Quin stepped away from the others, her long stride taking her quickly across the blood stained deck and into the nearby passenger quarters.
Once inside the blue carpeted and mahogany-paneled hallway and confident that she was out of earshot and sight Quin called out softly, “Princess Parizade. I know that you can hear me, so listen. I have no intention of allowing Captain Rafiq and his men to take you to Yhakkoth. I would help you to find your lost love. As your new Captain, I order you this: before the crewmen below can secure us to The Sirocco, fly fast and fly far. Follow your heart and fly to your love.”
Quin risked a look through the door back onto the deck. Alias and First Mate Hanbal were alone now, the others having climbed overboard. She wished she could have consulted with her friend over this, but there was no time. The human was a strange one indeed – and she had no idea if the druid would agree with this course of action. Oh well, if he didn’t they could set him down somewhere safe once The Sirocco was out of sight. As for the First Mate, well, he might be more of a problem, but not if he knew what was good for him…
The Princess Parizade leaped forward with a terrific eager speed. In one moment the luxurious airship had been stationary, some twenty feet above the deck of The Sirocco and the desert sands. In the next moment, the fire elemental that powered the Royal vessel was awake and flaming in a furious and terrifying display of power, spinning in a hoop amidships, and The Princess Parizade was flying forwards and upwards, banking gently into the setting sun.
Quin grabbed for the door frame to catch herself, but missed and fell backwards onto the carpet. Outside, Alias was also taken by surprise by the sudden motion of the ship and he crashed onto the bloody planks of the deck and skidded into the rail, colliding with First Mate Hanbal in a confusion of tangled limbs.
Great cries of anger and surprise arose, unseen, from below as the crew of The Sirocco were jerked violently backwards by the few ropes they had begun to fasten. The Sirocco collided with a sand dune and listed hard to her stern, her bow pointing dangerously upward before the ropes snapped and The Princess Parizade was free.
“I am coming for you, my husband!” The genie was nowhere in sight, but her triumphant voice echoed across the decks nonetheless. “Finally, I am coming for you!”
Momentarily confused, Alias slowly got to his feet, offering a hand to First Mate Hanbal who eagerly grabbed for it. The First Mate rushed to the rail and looked down at the diminishing shape of The Sirocco, Captain Rafiq and the crew hopping about on deck and waving their fists in impotent frustration. Clearly they were readying their own airship for pursuit, and just as clearly they had no chance of ever catching them.
“By the Gods,” First Mate Hanbal swore. He buried his face in his hands and shook his head, his antennae drooped so low they lay flat against the side of his head. “What have these women done?”
“Quin,” Alias called out. “Quin! Of what does this spirit Djinn speak? Husband? I have not left the care of one selfish captain to be held ransom by another who is blinded by foolish passions. What is happening? How quickly the slave becomes the master! Quin! Quin!"
“Do not be alarmed Alias,” Quin said, emerging from the passenger quarters. “We are not slaves, by slaying the pirate captain, I have become Captain of this ship and the genie Parizade is obliged to do my bidding."
First Mate Hanbal‘s antennae pricked up at Quin’s return, “I cannot believe this, any of us could have landed the death blow upon the pirate’s Captain and taken command of the ship. We all crossed swords with him.”
“Yes. You could have. But I did, and I find that I don’t have the taste to play slave-master to anyone, that is a man’s task. Neither do I wish to condemn the genie to slavery in the name of our City-Gods. Not even if that makes me an outlaw, which I guess it does.” Quin said. “Instead I have ordered the genie to follow her own heart, her husband has long been a prisoner of The Sand King and I am going to help her to free him.”
“From The Sand King’s Dark Tower?” First Mate Hanbal sputtered in a high-pitched panic. Alias had found his footing and paced upon the racing deck listening and frowning.
