Thursday, 4 July 2013

The ship hits the fan...

Resting up in Chalybs, we find our adventurers getting ready for bigger challenges. The world is about to plunge into total war, and with threats on all sides, will they be prepared for what awaits? Let’s find out...

Dallas Kasaboski

Kalgar and Galvin, the High Deacon of Kord in Chalybs, made their way across the city to the Temple of the Gods. The streets were busier and louder than the last time Kalgar was here, but they also had a quiet under-current, like everyone was just waiting for the inevitable. With Aurum’s forces circling the city, threatening a siege, he didn’t blame them.

Kalgar had not been to the Temple before. He had always been quite busy and his religious training had always been brief, and conducted aboard ship. There were shrines here and there in Aes, but every soldier was about as holy as the next.

The temple was a large, ornately carved building. Inside, there was a central area where services and congregation could occur, but there were also several niches for the different gods. A Pelor service was currently taking place, the fiery sun emblem shining bright on the acolytes’s robes.

Galvin led Kalgar to an area which was closed off from the rest. A single heavy door barred their path and Kalgar was surprised at how heavy it was. The architects of this temple realized that while all the gods and their people could assemble, Kord’s followers were generally a little louder and rowdier. The area was closed off to prevent the noise from disturbing the other orders.

Inside was a large room, full of men, dwarves, dragonborn, many creatures, all sharing a laugh or story. Kalgar saw old men sharing tales by a fire, while others were drinking from small glasses and besting each other at strongarm competitions. There were two bouts going on as well. Two dragonborn were sparring off, trading blows and cheered on by the few spectators. Two humans on the other side of the room were dancing at each other with swords.

On the far side of the room, not hard to miss, was a storm-lord giant. Standing well over 12 feet tall, he had purple skin, his veins appeared yellow, to match Kord’s lightning. He looked at Kalgar, and Kalgar at him.

Kalgar had an odd feeling. Recalling the fight with the balor of Ruber, he remembered a vision he had. Baelfire did not kill them, but he had come close, and as Kalgar’s life was fading, he had a vision, a dream, of a mounted, plated, warrior, who told him of the Order of Kord.

In his heart, in his blood, he knew that this giant was a member of the Order, a high ranking member. He also knew that he, Kalgar, was ranked higher.

The giant stood up, stepped around and over the two dragonborn fighters and approached Kalgar. Reaching up, Kalgar gripped the giant whose returning grip was quite strong, even through Kalgar’s gauntlets.

“I am Kalgar Drakeswynd, from Aes.”

“I am Thunderfoot, Battle Priest of Kord, welcome.”

The giant stared at Kalgar, waiting.

“High Priest...”

Battle Priest.”

“My apologues, Battle Priest Thunderfoot, I have come a great distance. I have done good work in Kord’s name, I have served him, but I have questions.”

“What is the Order of Kord?”

The giant’s voice, like tumbling boulders, answered, “The Order of Kord is a group of warriors who distinguish themselves in Kord’s name. We are not organized, exactly. Members know the presence of another, and rank is bestowed upon through a combination of strength and accomplishment. For example, I am obviously much stronger than you, no offense that is just a fact, but your work seems to have impressed Kord enough to give you a higher rank.”

“What do we do? If we’re not organized...”

“Members of the Order traditionally work in Kord’s name, in His best interests. Members will often fight when they meet to prove or test their placement within the Order. Sometimes, warriors will band together for common cause, sometimes they meet on opposite sides of battle.”

“And Kord doesn’t direct these warriors?”

“The gods generally take a hands off approach to us, Kord especially. He bestows power to those worthy, but he lets them prove their strength on their own. He may test our strength, and conviction, but he doesn’t instruct us directly. One of the most famous high order members was an Adamantine warlord, who fought in their civil war against the Adamantine Warlord using heavy horse and heavy plate.”

“The first time I heard of the Order, I saw such a warrior in a vision.”

“That’s very interesting. What has been your experience with Kord’s teachings?”

“I learned much in Aes, onboard ship as part of our training. Aes respects the gods, especially Melora and Kord. We were taught the ways of those two gods so that we could please and appease them. While not full disciples, we were well-instructed on the ways of the gods as a holy warrior is often more effective. When I left Aes, I found strength and wisdom in Kord’s teachings and pledged to work in his name, as long as his lessons rang true.”

