Finally, we’re ready to go!
Lenata has happily straps herself into the Helm while the others mill about, seemingly just as unknowing of what to do on a ship as I. At least I’m not alone in my lack of experience now.
An unpleasant thought strikes me and I turn to Wilhelmina. “You wouldn’t know how to fire that catapult, would you?” I ask hopefully. If there’s the off chance that we might get into ship-to-ship battle, I hope to the Gods that somebody knows how to fire it.
“Why yes, little kitten, I am well versed in its mechanics,” the Giff nods and smiles. “I could always use two others to help and learn, however.”
Who me? Shoot that thing? I am not a creature of war. Perhaps… ah hah! “Ah,” I say with a smile as I walk over to Ef Utan and clap a hand on his shoulder, “that’s what we have strapping young men on the ship for!”
“Man,” Ef Utan corrects me with a raised brow as he obviously wonders what I am getting him into.
“Ah yes… my mistake,” I say as I quickly back my way towards the outer deck. “But I am sure you’re man enough for what Wilhelmina requires!”
And with those parting words I make my way to the outer decks and nearly fall to my knees at the sight before me.
So many stars, so close to the touch… the sheer majesty of it brings tears to my eyes as I grip the rail and fervently wish that my father could be here beside me. “If only you could see, father… I’ve gone farther than I’ve ever dared to dream!”
I run the back of my hand across my cheeks to compose myself when something odd catches my eye. Everything else looks like we’re standing still… except for some odd shaped oblong thing in the distance tumbling towards us.
“Hey… guys!” I shout over my shoulder to the bridge as I point into the distance. “I think there’s a big rock or something heading our way!”
Ef Utan comes out onto the deck, squints into the distance and mutters, “That’s not a rock… looks more like a ship of some kind.”
Veddis lets out what I can only assume to be a muddled curse of some kind and quickly goes to inform Lenata. Perhaps she recognized it?
I shift my balance as the ship veers to the left and watch in amazement as what I could only describe as the bastard offspring of a boat and a snail comes tumbling end over end past us. As we all meet up again on the bridge we are told by Vedis that the thing is a Nautiloid, known to be piloted by Mind Flayers.
“You mean those things the Lady of Pain flayed in the street?” I ask nervously. As much as I want to explore that ship to see what we can find… I am rather reluctant to encounter those things without continued divine interference.
“The same,” Vedis confirms.
“From the looks of the ship, it seems to be in quite the state of disrepair,” Sephira comments. “Perhaps anyone on board is in the same state? If we send a stealthy party across, perhaps we can find out safely.”
And suddenly, everyone is looking at me.
“You did say you wanted to do something, didn’t you?” she continues pointedly.
“Hey, it’s not like I said I wouldn’t go,” I say with a nonchalant grin. “How do I go about getting over there? Magic? Grappling hooks and ropes?”
“Teleportation is not in my repertoire, unfortunately… so hooks and ropes it is.”
“You all are so lucky!” Wilhelmina pipes up as she cradles her gun lovingly. “I would go with you… but I promised I would stay on the ship!”
“As it should be, considering Lenata has to stay at the Helm,” Sephira assures her. “In fact, I will stay here as well. There’s no sense in me flailing on a rope in space holding the rest of you up.”
“Then with Lenata’s piloting and the assistance of your strong arms, Wilhelmina, I think we can get some ropes over there and check this thing out,” I say with an excited grin.
We quickly make our way over the ropes to a large hole in the side of the ship. Why look for a door when a large one is provided for you?
“Bast protect us!” I mutter as I come up behind Vedis to see the tall tentacled creature standing there.
“Good thing he’s already missing part of his brain,” Vedis points out as she starts exploring the room. “Gah… this place is humid and smells like dead fish.”
Heh… sounds like some days on the wharfs of Gheldeneth… but the smells are definitely where the similarities end. Ef Utan follows in behind us and checks out the body while I search the room for anything written down that may provide us some information. After a few moments we both have success as Ef Utan finds a pouch with blue stones, and I find a number of charts that may be of interest to us… or at the very least maybe to the Seekers. Ef Utan tosses the stones to Vedis, who smiles when she catches them. “I can use these!”
“Hey,” I put the charts in my pack and nudge Ef Utan. “Do you think you can give me a boost so I can check out that hole in the ceiling?”
