“So what have you been doing in the last nine months since we parted, Kenari?” asks Vedis as she waives her hand over at one of the waitresses in her new favorite haunt, a fancy Captain’s bar called The Edge on the outskirts of Bral. “Last I saw you had a bit of an entourage, didn’t you?”
“Yeah… after rescuing all those slaves from the 10th Pit I couldn’t just leave them now, could I? Once I discovered what happened to Bast I figured it was time to go home again and let the temple know, so I took them with me in case any of them wanted to return.”
“So what happened?” Vedis prompted after she took the new mugs of ale from an outstretched tray and slipped the waitress a nice tip.
“Well… before you knew it Irisi was spreading stories of our adventures in the bazar, Shariti & Raziya got the rest of them together to clean and fix the temple and people started knocking on the door for help…”
“That you provided for a minimal fee, I’m sure,” chuckled Lenata.
I affect a look of surprise on my face for a few seconds at least before I lose it and laugh. “When it comes to freeing slaves I’ll gladly waive my fee. I figure we’ve got to keep up appearances now that the Pragmatic Order of Thought are such fans, right?” I wink as I take a gulp of ale and wipe my chin with the back of my hand. “Now if they wanted to donate to the temple rebuilding efforts, though, I wasn’t about to stop them. Turns out Shariti has a talent for the paperwork, so I left her and Irisi in charge for a while."
“So tell me…” I lean forward and rest my elbows on the table as I set my mug down. “What happened to the boys?”
“Off on some male bonding trip in Acheron, last I heard,” mutters Vedis.
“Actually…” says Ef Utan as he drops a pouch of coins in the middle of the table and pulls up a chair along with Word and Melchior, “we were sent on a bit of an errand by Estefan to pick up a chalice for him.”
“Next to round is on you,” Vedis replies as she waives over another waitress.
“Well that’s interesting…” mutters Ef Utan as he unfolds a piece of paper that was stuck to his mug.
“I swear… five minutes back in town and the girls are already throwing themselves at you,” I laugh.
“Trust me,” replies Ef Utan with a concerned look as he reads the note, “Luigi isn’t my type. Apparently people are asking about us and we should be staying alert.” He scans the room with an expert glance before leaning in to whisper into Vedis’ ear, “Male elf in a large cloak at 2 o’clock.”
Vedis closes her eyes for a moment and takes a deep breath as she grabs her head and pretends that the alcohol is getting too much for her. Lenata and I lean in to check on her as she mutters “cold focus tinged with disgust… definitely watching us.”
“See your problem is that you’re getting sober! I’ll go get us some more drinks,” I say aloud as I get up and squeeze Vedis’ shoulder, acknowledging our target. I make sure to stumble in a drunken stupor as I make my way to the bar for a handful of ales, and as I head back towards our table I trip and spill my beer on him.
“Oh my goddess.. I’m so sorry for my clumsiness!” I exclaim loudly as I grab a rag from one of the passing barmaids and attempt to clean the beer from his boots as I get a closer look at the stranger. Odd… I’ve never seen armor like his… it’s something strange and green all the way up to his neck and it’s practically form-fitting to his skin. The man growls in displeasure and I figure I’ve only got a few moments more, so I lean in and use the arms of his chair to help myself up to get one last look at him… as well as a pouch that seems to be easily detached from his belt loop. What the heck is that thing coming out of his neck? It’s long and thin and…
“Get off. Now.”
“Yes sir… so sorry sir…” I mutter as I bow repeatedly and stash the pouch in my sash before returning to our table.
“Sorry about the beer, but…” I begin as I sit down, but I’m interrupted by Word.
“Our friend seems to be leaving.”
“Crap… Kenari, see if you can get a better view while Lenata and I follow him,” Vedis replies sternly before she gestures to Lenata and they both head out the door.
I quickly follow and scamper up the drain pipes to the roof for a better view, but I can’t seem to find any trace of him. I do manage to overhear a rather disgruntled patron complaining about a rude wizard who ran into him, though. I remain on the roof until Ef Utan and the others walk out of the bar and jump down to land beside them.
“Let’s head back to the ship… it’s obvious that vacation time is over.”
Once we get back to the ship we all gather in the galley with cups of coffee in hand as I pour the contents of the pouch onto the table between us.
“Hmmn… gold is gold… but that black box…” Vedis begins as she points at it.
“… is trapped more than a rich man in a cathouse,” I warn as I prevent her finger from getting any closer to it. “There’s bad mojo all over this thing. I’ll see what I can do with it once we’re done here.”
“I did a little research as your description of our stalker struck a chord, Kenari… and I think I’ve found something,” says Lenata as she lays open a book to show an illustration of the strangest looking Elf I’ve ever seen in shiny green armor with those odd things coming out of the back of his neck.