“Interesting. We here teach those willing to listen. We obviously prepare our people for combat, as it helps build stronger, better defended people, but we also teach discipline. It is important for everyone to know the limits of strength.”

“Especially now.”

“Especially now.”

Kalgar took a look around the room. The two humans were still fighting. Quickly studying them, he realized that they had potential. One had brought his rapier under the arm of the other, driving him back onto the defensive. He advanced, again and again, until the defendant fell. The attacker was about to bring his sword down when his wrist was caught.

“I think he’s had enough,” Kalgar said, pulling the man back.

“But, he needs to be shown his weakness, so that he cannot repeat it.”

Kalgar helped the other to his feet. “What are your names?”

“I’m Haymich, and that one you just helped up is Dwight.”

“Humiliation can be useful, but it can also be damaging.” Kalgar said.

“I’ll show you humiliation,” Haymich said, handing his sword off to the recently fallen. “Put ‘em up!”

“You can keep your sword if you’d like, you might need it.”

The human danced a little, while Kalgar remained perfectly still. Haymich brought his fist across Kalgar’s jaw. Recovering, the dragonborn wiped blood from his lip. “Not bad. Do that again.”

As he made to do just that, Kalgar blocked the attack, knocking his arm out of the way, and caught Haymich’s kidney with a quick right hook.

Dwight decided to join in, bringing his two rapiers down. Kalgar stepped back, and spun, causing the attacker to fall forward. The first human moved to attack again, and Kalgar kicked him in the chest. Rushing after him, he placed his boot on Haymich’s throat and said, “Should I keep going, or have you been properly humiliated?”

“Ahgghh,” was all that Haymich was able to say.

Dwight crept up behind Kalgar and swung his swords around. Kalgar turned, flashed out his hand and lifted Dwight off the ground by his neck. “You would dare sneak an attack? For shame.” And with that, he threw the boy to the ground.

“Who are you?” Haymich asked.

“I am Kalgar Drakeswynd, proud member of the Order of Kord, Captain of the Shocrosia, the Thunderhead (for Kalgar had just named his ship), and you both have much to learn of the ways of Kord.”

Thunderfoot walked over, “Not bad,” he said.

“Thank you.” He turned his attention back on the boys. “I have traveled far in this world of ours. I have gone from the western seas of day’s end, to the land of fire, where the tieflings rule. I have fought devils, demons, ghosts, kraken, and even dragons!”

At this, an overhearing follower laughed.

“My word is as true as my steel, ser, I promise you. In all my travels, I have learned two very important things. The first is that a little knowledge goes a long way. If either of you had paid attention, you would have noticed that my right ankle was dragging slightly, I had just injured it and would have been slower if you had approached from that side.”

The two boys looked at each other, and at Kalgar’s foot, impressed with this analysis. Others started to listen in, and Kalgar raised his voice.

“The other lesson is that a true warrior knows when to fight, and when not to fight. When to test his strength and when to hold that strength in check. We are living in some dangerous times. War is everywhere, and while that may excite you, we should remember that we follow Kord, not the evil path of war and conquest that is Bane’s way. Strength must be checked, but weakness is its own punishment. It serves to teach us lessons. We sing songs of our victories, and of the monsters we’ve slain but the true test is within. To taste fear and push through it, to hold back and show mercy when the battle is clearly won. Too often, I have seen the needless destruction caused by uncontrolled power, by strength running unopposed, unchallenged, without discipline.”

Kalgar reached over and grabbed a decanter. Inside was a dark green liquor, some form of absinthe. Pouring small amounts for Haymich and Dwight, and a larger portion for himself, he looked around the hall.

“Strength must be checked, weakness is its own punishment. Let your strength be a bastion others may stand behind, not a menace to run away from. If any of you seek a challenge, ways to help the people of Cyfandir, meet me in a month in the Crimson Fields. Or, in an hour at the Beggar’s Spittle, haha! Now, drink up, you landlovers, to Kord!”

A cheer went up, and Thunderfoot gulped the entirety of the decanter down. With a knowing nod to Thunderfoot, Kalgar said goodbye to all involved, and left the temple.

Earlier, while Kalgar was still in the Kord area of worship, Tong had entered the temple. Walking over to the place for Ioun, he sat down upon the altar. Normally, the altar was left vacant except for high clerics, with worshippers looking onward, but this time, he sat, crosslegged, facing out. Meditating, he once again entered the Reverie, but this time it was not empty. Ghostly images appeared and disappeared. People seemed to be looking down at something.

