I have been remiss in my journaling, I know. It seems that fate has seen fit to give me all the time in the world to rectify that. Now we are stuck in the flow river at a snail’s pace because a ghost blew up our helm.
So, where to begin? I suppose I did leave off on a dramatic note with my last entry. Needless to say, we survived our trip through the demi-plane of time, a lot worse off than when we began our jaunt. Things seemed to be going swimmingly: smooth sailing through pretty colors, when all of a sudden, there was a great lurch to the side and then we were spinning, spinning, spinning off course, colliding into long tentacles of time-flow and I felt a pain somewhere along the lines of how it felt to be in the plane of fire, but with a splitting headache to boot.
How we managed to emerge, I do not know, but when we did, it was a great relief to be back in prima materialis, for sure. Lenata wrestled the ship back under control and we were righted again, only to see a battle in progress.
There were two ships: one a much more advanced and battle-ready looking elven warbird and the other a ship class I had never seen before. Floating free in the space around us were bodies—some in elven fleet uniform, and others more akin to the orc Ef-Utan had described from his daring brawl aboard the slaver ship on Refuge. Their armor was red and intimidating and I knew that the ship the elves were fighting belonged to them, or they to it. Having taken the loss of half our crew and sustaining damage from our trip, I was hesitant to get involved in the fight. The other Spelljoined and I had a quick, quiet conversation by the helm about what chances we faced against the unknown military force of these new adversaries. It appeared, even at a distance that the elves were losing. Twenty years and new innovation on their warbirds far outclassed our poor, outdated haunted hammership, but in the end, we agreed to pitch in with the elves and render what aid we could. Hopefully our superior numbers and a fresher opponent would turn the tide. The element of surprise was on our side.
Lenata piloted while Kenari and Ef-Utan led the teams at the ballistae. I commanded the forces on the catapult. The iron hull of the nasty-looking mantis ship took the bolts from the ballista with nary a flinch. The catapult made a loud ringing sound as the heavy stone hit, rocking the ship slightly. The enemy quickly assessed the threat, apparently singling out the catapult for return-fire. We lost a crew member to the flaming rock they hurled at us with a sickening crunch, missing me and the catapult itself by mere feet. That really ticked me off. I had those who remained of my team hoist the flaming rock into the lowered arm of our catapult and hurled it right back while Kenari and Ef focused on hitting enemy crew members with the bolts, knocking off some, impaling others. The flaming ball hit its mark, rocking the enemy vessel, tossing a few of their crew off the deck and out past the air envelope. The elves were rallying.
It was over in seconds. One of the elves hit the Red Mantis with a massive lightning spell, and the entire vessel exploded from the forces arcing deeper within. Weary but triumphant, our crew mourned the loss of one of the few who braved the journey with us while Lenata and Kenari prepared to render healing to the elves as they pulled along side.
A few scrapes and bruises amongst our still-living crew were easily enough dealt with using mundane first-aid. I let the talkers do the talking over on the Elven Fleet ship while I tried to salvage some of our crew’s flagging morale. The Hadozee were a great help, swinging through the rigging and shouting our triumph to the stars while they fixed a bit of the damage the ship had sustained from our trip and the subsequent battle. Their high-spirited antics brought somewhat of a smile to tired faces.
When Lenata and Kenari returned, we had a command staff meeting about what they’d learned of the shit we’d just stepped into. The Orcs were called the Scro and they were at war with the EIN. We’d only been gone fifteen years, not twenty. The Tenth Pit had gone quiet, although we were some of the few who had actually been trying to document what they’d been up to, officially. The Elves had bigger worries than a handful of sneaky dealings in seedy parts of town, apparently. The Scro were their big, bad, boogeymen: an organized, military force of physically superior fighters with the intelligence and warfare technology to match their own.
I’ve never been one for politics, maintaining a legal living on a little rock in the primes had been the extent of my aspirations for a long time, but even I knew that a war on this scale effected everybody, not just the combatants. Once it was clear that we’d have to return to some of our old haunts to gather more information pertinent to our quest, we took the offer of an escort from the elves to the nearest planet within their control to finish repairing our ship.
On our way there, the ghosts chose THAT moment to become unpleasant and eerie. No one was hurt, but it rattled us to hear the screaming, watch the bleeding, and see and actual apparition hovering off the back of the boat.
We made safe port and made our repairs and prepared to search our information and try to re-crew the ship. The others went chasing down information. I just wanted to sleep in a bed on a semi-stable surface, so I rented a room for the night.
We departed for Waterdeep in the morning to get some supplies. Kenari wanted to check on some portals so Lenata and I went with the Hadozee to get what we needed and a few things we might be able to get a profit from wherever we’re headed. Running supplies in war could be very lucrative for us, as Ef put it, and I was more than willing to try to offset some of the costs of repairs to the ship with a paying gig. Although Ef kept the books, I’m a bit of a spendthrift, choosing to save for a rainy day where I can. I don’t really require much, at least I didn’t used to until Simmi took up his expensive snacking habits, that is. We laid in the supplies and prepared to ship out once again, this time toward Refuge. Kenari wanted to see her beu and I couldn’t blame her. I was hoping to talk to Tain once again, as he was one of the few I knew who would understand watching those he knew age around him. No wonder he seemed to like elves. Speaking of elves, I’d like to see how the last decade-and-a-half had treated those two who had been so cruelly kind to me. I still can’t work out how I feel about their gift to me. Did they know that I was afflicted with addiction to it? Were they taunting me? Or was it merely a gift meant only in the lightest of ways? I have plenty of time to dwell on it, now. Too much time.
