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  #256  
Old 09-14-2019, 06:33 PM
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Cyprian Thoros
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Cyprian had decided, in the light of new circumstances, not stay with the ship. Ron escorted those with better social attributes to the meeting with the Margrave, and Cyprian accompanied them-- Stealth 22although it was unknown to them so far.

He stood in an inconspicuous shadow, unmoving with a view of the gates where Ada, Doc, and Zara had walked through. He watched Ron and Pharos outside the gates, but he was too far away to hear the two.

The assassin knew he couldn’t be everywhere at once, but Zara was with them, so he chose to trail them once he let those still aboard the ship know where he was off to. Confire had already made an attempt with Zara...Why she still breathed after her encounter with him, and was left brutally unconscious was an unbearable mystery.

Cyprian frowned to himself, his fingers twisting the ring under his gloved hands. Why was he still breathing, for that matter? Certainly, Confire could’ve easily killed him when he had the chance, considering there was no room for ‘someone like him’ in this new world the great evil had planned. Confire couldn’t really be that arrogant?

Cyprian’s lips twitched. Of course he could be that arrogant to relentlessly toy with them all. It was Confire, for godssake.

His fingers reached for the bridge of his nose, cursing himself at where his unfiltered thoughts had ended up. He needed to stop obsessing over the man. Every waking moment-- and now his sleep, was riddled with thoughts of his betrayal; of where the arcanist might be and what he was doing. Attempting to strategize against a phantom behind fog was doing him little good. It only led to his mental and emotional fatigue.

One problem at a time. He dropped his hand away from his face as he crossed his arms, his shoulder resting against the cool stone of a building beside him. The ship was the precedented issue, and he hoped that the combined efforts of all three of them, of Ada, Bellamy and Zara, that they could secure it. He had little doubt in Ada’s ability, for certain. Even from the start, he had noticed her potential to rally and impact those around her-- though, it seemed as if she were unaware of it. Or, perhaps she was simply humble and diverted any sort of acknowledgement or praise.

His mind wandered back to the Grassy Gnoll, though, and he re-lived a painful disappointment. He had needed to hear more. Not some repetitive stew of the gods after that tribulation. But, what exactly he needed to hear to make himself feel better? Cyprian didn’t know.

He couldn't fault Ada, though. What else could she have said in those dark moments? Sometimes, there simply was nothing to say other than to spew rhetoric of the gods and cling to it. Not that he ever would, but it helped her and that's what mattered, in the end.


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  #257  
Old 09-15-2019, 02:40 PM
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Alys
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Alys' rest that night wasn't particularly...restful, unfortunately. The events of the previous day were too fresh. The mayhem, the bloodshed, the fate of those unfortunates they'd been unable to save. Even the reception that Zara Kotsk had received from her boss, there. Alys was used to her anger being quick to emerge and quicker to depart, water under a bridge. The fiery roil she'd experienced lately felt different. It was still present, albeit reduced to faint background noise as she laid there deep into the night. She knew why, too. The attacks on her mind, attempts to peer into her or control her violated everything she held dear. Alys wouldn't let her freedom be compromised, especially not by some alien monstrosity trying to tear at her thoughts. She suppressed a shudder at the memory of Confire and slowly faded off to a fitful sleep.

The next morning, Alys accompanied the group as far as the gates. She wasn't in any particular mood to exchange words with the powers that ruled the city, and even she knew just how tense negotiations were likely to be. Alys would have to put her faith in Ada and Doc...she really wanted to keep the airship.

So, instead, she stood outside with the stoic-as-ever Ron. Unfortunately, it only took a few moments boredom set in. Her eyes wandered the plaza, looking for something to keep herself entertained, but came up short. She settled for raising a hand and letting water pool there, before having it dance in neverending and constantly shifting patterns. It at least kept her mind occupied, even if her body itched to do something.

Pharos arrival was a welcome distracation, and Alys let the water patterns drop to the stone beneath her feet without a second thought. She glanced over at the small...mini-dragon? Whatever it was, then over at Ron. The big man had been keeping his eye on the gates, as loyal, stalwart, and implacable as always. "Ronda does Ron's talking for him, usually," Alys said, mostly serious. The big man might not have much to say in person, but Ronda was an eloquent lady in her own right. Scarily so.
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Old 09-15-2019, 03:12 PM
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Ronald ‘One-Bone’ Devyn
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To Ron’s great surprise, Cyprian isn’t leading the expedition to the margrove-place. It makes no sense to the enforcer that the boss should choose someone else to speak for the group. Surely, a boss should always speak for himself, right? Regardless, Ron trudges along with the others through the crowded city. There are people everywhere, shouting, walking, running, pushing and standing in everyone’s way. It takes all the focus he can muster to keep his eye on the others and make sure those guards aren’t up to anything funny.

When they reach the gates of a palace bigger than Ron could have imagined, he stops, offering to take any weapons the others might have they don’t want to leave with the guards. Or, rather, soldiers. Ron makes a distinction between the two. Even if the men guarding the palace are probably classified as guardsmen, in Ron’s eyes they are soldiers. He can see it in how they move, how their gear is maintained and personalized slightly. They can handle themselves in a fight in ways a common guard can not. And probably take a hit without crying to their mommas.

