. Some of the fire leapt off the sword onto Kalgar, strengthening him.

“Less dogma, more attack!” Alvyn called, treading water far below.

Tong flipped over a sailor and loaded a cannon. Together they brought another barrage on the kraken who, at this point, did not look so good.

Quickly, Kalgar grabbed a javelin from his bag, always tied to a rope in cases like this and threw it at Alvyn. “Kord, guide my arm.”

It splashed in the water beside Alvyn who wrapped it about himself. Kalgar, with his fine knowledge of ropes and pulleys, pushed the captain overboard, wrapping the rope around him. The human fell over the mast, and his weight jerked Alvyn through the air.

Alvyn reached out toward the captain, hoping to get the medallion, but the captain slashed toward Alvyn. Both missed by inches.

The cannons on the starboard side of the ship had been removed. The ship was stuck and the kraken was still attacking. “Get your powder, barrels, oil, whatever, and launch it at that beast! I want it to eat fire!” Alvyn called out, catching himself as the ship rocked from side to side.

While the crew followed his command, the captain had crawled back aboard ship. Ripping off his jacket, his body had scars from head to toe, lightning scars, and he bore a full-body lightning bolt tattoo. Bleeding all over, he continued to fight from atop the mast.

Alvyn flipped his warpick over and used its leverage to move the mast. With the help of Tong and Kalgar, they heaved the mast off the deck, and the captain fell back into the water, now red with the blood of kraken and sailors.

The powder had been prepared and was now being launched. It soared high into the air coming down to smash the kraken in the face. “Torch!” Alvyn called and Kalgar had one in his hands.

“Light!” Alvyn held the torch near Tong whose ghostform was just dissolving, and the torch burst into flame.

“Kalgar. Don’t miss.”

The torch flipped end over end and struck the oil. The oil, pitch, powder, and kraken lit up and exploded. The two ships were pushed apart, the Vutha Kepesk almost tipping over, and the crews were covered in the bloodied remains of the beast.

The shipmates aboard the Rayden, turned sail and made their way back to Hyacintho.

“Yeah, you better run!” Alvyn rejoiced. “Hey, first a dragon and now a kraken, that’s two beasts we’ve exploded! Two beasts, same plan, haha!”

Sora walked over to Kalgar, her hand still on her sword.

Kalgar looked at her and said, “Sora. I’m sorry. I had to leave. You saw what they were doing. Superweapons go against everything our country was founded upon. Strength and honour, the lifeforce of Aes, from the hearts of dragonborn everywhere. I tried changing minds, but the corruption was too high up the ranks. We invented battle and have had the reputation as the most honourable in all of Cyfandir for 1000 years. But this, these weapons, they bring victory at no risk. A battle won without risk of cost is worthless.”

“So, I faked my death. I left. I have not taken arms against Aes, I just left. I’m sorry.”

She looked at him for some time, and lowered her hands. “You’re right. But loyalty is important too and even questioning the way of things is dangerous.”

“War is coming, and every country is scrambling for power. I need to find out how the people of Aes feel about this change. I need to find out if Aes’s honour is well and lost, or just restrained by our military. We stand at a crucial point, and if we can, I’d like to turn us back to our honourable ways.”

“I can snoop around for you. But it will take time.”

“Was a shame that your ship was lost to a kraken, brought about by Hyacintho. The fact that you and your crew made it aboard a lifeboat is nothing short of miraculous.” Alvyn said, looking at her with his pupil-less eyes.

Sora looked at Alvyn, and back at Kalgar. He was torn, she could see it. He did want the ship, but he didn’t want to take the ship.

“And what makes you think things will go that way?”

“Are you strong enough to stop us?” Alvyn asked.

“Sora. Look, something big is happening in Hyacintho. That captain warned us that Rayden would bring the end of Kord in 4 days time. We need to find out what’s going on and we need to stop it.”

“Where is this taking place?”

“The capital.”

“You want to take my ship, and sail it through enemy territory toward the capital? What makes you think you won’t be sunk well before you get there?”

“I know it sounds crazy, but we deal in crazy.”

Sora smiled. “Maybe you haven’t changed all that much. The ship is yours.”

Kalgar smiled back. “Thank you Sora.” They grasped forearms in the Aesian manner, and he pulled her forehead to meet hers. “We will return, I promise you.”

Once the crew had disembarked, Alvyn looked at his friend. “The ship is yours.”

Kalgar looked around. Planks of wood shot up everywhere, the rigging was a mess, and the prow was bent, but still, she was seaworthy. “Tong, grab that line, yes, the rope, pull it tight. Alvyn, that wheel? Spin it all the way around the other way.”

Over the next day or so, Kalgar, Tong, and Alvyn worked on the ship. Kalgar shared his knowledge with the others, Tong appreciating this side of Kalgar and learning more about how to work a ship, Alvyn making notes and working on designs of his own.

Together, they sailed east, toward Hyacintho.

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