“What the heck are those?” Melchior exclaims.
“Insectare,” Lenata answers grimly. “An unholy combination of insect and Elf, the Insectare are amongst some of the most racist creatures you’ll ever wish you never met. They have a deep-rooted hatred of Elves, and after trying to infiltrate the EIN there’s quite a bounty out on them.”
“So do you think they’ve got a problem with us helping out the EIN in the past?” wonders Vedis, “or were they just being their usual asshole selves?”
“No telling… but if they’re here on Bral, I should let Aladan know,” Lenata replies.
“Ok… let me take this in the back room and see if I can get this box open before we head out,” I say as I gingerly pick up the box with a silk handkerchief and head back to my room with Dassam so he can assist me.
“There…see? It wasn’t that hard…” I chuckle wryly after an hour as I wipe the sweat from my brow and set down my tools.
“Yeah… piece of cake..” mutters Dassam as he puts the fire blankets and emergency med kits away. “So what’s in there, anyway?”
“Something very shiny… and very nasty,” I reply as I gaze at the large black pearl sitting inside the padded box practically radiating necromantic energy. “I think we’re going to need some help with this one.”
“We need to get rid of it,” says Lenata as she looks at the pearl in barely concealed disgust. “The aura from this thing…it…”
“Makes you feel like you need a shower?” I offer.
Lenata shudders and rubs her arms as she nods in agreement. “Perhaps Gamelon Idogyr can dispose of it properly?”
“He’s been busy with the Inhuman War last I heard,” replies Ef Utan. “What about the clerics at your temple?”
“It’s as good a place as any to start.”
It doesn’t take long for word to spread once we show the black pearl to the priests of Celestian, and soon we’re joined by the Bral Guard and Mordon Rhome, the Right Hand of Prince Andru himself.
“We can’t thank you enough for your service to Bral, and the Prince himself is grateful for bringing this dangerous object to our attention,” Mordon announces in a tone so pandering that I have to stop myself from rolling my eyes.
“Hey… isn’t that what took out Dragon Rock?” I hear one of the guards in the back whisper before Morden looks back with a quick frown. Goddess… if this thing is similar, it’s capable of decimating the population of an entire town and turning them into an undead army in moments.
“If you obtain any more information, I trust you will report it to the guard directly,” Morden continues with a bow before taking the pearl and leaving with his guards.
“Dammit… what do we do now?” asks Vedis. “I trust them with that thing only slightly more than I do the bugs.”
Lenata takes the pouch the pearl was in and talks to one of the clerics for a moment. The cleric then takes the pouch and nods before retreating into the temple. “We’ll see if they can scry anything from that pouch… but until then, it’s time to start asking questions.”
“Excellent,” I say as I clap my hands together excitedly. “I’ve been wondering how they’ve been doing over at the Shady Rest, and I hear they’ve got some fantastic mutton this week.”
“Balon? I’m afraid he retired… moved back to his summer home with the family. Meridan is the Guildmaster now, but don’t worry… the family doesn’t forget their friends,” says the Halfling bartender of the Shady Rest as he pours a round of drinks.
“Afraid we’ve been out of the loop for a while… anything interesting happening lately?” I ask as I lean against the bar and spin a gold coin on the counter.
“Lots of people coming and going these days… they discovered a pair of new flow rivers, so now that the war has been sticking to Realmspace people are getting brave and going exploring.” He scratches his beard for a moment. “Now that I think of it… there was somebody asking about you guys the other day… some scruffy blonde human.”
“Always appreciated,” I reply with a smile as I push the coin across the bar and take the drinks. “Let me know if you hear anything else, would you?”
“Well… there’s not a whole lot of scuttlebutt going on here, anyway,” I say with a sigh as I sit down at our booth with the drinks. “Some blonde guy is asking about us, but other than that, it’s your typical day. You guys have any luck?”
“Other than a lady complaining about a weird lack of psionic activity in Krynnspace, not really,” Vedis frowns.
“Well you know what that means then…” says Ef Utan as he passes on the ale I try to hand him.
Vedis eyes light up. “Woo! Bar crawl! Let’s hit the Rock Rat next!”
The seedy dock bar is quite busy tonight… probably because of all those “brave explorers” coming to check out the new flow rivers. I take advantage of the crowd and do my best to blend into the shadows so I can listen in to the latest news without being observed. There’s the usual arguments between clerics of Celestian and Ptah and Seekers and POT-heads sharing meals… but when I get to the table of EIN soldiers that my ears perk up; apparently the Elves have been talking about us back in port. Interesting…
Melchior, however, heads straight to the bar to ask some buxom ladies for any information. Heh… probably not the information we’re looking for, but you never know.