He takes a look at the ceiling and then an appraising look at me (trying to guess my weight I imagine) before nodding. “Sure, no problem… I could probably lift you over my head if I need to.”
He quickly lifts me up and I gaze around the upper deck to see another Mind Flayer bolted to the wall, as well as more of them in Helms connected by a strange silvery goop. “Looks like everybody’s dead,” I say as I scramble up. I look down and try not to snicker as I watch Ef Utan struggle to boost Veddis. She is a tall and willowy lady… but a lot heavier than she looks. Trying to aid as best I can, we combine our efforts and manage to get Vedis up to join me.
“Do you see any stairs going down anywhere?” Ef Utan calls up.
I quickly look around but the only stairs I see are behind some rubble. “Let me just toss you a rope,” I say as I grab one out of my bag and Vedis starts wrapping it around her waist. Thankfully he’s able to climb up without too much difficulty and manages to join us.
“Sephira wants us to grab a bolt from the Mind Flayer so we can try to investigate its make,” he suddenly informs us. I raise a brow in curiosity at this sudden statement. Mages… they do have their strange ways to go about things.
“Sure thing,” I say as I go to check out the impaled Mind Flayer, and Vedis investigates the Helm.
“Hey, I bet if I sit in this thing I could…” Vedis says as she runs her hand along the main chair.
“NO!” Ef Utan and I both turn to exclaim.
“That’s probably not a good idea; weird things might come out of it and attach itself to your head to make it explode or something,” I say as I wave my hands around my head.
“Fine… whatever… never get to do anything fun…” she mumbles as she crosses her arms and starts to look elsewhere.
Meanwhile, I take my dagger and pry one of the bolts with my dagger out of the pinned Mind Flayer with ease. “Interesting,” I say as I clean off the bolt and examine it. “The workmanship is quite nice. Whoever fired this definitely had money… or at least access to it.”
As I look over some of the other bodies in the chairs I notice a set of manacles made from iron and some kind of strange crystal hanging from its belt. “Slavers?” I ask in disgust as I lift them up with a finger to show the others.
“That’s probably how they packed their lunch,” Ef Utan jokes, but the smile is obviously quite forced.
“Disgusting,” I say as I spot the jars of brains smashed on the floor and quickly drop the manacles into my bag. You never know… they still might prove useful somehow.
Suddenly there is a sound of skittering that unnerves me and I quickly duck into a corner and do my best to become a shadow on the wall.
Suddenly Vedis grabs her head and Ef Utan draws his sword in rage. I look around but can’t see anything, but then the noises turn from skittering to a hellish gibbering that I fear will haunt my dreams.
The voices! Gods, stop the voices in my head! Can’t think… can’t…can’t…
…think! We are in danger… I must focus! As I scan the room in a panic I see Ef Utan facing a disgusting creature of slime and mouths with his sword and Vedis doing her best to catch the damnable thing on fire.
“I hope this works,” I whisper as I ready an arrow and pop up from my hiding place to shoot it in its… well… I shoot it, anyway. It jerks for a moment and then the arrow is quickly absorbed by the goop.
“Damn it… I knew I should’ve gotten some of those guns!” I mutter as I duck down and ready another arrow. I peak around a crate just in time to see the creature rear up and seemingly consume Ef Utan as it sprays its slimy goop everywhere.
“Gods, no!” I exclaim as I frantically shoot more arrows into it.
Vedis grunts in frustration at the thought of potentially boiling Ef Utan alive, and draws her dagger to stab at it with a powerful shout that seems to rock the creature momentarily.
We then start to see Ef Utan struggle from the inside, trying to pierce the creature internally to make his way outward. If we can see his sword making its way through… then I hope to the Gods that means we’re doing damage to this thing.
I whisper a fervent prayer that Horus may guide my arrows flight, and as it pierces the horrific goop it explodes in a wave of disgusting fluid, leaving an exhausted Ef Utan and some eyeballs and teeth to fall to the ground.
He gets up from the ground of his own accord, but while he doesn’t look injured he definitely doesn’t look too good; worn out… almost like he’s suffering from a wasting disease. Soon as we get back to the ship we should have Lenata look at him to make sure he’s ok.
Meanwhile… I want to know what’s behind that intricate door that creature was standing in front of.
I creep carefully through the slippery goop and peer through the partially opened door to see what looks like personal quarters, with a rather large Mind Flayer crumpled in the corner and a dead human left in stocks. My nose wrinkles in disgust. Lunch, indeed. “Looks like a bedroom with another dead squidy and a dead human,” I exclaim as I open the door further and check things out.