Tong realized that they were holding books, the books he had distributed in Eldengarr. Some were reading it casually, some were very interested. A few were seen to open the book, look at a few pages, scoff, and disappear as the book was closed.

Tong’s eyes snapped open and he pointed at an old kneeling man. “You, yes, here, take this, it will help.” And he handed the man one of his books. Spotting a teary-eyed, forlorn woman, he said, “Here, read this, it is all you can handle for now, but it will be enough to help.” The woman took the book, looking confused but thankful.

Snapping back to the Reverie, Tong’s attention flew out in many directions. Thinking too quickly, of too many things, he brought himself back to this reality and left the temple muttering.

Sometime later, Kalgar entered the Beggar’s Spiddle inn and tavern. It wasn’t a bad looking place, contrary to its name. One rumour had it that the owner named it that to keep tourists away.

Kalgar spotted Alvyn on the far side of the room, smoke rising from his table, and a large pint next to him. He was facing away from the door. Walking toward him, Kalgar grabbed a pitcher from a barmaid’s tray and gave her a dangerous smile. She smiled and moved on.

Reaching down, he placed his hand gently on the gnome’s soldier. “Facing away from the door, bad strategy, don’t you think?”

“Sigh...yes, one I am now rethinking. I was looking to having a quiet night out, alone.”

“I can leave, if you want.”

“No, it’s alright, sit down. It’s done.”

A little too late, Kalgar remembered that Alvyn was supposed to be off with Trixie.

“Things not go well with your lady friend?” Kalgar asked, placing his pitcher on the table and taking a seat.

Alvyn looked at Kalgar. He looked old and tired. His face was obscured by clouds of smoke as he smoked a cigar.

“When I left her, I was the most powerful wizard in the world. Now, I’m nothing. I don’t want to see her, she probably doesn’t want to see me.”

Seeming to change the subject, Kalgar said, “We’ve gone through some changes. I know you’ve had concerns with the gods, and lately, concerning me. About their strength and the misuse of it.”

“I don’t care about the gods, just like they don’t care about me. And I’m not worried about you, exactly. You’re strong, but if that strength were somehow...misinformed, misdirected, it could cause problems. And I don’t want to be on the wrong end of your strength, Kalgar, I know how strong you are.”

“You know, when we left Aes, I was lost. I had never been away from that country, that life, and I drifted with you, unsure of myself and my purpose. But, I found wisdom in Kord’s teachings. From Him, I learned that strength must not be abused, and from you, I learned that power must be controlled. So you see? Kord is not the only warrior I have faith in.”

Alvyn looked a little better at that.

“And if Trixie doesn’t see that, well there are plenty of other fish in the sea. My faith strengthens me, and if I ever go astray, that’s where you come in. Justice is blind, Alvyn, my faith is not, and for too long I took orders without question and lived in the dark. And while I appreciate His strength, and your counsel, one thing must be made clear, I don’t blindly take orders from anyone, god or gnome.”

They sat in mutual silence for some time until Alvyn said, “What does your friend have to say about any of that?” Alvyn nodded toward his dinner plate, covered with a metal serving bowl. The reflection showed the window by the wall and there he could see a human male staring at them.

Kalgar looked over, it was Haymich. He had an odd look on his face, between anger, and awe.

“Oh, yeah, if you want to be alone, you better leave; I kind of invited some warriors from the temple back here.”

“No, that’s okay, get in here!” Alvyn waved over the human who ducked down when so noticed. Dwight’s face was seen and then quickly pushed aside as Haymich came back into view.

“Shy, aren’t they?” Alvyn observed.

Suddenly, the door flew open and Tong slid well into the room, with Dwight and Haymich in tow. Rushing over, he picked up Alvyn and said, “There are those who need my help! So much knowledge, so little time, must focus!”

“Whoa, sit down, Tong, what’s wrong?”

“I can see them, those who need my help, in the Reverie, and I must help. You!” Tong turned to the next table, “You need instruction, and you! Here, read this!”

“He’s cracked, think it’s that staff of his?” Kalgar asked, looking worried.

“Probably. You, kid, give me your helmet!” Alvyn commanded of Dwight.