I stop to watch him when he suddenly goes silent, and notice that he’s staring at a cloaked individual in the crowd who seems to be watching us. He makes to move his duster to the side to show his guns… and then turns a lovely shade of pink as he remembers the rules of Bral.
Yeah… I didn’t like having to leave my guns on the ship either… but you know… fireballs.
I move closer through the crowd and try to get a better look at the cloaked person… but try as I might all I can see is their heavy brown cloak and their very nice boots made out of iridescent reptile skin. Everywhere else I look it’s like it’s just a blur…
Suddenly a (what do you know) scruffy blonde human along with his entourage of friends strides into the bar and dumps a bag of gems on the counter.
“Drinks are on the house, thanks to me… Captain Random!”
I take this as my cue to head back to our table as a rush of people push their way to the bar for their free drink. “Dig the ego that just walked in,” I joke as I sit next to Lenata.
“That’s what happens when you’re related to people in the Palace,” she replies. “That’s Corwin Shipwright, Irdana Shipwright’s son.”
“Who?” asks Vedis.
“The woman who designed the Dolphin ship? One of the best ship makers in all of Bral? Leader of the Shipwright Guild?” Lenata offers.
“I think he’s cute,” replies Vedis distractedly as she watches him gesture wildly and regale the bar with a story. “I’ll be right back…”
“Here we go… might as well order food then as we’re going to be here a while,” I say with a roll of my eyes as I grab a menu.
The evening passes relatively uneventfully as we eat dinner and pick up on the latest news: Apparently the influx of explorers is partly because of the Seekers, as they’ve been commissioning ships to map the new flow rivers… particularly an area where wild flow rivers lead into a group of spheres called the Maelstrom. An inebriated Scion verified the news about there being no psi powers in Krynnspace… and wouldn’t stop talking about how the Mind Flayers stuck there have turned into primitive beasts. Realmspace is indeed the hotbed of the Unhuman War between the Ein and the Scro… and if ships try to take it into Greyspace they quickly get destroyed by Mordenkainan and the Circle of 8 patrolling its borders. And lastly, an old summoner informed us that Vedis’ asteroid home of Suvah will be coming back into phase in 6 months.
When I tried to share the news with Vedis, however, she was nowhere to be found.
“Don’t bother… she went home with Random,” Lenata informs me with a gentle hand on my arm. “She’ll meet us at the ship in the morning.”
“Well, I’m feeling restless… I’m going to take a shot and see if I can find any leads on our mysterious man with the nice boots,” I reply as I stand and leave a few coins on the table.
Melchior finishes his shots before standing up and only swaying slightly with the help of Word. “We’ll join you…”
“I’ll make sure Lenata gets back to the ship then, and we’ll meet up in the morning,” says Ef Utan. “Be careful.”
“Well damn,” I mutter as I walk out of a shop to rejoin Word and Melchior. “It doesn’t look like our mysterious stranger got his boots here on Bral, anyway. Let’s head back to the ship.”
“I do believe we are being followed,” warns Word when suddenly a slender human male bumps into Melchior before moving on.
I may be tired… but this rogue wasn’t born yesterday. “Hey, stop that guy!” I yell just as the guy breaks into a run. Word stumbles over the drunken Melchior as they try to follow. No wonder he was marked… still… a drunken Inquisitor is nothing to try your luck with.
Thankfully for us, the thief isn’t much better as he trips and falls on his face in the road. We finally catch up to him and Melchior steps on the thief’s wrist as he returns his stolen coin purse to his belt. “CRIME DOES NOT PAY, AND ALL EVIL-DOERS SHALL BE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE BY MERLYND’S FAITHFUL!” Melchior announces loudly to any passer-bys in the street.
“Come on, crime fighter… it’s time to sleep off those drinks,” I chuckle as I pat him on the shoulder and we all make our way back to the ship for a good night’s rest.
After a long morning of hangover cures administered by Ef Utan and Word the next morning, we all gather at Luigi’s for a much needed steak lunch.
“I seriously need to get a license for my guns… I feel naked without them at my hip here,” laments Melchior.
“My luck with guns, every time I get to a planet where I can legally use them I find they won’t work because of magic or something,” I chuckle ruefully.
Vedis, Ef Utan sit down at the table with Ef Utan’s right hand man Takero joining soon after.
“We managed to make a decent profit selling the cargo we’d picked up,” says Vedis as she pours herself a drink. “Man, the service here stinks! I could show these barmaids a thing or two…”
“Did you find out anything, Takero?” asks Lenata to hopefully change the subject from Vedis’ displeasure.
“I made inquiries in Shu Town and heard news of a ninja there making a name for herself… but nothing of the Insectare.”