This Mind Flayer is much larger than the others. Its robes are of a rich quality, and to my joy I find that he’s carrying many interesting things from rings and stones to strange crystals and jars of pink pellets. As I look further, I notice a glint of gold in-between the slimy tentacles hanging from its slack face. With a grimace I spread the tentacles apart to see its beak-like mouth holding a small hexagonal coin. I pry it out with my dagger and wonder at its plainness; it has no stamping on it at all. Perhaps the Seekers will know more of it?
Vedis calls out to us that she hears more skittering, and that’s our cue to get out of here. As we make our way back across the ropes I notice with concern a strange rat like creature with an exposed brain on the outside of our ship.
“Wilhelmina! Shoot it!” I exclaim as I leap onto our deck and point to the creature.
With a grin that shows she’s only too happy to comply, Wilhelmina raises her rather large gun and turns the rat into a spray of mist. “Oh, I do so love targeting space rats!”
We all make our way back to Lenata (except for Ef Utan who goes to lie down) and I hand her the charts that I found. “Can you read these?” I ask hopefully.
She smiles as she takes them. “Give me a moment, and with Celestian’s blessing I can.”
She closes her eyes for a moment and utters a prayer before unrolling the charts to examine them. I sit on a chair with my legs crossed in my lap and am about to start pulling things out of my pack when she holds up a piece of paper and exclaims, “I think I’ve got an answer, here!”
We all gather around her as she continues. “It seems that the ship was named the Void Reaper, and carried the Ilithid Ambassador to the Neogi on board. He had three identifying items that were this paper, a sash, and a seal.”
“Well, we’ve got the paper, anyway. If whoever killed it took the other parts, why not this paper too?” Vedis wondered aloud.
“Perhaps they just didn’t know how to read Ilithid,” Sephira remarked sagely.
Hmmn… could that strange blank coin in the creature’s beak be the seal? There weren’t any markings on it… maybe it’s a magical one? Now it is definitely something I want to ask the Seekers about.
While no one thinks it’s a good idea to let the Mind Flayers know what we found… perhaps the Seekers could play the intermediary for us. I just have the bad feeling that no matter what it’s going to come back to them that we were on their ship… so better to cover our rears, I say.
After a brief discussion and Lenata checking up on Ef Utan, we decide to continue on to Barr Sinister to try and follow our lead on Eric and his Orc Barbarians. It doesn’t seem to me that his crew would be the culprits of the raid on the Mind Flayers; the attack just reeks of money and expertise.
More things to ponder, I guess… but not until after a hot bath to clean off this goop and have a well-deserved nap.
I wake up and enter the bridge just in time to see us arrive at Barr Sinister. It looks very similar to the Rock of Braal in a way… but on a bit smaller and lot dingier scale. Lenata must have her trepidations about the place, as she loses focus at the Helm and uncharacteristically scrapes alongside the asteroid with the ship to the dismay of some drunks trying to relieve themselves off the edge. Perhaps things will be better off if she stays with Wilhelmina and the ship; we wouldn’t want her obvious “goodness” to cause us any problems here.
“I’m going to stay on the ship too and check out the goodies then,” Vedis says with chagrin. I was not aware that she and Lenata shared the same philosophy. Ah well… I think the three of us can handle it.
“Remind me next time not to let the pilot have any honey mead!” I say jokingly to them as I disembark to look around.
“More like Dwarven Firewater,” Ef Utan snorts as he follows behind with Sephira.
“Okay, “ I say as I clap my hands together. “Sephira plays the rich lady, Ef Utan is the bodyguard, and I will be her servant if anyone asks.”
Sephira walks up beside me and raises a single brow.
It only takes me a moment before I realize what I just said. “Silly me… should’ve told you all just to be yourselves.”
“Come on, let’s go,” Ef Utan mutters as he steps to the front and we walk past strange docked ships to get to the bar.
“So which of you strapping men can direct me to that hottie of a mercenary Eric?” I say with as much charm as I can muster as I sit on top of the bar and lean over to show my cleavage. “I’ve been hoping to get my hands all over his body and maybe get his autograph… but every time I go looking, he keeps moving somewhere else!”
“Ah, you mean that blonde good-for-nothing and his scraggly Orcs? Haven’t seen them in a while,” one of the men grunts.