While we were en-route to Refuge in the Flow, the Ghosts attacked. Ef-Utan was on watch and Lenata was not at the helm. I was sleeping while Kenari played cards with the Positai. I have all this only second-hand, as I was emerging from dreamless slumber while the first part of the battle was taking place. The most powerful of the ghosts was a mage and his powers went with him beyond death. Lenata was combating the lesser shades where she could while Ef faced the mage in that stride-in-and-break-skulls way of his. Kenari emerged on deck to join the fray only to be transported out somewhere into the Flogistan to slowly slip into stasis.
The battle had been raging for some time as I came out on deck to assess the threat. As I saw Ef giving the apparition all he had and Lenata finishing off the majority of the shades, the wiz-shade launched a spell that disappeared into the fore of the ship and I felt the lurch and shudder as Aspodel yelled “SHIT!” loud enough to wake the dead, had they not been awake already. We listed in the flow, but I had more pressing concerns to deal with. That Wiz-Shade was the biggest threat to us at the moment and Ef was getting tangled up in the line he was using to get within striking reach of the undead mage. The mage hit Lenata with a spell that sent her sprawling. I summoned up the Power banked within me to render aid to the two who had been my companions for two years and most recently, lovers, channeling rage into white-hot blades within my grasp. I threw them at the Shade with unerring aim and they hit,One,FLASH! Two,FLASH!,and he screamed, winking out into nothing as I readied two more of the blades.
Lenata was regaining her feet, heading below decks on shaky legs to check on Aspodel. Seeing this, I was soon at the railing, hauling Ef-Utan in. He nodded wordless thanks watching the last of the energy dissipate, crackling, from my hands. No words were needed.
“Where’s Kenari?” I asked, looking around.
“I don’t know,” he replied, concern etched on his face. “The Wiz-Shade teleported her. We have to find her.”
“That’s going to be rather difficult,” Lenata said, emerging from below with a worried frown. “The Helm is toast. I can’t repair an artifact like that.”
“She’s fine. She injured her foot kicking at the helm, but it was in a fit of anger at the situation. THAT I could fix, though I share her sentiment.”
“As do we all. Can we move at all?”
“Without the helm, we can’t achieve Spelljamming speed, but we can still sail the flow, a little. We’d be limping.”
“We’re sitting ducks.”
I drew in a breath and let it out, hating how it shuddered in my own ears. “Kenari first. She’s going to run out of air.”
“Agreed,” Ef-Utan nodded, succinctly. “We need to back-track to where we were when we lost her.”
“She could be anywhere,” I despaired for a moment.
“But at least she won’t die. She’ll be in stasis once her oxygen runs out and she breathes the Flogistan,” Lenata pointed out, momentarily lifting my flagging spirits.
“This could take a while. How long until she runs out of air?” I asked, trying to get a handle on the logistics.
“If she holds her breath for as long as she can, she has about eight minutes,” Ef figured.
“Then we’d better get started. Do you two have any magical means to aid and assist?”
And so it went. We used the last two scrying scrolls Ayrun had left behind for us to locate the cat who shared our linked destinies. Images of her being picked up by slavers a thousand years into the future or left to float the flow forever nudged at my thoughts, spurring me to be a little more… annoying than usual.
“Anything?” I prompted Lenata as she let the torn scroll float to the deck.
“Nothing. She must be out of range.”
We limped along further back the way we had come, the charmed sails letting us move as fast as possible, but it was still slow going. Ef-Utan tried with the second scroll when we’d reached the point where she’d ‘gone overboard’. “I think…. there!” He pointed in a direction and we had our heading. He held the spell as long as he could, getting our bearing as narrow as possible before we were playing a guessing game once more.
It took hours to get her back, but the glimmer of the sun-rod she’d been holding finally gave us her location through the pink, swirling mists. Ef tied himself a line once more, and I was his anchor on-deck. Never before have I been so glad to be so heavy! He floated out to her while I directed him as I could. He disappeared almost out of sight when he went to retrieve her, but a few hard yanks on the rope told me he’d got her. I hauled them in with a quickness, a few more of the crew adding their strength to the pull behind me.
Ef hauled a what looked to be a statue of Kenari back on deck and we watched anxiously as she regained her color, finally wheezing out a breath and sucking in real air. I let out the breath I hadn’t been aware of holding as she muttered something about needing a drink. Oh, thank goodness! She was going to make it. Lenata was on the deck on her knees next to the cat in a flash, checking her over properly even as she admonished Kenari about her delicate constitution being upset with alcohol.
So, here we are, floating along in the flow river. By Lenata’s calculations, it will take us a few hundred years to make Refuge’s sphere. We’re hoping somebody comes along before then. If they’re friendly, we’ll ask for a tow. If they’re foes, we’ll try our hand at piracy and take their ship and give ourselves the tow.
We’ve got enough supplies to last, and Lenata can freshen up our air a bit every day. If things get really really dire, there’s always the Flogistan should our air completely run out. Even though Kenari doesn’t want to repeat the experience, I’d say it beats suffocating to death in our own exhaled air. Now, we wait and hope.