“So where is Lenata these days, anyway?” Kenari asked Ef Utan as she dropped a crate of supplies on deck and a rather excited looking junior priest from the Temple of Celestian practically skipped up the gang plank. “I know Aspodel has flown the ship before, but visiting the Sapphire Mage isn’t exactly a trip to the corner store.”
Ef Utan snorted. “We may be persona non grata with the EIN, but she certainly isn’t. She’s helping her boyfriend with some hush-hush military project.” He checked off his list and slapped his clipboard against his thigh. “We’ve got enough supplies for what should be a 5-day trip, barring any unexpected jumps.”
“As much as I’d love to see what the future holds, I’m more than willing to let it occur at its own pace,” Kenari chuckled. “But just in case, I did write a letter or two.”
Ef Utan rolled his eyes. “Come on, scaredy cat….let’s get this show on the road.”
Streaks and swirls of light passed by as Aspodel piloted the Nomad through the Ether. Vedis hands twitched behind her back as she paced and looked up to gaze out the bridge window, when suddenly she stopped short and put her hand to the glass. “You’re not right,” she whispered to herself and stepped over to the communication tubes. “Kenari, get yourself to the crow’s nest and tell me what you see at our 10 o’clock!”
Kenari sighed and put her tobacco back into her pouch as the commands of the captain echoed up the pipe. “So much for that smoke break.” She secured her belt and donned her gloves, and then with a hop onto a crate and a leap she scurried up the rigging into the crows nest high above. As she stared into the distance, she could make out the details of what looked like a dilapidated sailing ship with tattered sails on a convergent starboard course crewed by skeletons that seemed to wink in and out of existence. “Now who might you all be, and why are you heading in the same direction?” She peered closer and spied a worn flag that she could just make out as belonging to a minor noble of one of the Dream deities. “Oh Vedis will love this,” she snickered and leapt over the side to make her way down the rigging.
“You’re sure that’s what you saw, Kenari?” Vedis asked.
“Aye-aye, Captain,” the tinny voice responded through the pipe.
“Huh, not who I thought, but interesting nonetheless,” Vedis muttered to herself.
“What is it?” Melchior questioned with a raised brow as his hand reflexively rested on the grip of his pistol. “Should we call battle stations?”
“I don’t think so,” Vedis reassured him. “If they fly the flag of Lucien the Librarian,” chances are they are on an information gathering mission and are not looking for a fight. We don’t even know if they know we’re here, to be honest.”
“So no fights with skeletons?” Melchior asked almost with an air of disappointment.
“Lenata’s not here” Vedis replied. “For once let’s just leave the ghosts in peace.”
Eventually they finally arrived at the lone tower of the Sapphire Mage, still seemingly standing guard over the swirling portal that once saved their lives by sending them decades into the future.
“That’s odd,” Kenari said as they pulled into the dock and the crew began throwing their towing lines. “Didn’t we get met by a clockwork entourage of guards last time? I’m not seeing a soul around.”
“Could be that whoever took the Sapphire Mage took care of his security too,” Ef Utan replied as he gripped the hilt of his sword. “But nonetheless, we should all be on guard as we check things out.”
“I don’t know, Ef,” Vedis said as they passed through the entrance, one of the doors hanging limp from its remaining hinge. “Take a look around, it looks like whatever happened here happened… eons ago.” She kicked up a cloud of dust as she toed a worn and faded rug.
“Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey,” Kenari muttered as she looked around at the turned over tables, broken glass and strewn pages covered in dust. “There’s no telling how long it’s been.”
“Well keep searching, everyone… maybe we can find evidence of what they came for,” said Ef Utan. “Be careful of the wards though, it looks like there’s still some active ones around.”
“Hey, it’s me!” Kenari grinned. “Careful is my middle name.”
Ef Utan snorted. “See that it stays that way.”
Kenari chuckled as she turned and began searching the room. Her eyes followed footprints in the dust as they led to one of the windowsills. “Now what do we have here?” She said to herself as she ran her fingers along the edge and her claw found the thin crack of a panel. She crouched down and pried the panel away to find a small switch. When she flipped it there was a satisfying click and a compartment opened to reveal a leather notebook, strange metal cylinders, and vials that she picked up to reveal a strange fluid that flashed multi-colors in the light. “Hey Vedis, maybe this is what they were looking for?”
When Vedis didn’t answer she looked to see the captain staring raptly out of one of the other windows. “Vedis? Did you hear me?”
There’s a flash of light outside the window that causes Vedis to step back with hand raised. She blinks her eyes and shakes her head, then steps back to the window. “Hey guys…. I think we’ve got a visitor.”
Gosh, what a cliffhanger!