“That’s a shame… I heard his boat was sooo big!”I don’t care what sphere I’m in… a man is a man until he’s something else.
“Bah! His boat is tiny… which is why he surrounds himself with big men!” This exclamation sends a chortle through the men at the bar.
“I’d love to compare his boat to yours someday sweetheart, but that would require him to be here, wouldn’t it?”
Out of the corner of my eye I see Ef Utan nudge Sephira.
“Indeed, the scallywag seems to owe me a substantial amount of money and I would like to collect,” Sephira states with aloof calm.
“Not my problem if he stole from you, lady,” the man grunts as he takes a swig of his ale.
“Hardly; he lost a bet.”
“Hah…now that sounds more like him. Last I heard he was too hot a commodity with the Elves to go back to Shipwrecker and wanted to set his sights on Baruda.”
I reach over and twirl a strand of his hair as I lean over. “Thank you, sweetie; you’ve been most helpful.”
“Kramer is the name, ma’am. Keep the alcohol and the sweet talk flowing, and I’m your man if you need any more information.” And with that he grabs his hat and leaves, muttering something about draining lizards.
“I think we’re done here,” Ef Utan says as he scans the bar. “Shall we go fishing?”
As we get back on board we find that Vedis’ experiments with some of the devices I found have resulted in some interesting clues. The manacles are psionic dampeners (handy), one crystal does the agitating thing that she used to puff up my fur when we visited the Demiplane of Dread, but the rod with strange forks on the end is still unknown. The other items appear to be magical in nature; non-psionic at the very least.
The truly interesting thing, however, is the memory that she found stored within the blue sphere. Apparently it recalls the memory of one Blackrazor the Pirate talking about the Bendor Cluster and how the Siren qualities of the Spelljammer caused their pilot Kavalox to almost kill them all when he couldn’t resist its call.
Curious… is the lure too great for those who wield magic, or did the Spelljammer know the true nature of these pirates and try to cause their demise on purpose?
I ponder the nature of flying fish cities and before I know it we are coming in to Baruda air space.
“Looks pretty basic out there,” I say as I gaze out the window to see vast expands of ocean only occasionally marred by islands with a few huts here and there. “I doubt he’s going to try and mess with these people… so perhaps he’s going to hit other ships coming in to trade?”
“We should find the biggest settlement, land, and see if we can ask some questions,” Ef Utan states plainly.
“Agreed,” says Lenata as she closes her eyes to focus on our flight. “I’ll see if I can bring us in closer.”
I can feel the ship slowing and dropping into the planet’s atmosphere as we come across what looks to be the largest collection of huts that has a dock.
Vedis and I eagerly disembark to see this new land, but as soon as we step out onto the docks we are greeted by a shimmer of light that turns into one of the most beautiful snakes I’ve ever seen. Never have I witnessed such colorful wings on a reptile! Could these be… yes… I think I heard sailors tell stories of animals like this in a far off land called Maztica; Coatl-something… what were they called again?”
Oh goodness… it seems that the winged creature didn’t take kindly to Vedis.
“It wants us to go. Now,” she tells me before running back to the ship.
I do my best to remember the way the priests acted back home and step up to talk to the feathered serpent. “Oh great winged one,” I say as I clasp my hands together and bow deeply. “We mean no harm to this planet or its people; we only wish to find a villain who wishes to harm this place and stop him from hurting anyone.” I remain in the bow as I fervently hope the words work.
“Your words are as respectful as they are full of animal droppings,” the serpent says. “Are you telling me you do not wish to try and sell Spelljammer technology to the people of this place?”
“Would never dream of it, oh wise and merciful one. We are merely here because we are tracking a pirate named Eric with his Orc Barbarians; we have no wish to interfere with your people.”
“I have seen no such person or creatures,” the snake replied.
“Then I am glad that we were at least able to provide warning,” I say as I bow again. “We take our leave of your fine planet, and wish it the utmost safety.”
“So much for that lead,” I say in frustration as I find my way back to the bridge. “Now what do we do? I still say we should go back to the Seekers to see if they know anything about all of this.”
“This time I have to agree with Kenari,” Ef Utan says.
“As do I,” Vedis adds. “I’d like to see if that Gith sage might pay us a pretty penny for that memory.”
I’d like to get paid too, my stony friend… but I’m hoping to get paid in information.