“Why are you wearing a helmet, in a pub?” Kalgar asked.

“I don’t know, thought it looked cool.”

“I told you it wasn’t.” Haymich said.

“No you didn’t!”

Alvyn, meanwhile, took the helmet, and asked for Tong’s psionic kii focus. Ripping the attachment off he had added last time, he grabbed some things from his bag, and asked for Kalgar’s cold iron bracers. Kalgar held Tong down and tried to calm him.

Quickly, Alvyn wrapped everything together and placed the helmet on Tong’s head. Tong settled down some. “Feel better?”

“Yes. I...I am sorry. The Codex, it’s so powerful. It wants to bestow knowledge but it had nowhere to go, so it came to me. It was hard to handle.” Tong’s breathing returned to normal.

“That should work for a little while, maybe a day, but you’re going to have to get a handle on this.”

“Yeah, we’ve seen some of what happens when you don’t,” Kalgar added. “Maybe, maybe you should try letting go of the Codex, just for one night.”

Tong did not look too pleased with that idea. “No, when the monks of Canitia died, there was a void. The Codex makes up for that loss and I have pledged myself to helping all of Cyfandir, as a world monk.”

“Tong, do you trust me?”

“Absolutely,” he answered.

“Then let me place the Codex in my bag. Just for one night. I promise.”

Tong thought about this, felt the connection to Ioun in a way he hadn’t before, realized he didn’t want to lose that. But he also knew the cost of burden.

“Alright. Thank you Kalgar.” He placed the Codex on the table.

Kalgar reached over and almost wrenched his shoulder. The staff was heavier than it looked, heavier than Tong made it look. He gripped it with two hands, it still wouldn’t move. Kalgar grabbed the table, his face contorted, his muscles rippling, the table barely moved.

“Fine. Here, put it in this bag!” Tong reached over with one hand and flipped it into the bag as easily as if he were flipping a coin. Kalgar’s backpack, a bag of holding, magically made all its contents weigh less than 5 pounds so once sealed, Kalgar could hold onto its contents with no problems.

“We have to get this checked out. Tong, come on, we have to research this.” Alvyn said standing up, not looking too happy.

“At the library? Where all the knowledge is sorted?” Tong asked.

Alvyn groaned, “Ugh, it’s worse when he’s so chipper about it.”

Getting up, Alvyn saw some paint on Kalgar’s arm, white flecks of it. “What’s with the paint?”

“Oh you’ll see.” Kalgar said, taking a big gulp of ale.

“I don’t like waiting or surprises.” Alvyn countered.

“You’ll find out tomorrow.”

As they were leaving, Alvyn looked at the boys, young men truly and said, “If there’s one thing you need to know about hanging out with Kalgar, it’s to grow a spine!”

Tong and Alvyn passed Alia on the way out, she smiled and made her way over to Kalgar.

“Alia, good to see you. What will you have?” Kalgar asked.

“A drink.” She answered.

“Haha, well, you’re in the right place. Another round!”

Some more of Kord’s followers made it into the bar, soon the bar was full of song, laughter, and bravado.

Tong and Alvyn made their way across the city. Alvyn was asking Tong about monks.

“Well, other than Alia, and myself, there is only one Canitian monk left.” Tong answered at one point, recalling the monk from the Circle in Viridi.

“Do you think you could contact him? Maybe he would know, maybe he could help.” Alvyn said, leading the way.

“Good idea!” And Tong sat down, in the middle of the street.

Alvyn looked back and saw Tong, sitting cross-legged on the ground, on a street corner, meditating. The problem was that it was a crowded street and Tong was blocking traffic both ways.

“Get out of the way, you bum!” A street merchant called.

“What are you doing?” said another, leading a wagon of cabbages.

Alvyn tried to pick Tong up, but Tong was not helping. Plus, Alvyn couldn’t put him on his shoulders as he was half Tong’s height. He dragged Tong away, joking with the merchants, until Tong opened his eyes and said, “It’s okay. I’ll be okay.”

“What did he say?”

“The Codex Caduceus is a powerful artifact and I must take things slowly. I guess I tried to take in too much and it threatened to overwhelm me.”

Back at the bar, between stories of fights, Kalgar found time when he and Alia could talk.

“So, Alia. What are your plans? You learning a lot from Tong?”

