Date: Fear’s Day, 18th Dar 798 P.L. (Mid-afternoon)
Location: On board, The Gaia.
The ship’s master-at-arms, a seven-foot tall, stick-thin fairy with pale blue skin and a braided green beard was fiercely yelling orders at his crew as he tossed longspears at the sibeccai and crossbows at the fairies. Despite the danger, the master-at-arms shared a wild grin with Sarubek the Strider as their passenger armed himself alongside the crew.
The seasoned crew had their ship, The Gaia, under control. They were armed, but who could know if they were ready? The merchants had disappeared below decks, mad with panic for their precious cargo. The master-at-arms had selected a 15-foot long trident and was already recklessly balanced upon the ship’s rail, the weapon poised at the crashing waves below. The Captain of The Gaia held a white-knuckled grip upon the Ship’s Wheel, and her tail switched back and forth nervously, but she laughed out loud as looked up at the airship above them. The Princess Parizade banked steeply and descended, the fire elemental that powered the airship roaring fiercely and spinning about the ship in a revolving inferno.
The dragon turtle surfaced directly beneath the Seelie vessel and capsized her in a moment, with a single terrific blow. Fairies and sibeccai, merchants and crewmen, crashed into the blue-green waters, others fell upon the very shell of the monster, and others still clung to the wreckage of the ship where it had come to rest upon her side atop the turtle’s shell. The waters of the ocean raged with the wreckage and detritus of the ship, the violence of the turtle’s thrashing flippers, and the panicked splashing and floundering of too many sailors. Steam rose with an evil menace from the dragon turtle’s nostrils.
“All for Shoshana! ALL! This wretched beast will not defy destiny!” Without fanfare The Prophet dived off the airship, hurling himself toward the massive turtle below. Quin leaned far out over the rail, her sword skimmed the surface of the waves, cutting deeply and slashing red lines across the turtle’s head when she saw and heard Alias plummet from the stable doors below her and somehow splash-land onto the turtle’s shell.
“That crazy bastard.” The half-fey smiled. “Better make sure she he stays safe.”
Quin shook off the golden shawl that protected her from the sun, and climbed the rail. Without hesitation she dived gracefully off the airship’s balcony, arcing downward toward the waves. Even as she did so, the turtle made a terrible sound, like a pot screaming at the boil. It’s jaws opened wide, and a cloud of scalding steam engulfed the entire rear of the air ship. Quin dove through the steam cloud, hitting the water in a haze of pain. She surfaced amid the thrashing waves some fifty feet in front of the approaching turtle, and the survivors atop it’s shell.
The Prophet had fallen ahead of the steam cloud, but even so, he narrowly evaded entangling himself within the rigging of the ship wreck atop the turtle’s shell. Instead, he splash-landed hard into Sarubek and the blue-skinned Master-at-Arms, scattering several fairies and sibeccai who had mustered around the longspear embedded in the barnacle-crusted shell; a few clutching spears, all half-drowned and terrified.
The Prophet regained his feet, and raised his hands and his voice. “Am nacan Os so Dem lac.”
The Prophet’s prayer froze the spray of the ocean and conjured a lance of jagged ice. The ice lance flew from Alias’ outstretched palms and struck the dragon turtle in the back of the skull in an explosion of ice crystals and turtle blood. The creature raised it’s huge head and roared in pain.
On board The Princess, the stables were in chaos. The scalding steam had filled the place, burning everyone within. Alriak was on his hands and knees, horribly burned, it was all the young witch could do to drag himself away to safety; Jamila lay face down, dangerously close to the open bay doors, her legs were convulsing, her feet beating an ugly rhythm on the deck; Ali, the constant fidget, lay still, so terribly burned that his fur was shriveled into damp, crusty curls.
Only the genie remained on her feet, her own burns superficial. She screamed aloud, wordless grief and rage, and gathered up Jamila carrying her quickly into the griffon rider’s quarters and laying her down upon The Prophet’s bunk. Sarah arrived in the stable doorway, terror twisted the pretty girl’s face into one of horror.
