Date: Moon’s Day, 16th Dar 798 P.L. (Morning)
Location: The Ship’s Kitchen, The Princess Parizade
The following morning First Mate Hanbal entered the kitchen. Everyone had gathered around the huge island, where Jamila had prepared a platter of dates and olives and Ali had gathered together bread and some exotic-looking jars of jams. Outside the sun was only just beginning to rise, but already, in the windowless kitchen especially, the heat of the day was making its relentless return.
“With no Ship’s Wizard on board,” First Mate Hanbal said, “we cannot afford to tax the fire elemental unduly. So I have spoken with the Pilot. We can maintain a steady pace during the day and drop anchor at night, and she can keep us on a steady course without any more crew. It’s amazing really! We will be over the Magister’s City tomorrow morning, and we could be docking in Ishtaduk before the end of the week.”
The First Mate’s gaze turned, pleading, with Quin’s, “If that is still the plan, Captain? The day after the night before, calmer heads will prevail, and all that.”
“Look at this,” Sara thumped her finger down at the freshly jam-stained charts Hanbal had set on the island. “We are only two days, three at best south of Muan Oasis. Arishka the Trader is an associate of House Summonel. We can unload what is left of our cargo into his warehouse, and recoup.”
The Princess Parizade rocked violently to the starboard, as if buffeted by a powerful wind. Alriak bashed elbow and dropped his plate, spilling dates across the floor. Ali tried to catch the falling coffee carafe and missed.
A terrifying woman’s voice screams out, “May you meet the day with a restless heart and know a thousand sleepless nights!” It was a curse, antiquated now and spoken in an archaic desert dialect.
Parizade appeared a burst of sand and dust, the scouring cloud blew into the room through cracks in the ceiling and then suddenly she was among them. Her usually blue skin, now a pale purple.
“The ship is under attack, beasts from the desert!” Parizade said.
Quinvera the Tall was the quickest to react. In one moment the half-fairy was sat at the kitchen counter laughing with Sara and Jamila, popping olives into her mouth, and the next instant the lithe, powerful spellsword was on her feet and racing toward the mid-deck. The other two women raced along behind her, a little less sure of themselves.
“Alias is out there alone!” Jamila cried as they raced from the kitchen, scattering pots and pans in their wake.
From his lofty vantage by the raven’s nest, Alias watched as the creature shook the airship violently and then turned to glance downward as Quin burst from the aft-castle with those two slave women, right behind her.
Two more of these terrifying creatures circled the hovering airship, their shadows criss-crossing over the deck below. Bizarrely, unnervingly, their shadows were that of ordinary sibeccai, not the twisted monstrosity that screamed obscenities and curses in an unusual dialect.
Alias could see a fourth creature pacing the sands below them, it’s wings beating impatiently as if it itched to join the melee. Several smaller, younger creatures waited on the ground with this last one, bleating plaintively. The druid flexed his wide condor wings and circled the mast.
Alias opened his beak and cried out, a condor’s call. The wind heard the druid’s defiant prayer and it answered. A violent squall suddenly picked up above the airship. The rigging began to rat-a-tat-tat across the beams and the mast, but the true storm was above where the wind had reached a near hurricane. The two circling beasts were forced off course, and left struggling to stay aloft. The condor cried out again in satisfaction and landed inside the raven’s nest.
Alriak, Ali and First Mate Hanbal burst out onto the deck, behind the women. Their fur waving in the druid’s wind. Alriak wore a new shield on his arm and clung to a small worn satchel.
The creature on the helm’s roof paused in it’s shaking of the mast and looked up at the other two. They were caught in the buffeting wind and being forced to retreat and approach the airship from below.
“Where be you, magister?” The creature screeched in an archaic and high-pitched tone, before leaping across the chasm to the raven’s nest.
It was a bestial, hideous monster. It’s forelegs and body was that of a powerful, heavy-set stag, and they lashed inside the raven’s nest kicking the Prophet. It’s forequarters were those of a gigantic bird of prey and they clutched the railing at the side of the perch. It’s head combined the worst features of a stag and a jackal, with sharp, viscous teeth and a deadly rack of horns.
Parizade was the last to leave the kitchen, but she did so in an swirling whirlwind of spilled flour, sugar and salt. Moments later she reappeared at the helm of her ship.
Quinvera swung her curved sword in a deadly and precise figure of eight and then flung a jagged bolt of ice from the tip of the blade. But the luck of the fey was not with Quin this morning, the icebolt cut it’s way through several lines before burying itself under the raven’s nest.
“Damn it!” Quin cried. “Get down here and fight you big brute!”