“Yes, he has much to teach me. Although...sometimes, I wish his energies weren’t channeled elsewhere.” She took a sip of her drink, eyeing Kalgar above the glass.

Kalgar thought back to the trip from Canitia, and the time aboard ship. Alia and Tong had trained every day. Most days, Tong was teaching her something new, but there were times, when they repeated a lesson, that Kalgar noticed Alia having a harder time with it. He thought she was just learning, but remembering how Tong would walk over and help her with her forms, Kalgar understood a little better.

“Haha, good luck cracking that shell. Speaking of which, that move you used on the beast at the Hunt.”

“The basilisk.”

“Yeah, I was wondering if I could learn a little more about it.”

“Sure, what do you want to know?”

“Well, first, is it hard to do? Did you really kill that monster in one hit?”

“Yes, to both, although it depends. It takes a lot of practice and focus, and the strength needed depends on the creature.”

“Right. I’ve seen it before, you know. Who taught it to you?”

“Some monks from the east, who favoured action a little over meditation.”

“I see. I think I would like to see it again sometime, I’m wondering if there’s a defense against it. I’ve seen it used before, by someone I don’t like, and I’d hate to be left unguarded.”

Kalgar suddenly imagined Alvyn’s voice, “The best way to defend against it is to avoid it, get out of its way.”

“Sure, yeah, that could be fun.” Alia said.

Tong was in the Reverie again. This time, there weren’t too many people there. He had entered at an early hour, and he wished to be left alone. Wandering around the cloudy, ethereal other, he looked upon a boulder resting upon a meditation bench. As he approached, the boulder moved, looked up, and said, “Master, I am ready to learn.”

Tong jerked awake, “Ergwahuh! No!”

From a hammock a little ways away, Kalgar said, “Can you not exist so loudly?” His head still hurt from the night before, in fact, he might still be drunk.

Alvyn rushed over, bacon grease on his fingers, “What is it?”

“A warforged, in the Reverie. I...I cannot believe it.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.”

Shuffling aboard deck a little later, Kalgar accepted a piece of bacon from Alvyn. He had fed Alan, the horse already, and had brushed him down below deck. He looked over to see Tong and Alia training. Kalgar smiled at her and looked from Tong to her. She smiled back, and was tripped up by Tong. The dragonborn smiled and walked off.

When he had woken up a little more, he asked them all to come over to the upper deck.

“Since most of you boarded last night, you probably didn’t see what change I made to the ship.”

Alvyn looked around, he hadn’t noticed any change.

“Take a look here, at this plate I had made. It bears the name of the ship, which I have chosen to be Shocrosia.”

“What does it mean?” Tong asked.

“Roughly translated, it means Thunderhead, literally it means from lightning. I thought the name fitting. Our arrival is often loud, and brings change. It inspires the right amount of fear in foes and confidence in friends.”

“Aren’t we supposed to break a bottle of wine or something now?” Alvyn asked.

“Don’t talk to me about wine, or beer, or liquor of any kind for now,” his head still hurting, “but no, that is not necessary. I have already made the proper tribute to Melora, and asked that Kord not bring his wrath upon us.”

“Okay then. We should head out.” Taking a last look at the plaque, Alvyn said, “Thunderhead, hmm...” and then went down below deck.

The trip was smooth, fast, but a great distance was travelled. They had to sail south around Aerugo, the southern edge of Cyfandir, and up around Niger, a country Kalgar and the others knew little about.

They arrived at the Crimson fields, and were immediately greeted by the ghost dragon they had defeated before. Alia stayed back a little, but Alvyn, seated with Kalgar on his horse, instructed the dragon to lead them to the city’s centre. Alan, the horse, was not too happy about it, but trusted Kalgar.

Making their way down to the vault, they noticed a new door had been fastened. Taking the key he had received from Tribulus out of his pocket, Alvyn could not find a keyhole. Looking around, he moved the key toward the door. A keyhole appeared, and with a click, the vault opened. Inside, Alvyn was relieved, it wouldn’t have been good to appear like he didn’t know what he was doing.

The inside was much different than the last time. Everything was clean, clear, and there were a lot of crates stacked up and marked with stamps. These featured names, dates, and other symbols. Alvyn placed a copper piece on the small pile of coins kept for the ghost dragon. He looked through Vex’s old things, and found a list of items. Looking around, he scouted out the items and asked Tong and Kalgar to bring them to one place. Instructing Alia to watch the door, Alvyn grabbed a crowbar and opened the first box.