“Help her!” Parizade shouted.
First Mate Hanbal had slowed the airship down and, in a testament to his skills as a pilot, he was maneuvering barely thirty feet above the dragon turtle matching it’s pace and path. The three ropes that Ali, Jamila and Alriak had secured trailed across the shell. The crew of The Gaia began to swarm up the ropes, half a dozen sibeccai sailors and fairy crewmen swinging in the wake of the airship. A number of other fairies took flight under their own initiative and flew directly to The Princess, alighting on the nearest deck and thanking The Mother for her mercy.
Those who couldn’t reach the ropes, scrambled to do so; thrashing through the water and screaming for help or climbing the rolling turtle shell and racing toward the ropes. Others though stood their ground, the Master-at-Arms clapped The Prophet on the back.
“Wonderful work, human.” The blue-skinned fey wore a broad smile. “Today we are alive, no?” He raised his trident and led a small group of crewmen in a charge upon the turtle’s head. Sarubek stayed behind, beside Alias, and drove the longspear as deeply as he could into the shell. The muscles on his arms bulged as he drove and twisted and levered the spear with all of his considerable might. The shell cracked and Sarubek felt soft meat beneath.
The turtle roared and dove beneath the waves. It’s huge mouth opened to bite Quinvera but she twisted in the water and collided with the side of the turtle’s head avoiding it’s jaws. She kicked her powerful, long legs and swam clear of the turtle’s wake, all the while continuing to slash at the thing’s head and eyes with her curved blade.
Two other sailor’s thrashing in the water were less fortunate than Quin, a fairy and a sibbecai were held fast within it’s maw. The turtle was swimming much faster now, and was already a couple of feet below the waves. On it’s shell, the wrecked Gaia shifted, twisted and began to come loose; several of those sailors scrambling at the dangling ropes were swept from the shell and those fighting alongside their Master-at-Arms, thrusting and stabbing at the back of the turtle’s head struggled to keep their feet.
Quin glanced upward at her airship, pleased that so many had already made it to safety but terrified for those who had been caught in the steam blast… but she couldn’t help them yet. She could help these poor souls in the water. Quin snatched a trailing rope and hauled herself above the waves, she extended a hand to a fairy whose wings looked broken and bedraggled, she pulled the little fellow out of the water and onto the rope.
“Let it go!” Quin screamed, waving her arms frantically at Alias. “Alias! Let the turtle swim, get them back in the water and up these damn ropes!”
She could never tell if Alias actually heard her or not, but as the turtle began to disappear beneath the surface, the druid raised his open hands to the blue sky muttering to no-one in particular.
“I tire of you great turtle,” the Prophet said, beside him Sarubek hammered the spear several more inches beneath the shell, a scarlet stream darkened the waters about the longspear and Sarubek clung to it as the water level rose above his knees and threatened to wash them away. “Be gone or be consumed by holy fire – descend and flee, or stay and die. The choice is yours, turtle.”
A pillar of divine flame roared downward from the Heaven’s at the Prophet’s direction. The fire engulfed the turtle’s submerged head in suddenly boiling, scalding water. The turtle screamed a terrible, bubbling cry of pain and dived sharply. The wreck of The Gaia gave one final lurch before breaking loose, the hull shattered as it broke free of the turtle’s shell. The water roiled and frothed as the massive creature disappeared beneath the waves. The wrecked ship slowly beginning to follow it down into the gloom leaving behind an ocean littered with flotsam and jetsam, the dead and the wounded.
Quin swung from the rope beneath her ship, one furred hand and one slender ankle curled around the rope like a gymnast, her other hand reached for Sarubek and plucked him from the waves. “Welcome aboard The Princess Parizade.” Quin smiled.
Quin called out for her animated sickle sword to fly back to her hand and once the last of the survivors were pulled from the water the Captain returned to the chaos on board her ship.
The crew of The Gaia, a motley mix of half-drowned sibbecai and fairies were gathered by the open stable doors watching the last of their ship disappear beneath the waves. Those that had made it aboard, anyway – only about a third of the crew – the rest had been lost with their ship or taken by the turtle.