Sara skipped backwards with a look of utter terror on her face. She fell backwards into the hallway that led back to the kitchen. Jamila, on the other hand, sprung into action. She grabbed the nearest line and began climbing upwards into the rigging. It was clear the former lizard driver was unaccustomed to swinging through an airship’s rigging, but she made resolute progress toward the raven’s nest.
Alias flexed his wings and launched into flight, desperately trying to escape the raven’s nest. The condor was hit hard, and momentarily caught, upon the beast’s jagged antlers. Alias half-fell, half-flew in a chaotic spiral of condor feathers to the deck below.
“We’ve stirred up a nest! But, perhaps they seek only to defend their nestlings?” the Prophet yelled, a human again with a badly bleeding leg. “Let us shake the first one loose and fly, should they follow, we will know their true intent.”
Alriak reached into his witchbag and tossed some dust into the air muttering, “Breath of air from nature comes, cleanse this place with winds that gust.”
A strong blast of air rocked the creature on the raven’s nest and threatened to dislodge it and send it careening from the airship. But it clung to rails and snarled in defiance, “Two spell flingers? I’ll eat your hearts and feed your bodies to my young!”
Ali stepped back into the hallway and helped Sara to her feet, the two former merchants cowering in the cover of the aft-castle.
“Come on then! Come on, let’s ’ave ya!” First Mate Hanbal yelled as he placed his back against Quin’s and waved an axe in each hand.
The huge creature leaped from the raven’s mast and plummeted toward the deck. It landed with a crash among the companions on the deck. It lunged again at Alias with it’s deadly antlers but the wounded druid was able to roll aside. The other two, forced away by Alias’ prayer, were rapidly returning. One from the port-side, and the other from the starboard.
Far above the deck, Parizade began a series of arcane rituals. The flaming elemental began to awake within it’s harness, slowly at first, the burning inferno of the ship’s engine was coming to life.
Quin leaped at the beast, her iron sickle sword slashing it’s flanks. It barely caused the creature to flinch, but it was at least enough for the druid to scrabble to his feet and back away from it’s crashing hooves. Alias bumped into Jamila, who had crashed back to the deck in her haste to reach his side.
The Prophet raised his voice in prayer, as the former slave stood between him and the creature grasping nothing but a wooden belaying pin. A jagged bolt of lightning ripped out of the morning sky and electrified the beast.
Alriak reached again into his satchel and tossed a small feather and a handful of sand into the air. “Wind! My friend, please come to aide in my hand. Please form your blade. As sharp as any weapon known and stronger than if formed of stone.”
Holding a black shield, emblazoned with a shiny starfield, and a blade made of nothing but whistling wind and air, the witch ran to join Hanbal and Quin. The First Mate’s axes rose and fell but, despite the girth of the Templar’s arms, they failed to penetrate the beast’s thick hide.
“There is no magister aboard this vessel.” Alriak yelled. “Who is it you seek?”
“Magister! Witch!” The creature reared up on it’s hind legs it’s hooves lashing about it at anyone close enough, and gouging with it’s antlers. Alriak caught a glancing blow to the shoulder. “Your magic-using hearts taste of the same lies and falsehoods!”
The other two glided over the melee. Their bizarre sibeccai-like shadows trailed beneath them. The two flew at Jamila and Alias; the unnatural shadows reaching, stretching, grasping for the pair. Alias leaped aside into the deeper shadow of the aft-castle, but Jamila was not so fortunate. Her own shadow was swallowed by the shadow of the flying creature, merging and melting until they became as one.
Both creatures landed heavily upon the deck, the one before Jamila cackled madly, at seeing their shadows enmeshed together, “You’re mine now!” It snarled.
The other charged down, like a bull out of the sky, it’s antlers spearing Alias in the chest, and it’s hooves kicking hard at his stomach driving the druid backwards against the ship’s rail and landing in an ungraceful crash.
The airship lunged forward. It was not a steady start, ripped from it’s magical anchor by the genie’s urgency. Jamila and Alias both stumbled with the sudden motion, falling to the deck, but so, too did their attackers, their hooves and talons scattering for purchase on the hard-wooden planks.
Quin slashed again with her curved sword, cutting another slash into the thing’s hide. The mage blade then drew her dagger from her belt and lunged. The dagger sank deep into the creature’s neck and it collapsed immediately. Quin didn’t relinquish her grip, driving the blade deeper and straddling the dying monster in it’s violent death throes, bellowing a defiant war cry.
Jamila swung her makeshift club at the slavering jaws approaching her, but the creature only gave an evil laugh. Alias dragged himself defiantly back to his feet, these stag-harpies had an evil shadow. Was it possible that thing had somehow tethered itself to the slave-girl by their shadows? These stag-harpies must have the touch of Hell upon them, the Prophet hadn’t felt this devilish presence since the Black Mist threatened Yhakkoth. These things were demons, slaves of those Fallen angels that had betrayed Shoshanna.