“True love deserves to triumph in the end, not slavery, not the military or commercial might that our city would gain with such a tremendous vessel at their command.” Quin ignored the dumbstruck Templar. “But I do apologize to you, Alias, my friend. We came here in the service of the city, to protect our friends and my family in Muan Oasis. They were being preyed upon by the pirates, and I have jeopardized our future by bringing the wrath of Yhakkoth’s City-Gods and Merchant Houses upon our heads. But I say again, true love deserves to triumph. I understand if you do not wish to join me in this, Alias. To be honest, our Templar friend is likely correct, freeing a prisoner from the Sand King’s dungeons does sound like the plan of a lunatic, but there it is. Would you have us set you down?”
“True love is a gift that is precious Quin, but don’t let the passions of another rule your heart as well,” Alias said, softening his tone somewhat. “Hear me, my friend, I have something to say.”
Alias looked over the edge of the speeding ship, quietly watching its shadow as it weaved like light on water over the dunes.
“I did not board this vessel to serve either love or a city. I serve only the Goddess. I bring truth unto this land. Whether it will heed it or not isn’t my concern, only that it hears it. I have a message for the ‘god king’ and it will be delivered. But we need not part ways so quickly. Perhaps there is good fortune in freeing your spirit friend? This is a land of trade. I have something she may value, and she may return to me what I value most – passage to the great city."
“Very well, Alias.” Quin smiled, relieved at the Prophet’s answer. "And you, Templar? I have no desire to keep you against your will.”
“There is nothing down there!” First Mate Hanbal cried, his goat’s feet clacking in agitation upon the deck. “You would set me down to die of thirst!”
“You are wise in your fear Hanbal, but you are no coward.” Alias said. “You have been the leader of strong and able men. They looked up to you and followed your example and command. You have helped defeat a powerful pirate. The Sand King is just another puppet on a larger stage. We will not leave you to die, but we will not be making any special concessions either.”
“Then this is a madness, that I must endure it seems,” Hanbal answered.
“Surely Quin’s Djinn has tossed nights in ethereal slumber if only to conjure visions of revenge. Bring me to her, or it to me. Come forth spirit! I would speak with you. Tell me your dreams.”
“If the genie is flying this ship, she will be at the helm.” First Mate Hanbal said. “Up there.”
The Fey Templar pointed to the rear of the ship where the aft-castle rose several levels above the main deck, culminating in a round turret offering a commanding view of the decks below and the desert landscape streaming by some fifty or so feet below that as the Royal airship was flying away, westward, to parts unknown.
“Let us follow the spirit’s dream.” Alias said. “We shall save her love and then find the prize we both seek – the great oasis of the city of the god king.”
Following the First Mate, Alias and Quin left the forward main deck and entered the passenger quarters. They followed the plushly carpeted hallway past a spiral staircase (an elegantly engraved signpost directed passengers upwards to the dining hall and the ship’s tavern, and downwards to the Mosque and library). They exited the straight hallway onto the aft main deck and crossed to the aft castle.
“This is the finest airship I have ever seen,” First Mate Hanbal said, tears flowing openly down the Fey Templar’s purple cheeks. “It is everything I have ever heard and more.”Princess parizade ship
They entered the aft castle and climbed a staircase that led to a landing opening onto the officer’s lounge and the Captain’s suite. It was here, it seemed that the pirate’s had spent much of their time. The heavy scent of their hookah smoke still lingered throughout the cabins, and their trash was scattered underfoot, their stolen loot piled in drifts in the corners.
A spiral staircase led upward from the landing, to another deck that housed the officer’s quarters, and yet further upward to the deck upon the roof of the aft castle and it’s deadly array of ballista and catapults.
“With this ship at her disposal, Yhakkoth could be a great city once more,” Hanbal said with breathless awe. “No longer would we be a second-class city, forgotten and past her prime.”
Yet another spiral staircase took the three, yet further upward through a navigation room laden with maps and charts. The maps adorned the walls, spilled from a grand table and were stacked in untidy piles on every available surface.
Finally, above the navigation room they came upon the entrance to the helm, some six stories above the deck. The door was locked, but atQuin’s request the genie within answered their call and the door opened.
by Ian Hewitt
Game Master (Ian Hewitt)