Inside there was a small, cloth bag, and a large, black metal box with a single slit on one side. Alvyn opened the bag and wires and pins and other such material fell out, some had blood on it. Alvyn’s mind raced and he remembered his time in Aes, the torture they had done to try to understand and develop his power.

Tong’s mind shared in this flashback as they had both joined minds at an earlier place and time. “I am sorry, Alvyn” he said.

Alvyn opened up the other box, which was unlocked and while he didn’t recognize the outside, he knew the inside. Scorch marks, blood, it was a cage, of sorts.

“What is it?” Kalgar asked.

“Nothing important.” He said, closing the crate.

One of the crates had no name, no date, it just simply said, “Unknown”

A little worried, Alvyn asked Kalgar to stand guard on one side of the crate, ready to attack or defend if necessary.

Alvyn opened the crate, and when Kalgar looked around for a closer look, his jaw dropped.

The three of them were making their way to the vault door when Alia stopped them.

“Hey, what about that other crate?”

“What other crate?” Tong asked.

The other crate. You don’t remember? I just told you about it and you just walked back here again afterward.”

She pointed to the crate which was opened, but not facing her.

“I don’t remember that crate.”

“You don’t seem to remember anything. You’ve checked it before, walked back here, and I’ve told you this again and again.”

Tong was not very happy; knowledge was being hidden from him.

“How long have we been doing this?” Alvyn asked.

“An hour? Maybe more.”

Walking back to the crate, they tried different tactics. Alvyn tried drawing the crate but once he had finished drawing it and looked away, he forgot what he was doing, and his page was blank. He tried getting Tong to describe the crate to him but Tong forgot instantly as well. He tried looking through a mirror, that didn’t help. Kalgar suggested adding in something unrelated to his notes.

Alvyn wrote down a description of it, interspersed with the lyrics to “Row, row, row your boat”, but when he was done, he just had the lyrics oddly spaced out. The progress they had made was that they seemed to remember the crate now and that there was something in it which kept erasing their memories.

Alvyn sealed the crate back up and marked it down for further study.

Over the next few days, people started to arrive. Mostly from Hyacintho, they were also pleased to see Dwight and Haymich. After they were sure no one was else was coming, Alvyn called everyone together.

Seated upon Kalgar’s shoulder, he announced, “You are all here because you believe in change, in peace. Well, peace is hard work, and we’ve got the worst end of things out here. We’re going into situations you’ve never dreamed, and we’ll be saving the world. Besides the danger, the worst part is that we work behind the scenes. Our heroics won’t be put into songs, and you’ll probably all die.”

“Whoa, first off. We thank you for coming. What he meant was that our tasks will be difficult, nearly impossible, but they are worth it.” Kalgar interjected.

“Yeah, saving the world, I said that, why are you interrupting my pep talk?”

“Your talk didn’t have much pep!”

“That’s true, needs more pep Alvyn,” Tong contributed.

“Anyway, we have a lot of work to do.” He looked at the group, no more than 12, some dwarves, dragonborn, humans, and one priest of Rayden. “You there, come up here.”

As the priest walked forward, the others were clearly not too happy with his presence. He raised his hands, on which he had two spiked disc-gauntlets like the priestess had worn. “Please, I mean no harm, no trouble.”

“What are you doing here?” Kalgar asked.

“I had pledged my service to Rayden, but you, in Kord’s name, defeated our priestess. So, Kord must be more powerful than Rayden, so I am here. And I have a gift.”

Kalgar could see the wisdom in following strength. “What is your gift?”

“You’re looking at it”, and with that, he slipped off his gauntlets, and unfastened the wires with them.

Alvyn took the bundle. “Thank you.” Alvyn leapt down. “Alright, Kalgar, hand me the two swords, yes, those two. Here.” He pointed to Dwight and Haymich.

“You are now corporals. Take these swords as a badge of your office. Your job is to make sure that these people are able to defend themselves. Ensure that in one week’s time, these people are able to fight, or those swords will go to someone else, someone more worthy. You will report directly to Kalgar and he will train you as well.”