“Ullrey, Witch,” Alias cried, drawing his sword and rushing forward. “Mind the shadows, I fear the one called Jamila has been majiked! Quin, May the Great Mother shine upon you and your sword! They will not reason.”
“Quin, if you command the genie of this ship I beg you tell her to get us out of here quickly.” Alriak called out as he rushed to Jamila and the Prophet. He started to pass a healing draught to the Prophet.
“Defend your women, witch,” the druid cried out gasping from his chest wound. “I have not traveled this far to be struck down by ranting harpies!”
The witch turned back to the monsters, still scrabbling for purchase on the racing deck, and raised his hands. A thick fog rose up from the deck around the witch and spread outwards. Alriak, Jamila, Alias and the two creatures were soon enveloped and obscured from view.
“Quickly now, ship mates!” First Mate Hanbal bellowed. His powerful voice carrying to all corners of the deck. “Everybody get inside and brace yourselves. Captain, cut the engines and dive. We’ll shake ‘em loose while they can’t see! All hands, inside, and grab a-hold!”
The Templar raced for the hallway to the kitchen, joining Ali and Sara.
A torrent of high-pitched threats and curses began from within the blinding mist, the two creatures clattered around on the deck unable to find their prey. One of the two stumbled against the rail and fell overboard, screaming, as it struggled to correct it’s unexpected fall.
The Princess Parizade had been steadily gaining altitude since it bolted free of it’s anchorage. But now, the fiery living engine suddenly went dull and the nose of the Royal Airship immediately stopping rising and began to dip. This was what the First Mate had been anticipating, “All hands! Get yer arses indoors or grab a-hold!”
Quin returned her sword to it’s sheath, her dagger gripped tightly she raced for the kitchen hallway. The closer she came to the doorway, the steeper the incline became, the Merchant Sara leaned out of the doorway and grasped Quin’s outstretched hand. Jamila appeared from the obscuring fog and, in turn, grabbed Quin’s hand. The women fell into a pile in the hallway as the airship continued to fall steeply. None of them noticed how Jamila’s shadow stretched, defying all possibility, through the doorway and back into the fog.
“I shall fly down and kill their younglings as punishment." Alias’ voice called from within the fog, which appeared to be spreading, engulfing yet more of the deck. "Let us see if their little ones enjoy the taste of lightning!”
From below the rapidly descending airship came the sudden bleating, screaming cries of the young creatures and the enraged yells of the stag-harpy left to watch over them. In the hallway, First Mate Hanbal was the only person still on his feet, and the only person in a position to watch as the two stag-harpies launched themselves from the deck and flew upwards and free of the obscuring fog. The fairy breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the shadow release it’s strange grip upon Jamila’s shadow.
“I reckon we’ve seen the buggers off,” he said.
The deck righted itself, parting the crest of a massive dune in it’s wake, and shot across the sky faster than the creatures could hope to follow. The thick fog quickly dissipated with the passage of the ship’s motion, revealing Alias and Alriak in a tangled heap of their own against the ship’s railing.
“I’m impressed you land lubbers kept your feet as long as you did,” the First Mate chuckled. “You’d do well to keep your condor wings handy if you’re going to stay on deck when we have to take such defensive maneuvers.”
The bump on Alriak’s head throbbed with every movement as he looked over the side of the ship. “I think we managed to shake them.”
Alias smeared blood from his mouth with the back of his hand. He flicked the blood upon the deck … an alarming amount, much of it covering Alriak’s robes and fur. Very much still bleeding and bruised, he smiled at Hanbal.
“In my land, surrounded by a great sea of blue they say upon a midsummer’s night you can see the man in the moon. Here they probably see a dog.” Still smiling he spit more blood from his mouth and his chest wound steadily dripped more upon the deck. He staggered a little.
“The albatross tells me the air gets thin if you fly high enough,” he said still gurgling slightly and with raspy breath. “You can see how the whole world turns against itself as it spins. Up, up, up. Some say if you go too high you can’t come down at all. Like falling up. You would do well to keep your condor wings handy. Handy. Up, up, up, up.”
The Prophet laughed, with even more blood oozing from his chest and face. He turned and swooned, passing out on the deck.
“We should try and get him inside and stop the bleeding.”
by Ian Hewitt
Ali, of House Summonel (NPC)
Alias, Prophet of Anaru (Doug Harris)
Jamila the Driver (NPC)
First Mate Hanbal (NPC)
Princess Parizade (NPC)
Quinvera the Tall (Donna Hewitt)
Sara, of House Summonel (NPC)
Game Master (Ian Hewitt)