Alriak was writhing in agony upon the floor. The turtle’s steam breath had burned the young sibeccai terribly; his brownish-red fur was curled to a crisp. Beside him, Jamila looked even worse as she lay in Alias’ bunk. The big woman’s breath was harsh and labored, she did not have the strength for screams. Sara was poised over them both, desperately holding their hands but at a loss for how to help.
“The Prophet!” Sara screamed. “Where is the Prophet?”
The brave Ali was simply dead. The genie held him in her arms, her blue hair had come loose of it’s braid and obscured her face, but floods of tears wracked her body as she cradled Ali’s burned corpse. Quin quickly pushed her way through the crowd at the stable doors and rushed to Sara’s side.
“Easy, Sara. Give her this,” Quin reached into her satchel and produced a handful of dark brown barhi dates. She squeezed one between her finger and thumb, breaking its ripened flesh into Jamila’s mouth. “You poor woman.”
Jamila gasped and her eyes focused as the blessed fruit slid down her throat, “Goddess be praised. Bless you, Captain.”
Sarubek looked about with concern at the wounded. “Though it is outside my expertise to heal, I gladly offer my assistance with any other task which needs doing. However, as soon as we have a moment to gather our thoughts, I would discus with you all the intended destination of this vessel.”
Below them, the ocean fell away as once more, as First Mate Hanbal took the ship up into the air and turned her westward toward the faraway horizon.
“Indeed.” Said Captain Khafaz, formerly of The Gaia. “A thousand thank yous for your timely rescue, you have such a marvelous ship. But, it must be said, that we appear to be headed in entirely the wrong direction.”
Captain Quinvera didn’t seem to have heard them. The tall half-fey had turned her attentions to Alriak, and was gently feeding him one of the blessed dates. Once the worst injuries were taken care of amongst the living, the Captain turned her attention to the dead and directed The Princess and Sara to take Ali’s body to the mosque belowdecks. Only once they had taken him away did she turn to the others.
“We are headed south and west.” Quin answered Sarubek.
“Very well,” said Sarubek. “Whatever your purpose may be aboard this airship, I must make my way to Myr’Sooq at the nearest opportunity. However, as you have saved my life and many others among this crew, I am in your debt and am obliged to help you with your current objectives.”
“I am Captain Quinvera of The Princess Parizade. We make for The Feyen Isles on our own business. Which is exactly the right direction, Captain Khafaz.”
“The Princess Parizade.” Captain Khafaz said, his eyes (and those of his crew) wide. “A ship of legend, lost and found. I’d heard the rumor before we left The Red City, but I’d given it no more mind than any other sailor’s tale. The way I heard it told, the Heroes of Yhakkoth had rescued the Sand King’s long-lost ship and were soon to present it to him in the name of their city. The Sand King was so excited that he’s announced a 13-day fight in the Colosseum; one of the biggest ever held. If all of that is true, and you’re returning this stolen vessel back to it’s rightful owner, Captain Quinvera, then I say again, you’re headed in the wrong direction.”
A cheeky smile lit Captain Quins face, “If you set sail from The Red City, Captain, then you’re no friend to The Sand King and neither is he to you. So I’m going to pretend I didn’t just listen to your patriotic preaching and we’ll stay friends.”
She glanced behind her to make sure that Sara had gone – she didn’t want to rub sand in old wounds, and Sara had been desperate to be set down in Lilanna… “We will not be diverting from our current course. But neither will be gone for very long. It may be that we can set you down in The Red City, and in Myr Sooq Master Sarubek, upon our return. In a week or two. I think you’ll find yourself comfortable enough in the meantime.”
Captain Khafaz was grinning from ear to ear at Quinvera. He replied, “Very well, my Captain. You have the right of it, of course. We are your honored guests and one thousand times thankful for your rescue. I will see my crew into their quarters and vouchsafe for the conduct. If you have any need whatsoever, of any of our considerable talents and skills, you need only ask.”