“It seems that it’s going to be difficult to find any information here,” says Lenata. “The tension in the air from the Unhuman War and Bral’s strained attempts at neutrality is palatable.” She removes a parchment from her jacket and unrolls it on the table. “I received this notice from the Seekers that they are paying for any maps that can be made of the new flow rivers, however. Perhaps these new rivers and our new enemies aren’t a coincidence?”
“At the very least it’s a good chance for us to not only make some money, but get in good with the Seekers,” agrees Vedis. “Do you think we should upgrade the ship before we head out there?”
“Well you’re the one spending time with the shipwright’s son…” Ef Utan interjects with a barely concealed smirk behind his napkin.
I nearly choke on my coffee. “I’ve heard from the POTs that the Chain Men are out there making new maps too. I wouldn’t mind if we happened to disrupt a few of their activities while we’re out there…”
“Then it’s settled then. We’ll gather whatever cartographer equipment we need and see if we can hire a few Seekers as map makers once we’re done with lunch,” says Vedis.
“Word, Takero and I will make sure the ship is stocked and we’ll meet back at the ship,” says Ef Utan with a nod.
We end up getting two cartographers from the Seekers to join us, with the warning that we need to keep an eye out for EIN and Scro ships as they’re interested in scouting out the new rivers as well for potential strategic strongholds. I’d tell them about some of our previous encounters with the Scro and the last guide we picked up… but that’s best saved for when we’re in mid-flight.
Apparently these new rivers head straight out from the Spiral, with one heading to the Maelstrom and another to a large nameless sphere that seems to be a crossroads to whatever is on the other side. I’m all for exploring the nameless sphere… because ‘Kenari Crossroads’ has a nice ring to it.
Lenata plots her course and we’re smooth sailing…
…for a while, anyway.
We’re barely into one of the new flow rivers when the atmosphere starts to get thick up on deck with swirling clouds.
“Somebody…anybody… you need to get on deck and see this!” a crewman warns over the tubes. The mists don’t stick to the deck, however… and soon seep into the bridge.
“On your guard!” shouts Ef Utan as ghostly skeletal apparitions in ragged uniforms swirl around us.
“I’ve never seen them manifest so strongly,” says Vedis worriedly as she summons her psiblades.
My hand itches to grab my pistols, but damn it… we’re in the flow and I just can’t risk it. Instead I grab my wand of healing in the hopes that its positive energy can keep the ghosts away from Lenata while she pilots the ship.
“Tell us what we can do to help you rest,” pleads Ef Utan to the spirits, but it does no good as it screams and its torn flesh falls from its face.
Lenata grips her chair tightly in concentration before sending out a wave of positive energy that rips through the mist and dissolves many of the ghostly figures. The ones that are left fly about the bridge and slam into me, Takero and Word.
I can’t speak for the others… but I’m nearly sent to my knees with nausea and an inescapable feeling of doom that has me gripping the back of Lenata’s helm tightly lest I run away. I zap one of the spirits coming near her with my wand, and nearly shout in relief when I see our Positai crewman joining the fray and chanelling his own energy against them.
A slightly more intact spirit of of a male dwarf tears into the room as Vedis’ mindblade flies through it and hits the wall. The spirit stops and turns to us with wild eyes as he yells, “What are you doing? Run for your lives before they eat you!”
Eat me? I can’t let them eat me… I’m too pretty! Besides, my fur would cause all kinds of… what am I saying! I’ve got to get out of here!
“No way you freaks are getting a hold of me!” yells Vedis as she makes her escape off the bridge.
“Wait… it’s a compulsion!” Ef Utan yells after her.
“It’s a trap, is what it is, and you’re not catching me, you cannibals!” I yell as I follow after Vedis. I’ve got to get off this ship!
Word flies past me and manages to wrap his arms around Vedis. Damn… the warforged must be working for the cannibals! I try and roll past them in the hallway but something hits me on the back of the head and I soon fall unconscious. Hopefully I don’t wake up on a spit…
Well I’m not on a spit… but I am tied up in my room. Dassam is standing by the door and looking at me with a concerned look… probably because he’s wondering what to do with all the fur when they skin me, the bastards. Thankfully there isn’t a rope that can hold me for long… and when he’s listening at the door I take my chance and leap at him.
“Dammit, love, I’m trying to help you!” Dassam growls as he flips me over his shoulder to the ground. I hiss and snap as I struggle, but his strength is no match for me as he wraps his arm around my neck.
“Sleep love… I will watch over you and keep you safe… I promise,” he whispers before I black out once again.
- Nomad lost in the flow – souls stuck from their gods
- Dreamspace destabalizes Helms
Compulsion fades in 4 days. 1/2 day later another one appears to the captain and extends a skeletal finger in her direction. “You must lay us to rest!” “SONGSPACE”