He handed each of them a sword. Dwight received the magical sword made from the remains of Posse McToes’s sword, the one which had been used to kill undead years ago which they obtained from a temple. Haymich received the green, lustrous blade made from the remains of the blessed sword of Corellon, which they had received in Viridi.

“Tong, you will prepare these people against mental attack. While Kalgar will help train these people in body, you will prepare them in mind. They need to be fortified against persuasion and illusion.”

“You, dragonborn, besides working with these two, you four will be security. You will make sure everyone gets equal supply and also nothing is to come within 2 miles of here without me knowing about it.”

“Dwarves, can you build stuff?”

The dwarves looked at each other and scoffed. “Pfft”, they said.

“Then you’re with me.”

Over the next two weeks, everyone was hard at work. Tong led the group in several practices to strengthen the will and mind. Meditations, balancing, forms, all to help them focus. He found it extremely difficult. Alia was a willing student, this group was a little hesitant, and lazy. He constantly had to bring their attention back.

“Remember! You must NEVER poison a ghost! Distraction is poison for the mind!”

Kalgar spent much of his time preparing Dwight and Haymich for battle and for leadership. He still felt some reluctance from Haymich, some old scorn or something. On the first day, he asked each them to show him something they were good at, something they could do that few others could. Each impressed him, and knocked him down in turn.

“Good. You have your own strengths. You must learn your limits, push them, never let them settle, but you must also have wisdom. Some things are difficult to change and some limits cannot be expanded without great cost. You must have the wisdom to accept that.”

“During my time in Aes, we were trained on the use of many weapons. We had to know what was coming, my commander said. We had to understand it as if it were our own, and we had to know its uses. We also had to understand its limits, and push our own.”

He took off his chest armour, showing a scarred and muscular body. “You know the saying, ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’? Aes puts that into practice. I have been stabbed, clubbed, cut, ripped, torn, and attacked with pretty much every weapon I have ever seen or heard of. As such, I am not afraid of pain, and I am not afraid of weapons. They are but the tools of destruction. A weapon that is not understood is dangerous to the wielder.”

Alvyn, meanwhile, spent most of his time aboard the Shocrosia. While they worked hard, Alvyn quickly regretted asking the dwarves if they were skill tradesmen. They scoffed almost non-stop the entire time.

“Can you pass me that square?”


“That looks good.”


“Hmm, this drawing isn’t right.”


“Yum, good soup.”

“Pfft. Pfft. Pfft.”

For far too long a time, it seemed to Alvyn, they transformed much of the ship. Kalgar noticed the changes, but trusted Alvyn. At times, while watching Dwight and Haymich training the others, Kalgar noticed beams being moved, a mast being pulled down, wooden beams put up which hadn’t been there before.

“Hey, um, why did you take the mast down?”


“No, seriously, what is that? Where did you get the wood, there are no trees.”


Finally, it was done. Everyone came aboard for the unveiling. Kalgar was not too sure about this. He had known ships his entire life and there were changes which didn’t make sense.

“But Alvyn why did you take the mizzenmast down? Why is that line tied like that? What is all this?”

“It will make the ship strong, not incredibly fast, but trust me. Take us out, it’s a beautiful day for it.”

Casting off the lines, Kalgar made his way to the upper deck, and steered out into the water. He looked around. Above him, there was an odd balloon and wire mesh. Around him, there were ballasts where none were needed. Crudely attached to the wheel was a lever.

“Hey Alvyn, what is this?” Kalgar asked as he eased the lever forward.

The ship rumbled and leapt into the air.

“Ahhh!” Kalgar screamed.

Higher and higher, almost vertical.


Above the first layer of clouds.

“Arhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” pulling the lever back to centre, the ship evened out. They were among the clouds! Looking up and behind, Kalgar noticed that the ship was making clouds of its own.

“I knew you could handle it. What do you think? That up there is a cloaking device, it forms cloud cover for us.” Alvyn smiled, cigar in his hand. He offered one to Kalgar.

Kalgar looked about. Tong shouted, “Just pretend the air is water, and the water? Well, don’t worry about the water.”

“By the way, if lightning doesn’t strike this ship regularly, it will crash.” Alvyn said.

The clouds in front rolled in waves, lapping up against the ship. The Shocrosia rocked but was steady, flying high above the fields. The waves looked familiar, and Kalgar smiled.

The sun was setting in the west and from up here, they had a god’s eye view.

No comments:

Post a Comment