One soldier in particular catches his eye. A big fellow, carrying a large, double-bladed axe. He stares at Ron as if he’d like nothing better than to have Ron start something, but the enforcer isn’t interested. It’s been a while since he felt like he had something to prove in a fight. He knows his capabilities, and is very confident he could beat the soldier in a one-on-one fight. Soldiers are trained to fight with other soldiers, using formations and tactics. Ron only knows how to break bones and kill people. And he knows this is neither the time nor the place to do either. His job is to wait for the others, out here with Alys. And to make sure nothing happens to the blue girl.

The flying lizard distracts Ron, first by landing on a lamp post and drinking some oil, and then by plopping down on a stone bench just as Ron is taking a seat. The thug stares at the lizard when it proceeds to ask him complicated questions that he has no idea how to respond to. How should Ron know if it’s to late for a lizard to go in a mangrove or margrove or whatever it’s called?

“The guard isn’t looking at you. He’s looking at me,” Ron finally replies, staring at the large soldier. “He’s good at his job, so he knows what I am. He just can’t do anything about it now. And if he did, I’d have to introduce him to Ronda, which would get us all into all sorts of trouble,” he states flatly. He ignores the rest of what the little creature has said and remains silent for a little while.

“You can fly,” he then states firmly. “So why do you stay here? Why don’t you fly until you find an island with only small lizards? Then you could be the king of the island. The biggest and toughest one. Instead, you are one tiny lizard in a city that probably has many like you fluttering around,” he says, looking up in the sky, trying to see if there are other sparkly lizards flying overhead. “I mean, it has to be better than to work with a con artist like Red,” Ron finishes.

He’s seen Red’s type before. Always with a scheme, just moments away from earning a lot of gold. All they need is a small investment to help them move some merchandise. Ron has lost a lot of gold to people like her. And beaten up a fair few, as a result, although most were smart enough not to let Ron find them.

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  #259  
Old 09-16-2019, 02:36 PM
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The airshipThe white and blue flames of the engines that Verdigris has grown accustomed to over the past day now have a hint of yellow flicking through them. Verdigris studies the engine on the port side. The fuel rod, or whatever it is, is no longer a bright blue. It has faded to a sky blue, with clouds of white roiling within.

Outside the KeepIt only takes a few minutes for the big gate guard to realize that Ron isn’t biting at his bait. The sergeant barks at the grinning man, who dutifully takes up a position on the interior courtyard, although he casts one last look at the barbarian.

Pharos laughs; a hissing little sound. "Sometimes I wonder if my ability to speak to minds has kept me from learning the finer points of non-verbal communication. You are interesting…" He looks Ron over. "…in a primitive sort of way. That was like watching a pair of bull bannogs meeting in a clearing!" The little historian is excited now. "Of course, I’ve never seen a bannog. Zara says they don’t exist. But the epic poems of Ingemar have been shown to be reputable in many of their other claims. In fact…"

The Margrave’s CourtAny trace of mirth vanishes from Brandon Zimmerset’s face while Ada speaks. Her powerful words bring a weight and a hush over the entire assembly. Many avert their eyes as the Dawnfather’s priest gives voice to their impending doom.

But some meet her gaze, albeit with varied reactions. Kao’s eyes hold respect, and the captain gives her a nearly imperceptible nod.

Father Hilliard’s round features twist in horror at her prophetic warning. His eyes carry belief…and fear.

The eyes of the arcanist, Pedref Kirs, narrow with disdain. He inclines his face and looks away, curling his nose.

The face of Estella Ladimar, headmistress of Westhall, remains an inscrutable mask. Her cool gaze shifts from Ada to Zara, but her practiced stoicism reveals nothing of her thoughts at these revelations.

As Ada scans the crowd, allowing the weight of her words to settle over the court, she sees another familiar face. Fat, sweaty even in the cool of the morning, clean-shaven and pale, the beady dark eyes of Lord Gilbert Rassier watch Ada intently. It is difficult to say if he recognizes her, but the squinting of his eye reveals that he is contemplating something.

Margrave Zimmerset does not immediately break the silence Ada left hanging in the air. His face is serious; the hint of a smile at his earlier joke is gone. Bellamy watches the man as he studies Ada. And Zara. And herself. He is unsure of something. His appraising stare shifts to Estella, who pretends not to notice.

The rest of the court watches their margrave, looking for some guidance on how to react to this prophecy of madness and blood. A few show hesitant smiles, waiting for tacit permission to laugh away this doom.

"Out." The margrave’s voice is firm, but not angry. The court seems unsure. A few laugh nervously, assuming that he is dismissing these petitioners.

"Get out!" Now Zimmerset looks at the gathered courtiers. "Captain Kao, have your Shields clear the court. You will remain. As will these three." He gestures to Ada, Doc, and Zara.

Without hesitation, Kao obeys. He gives a signal with his hands and the guards positioned around the room begin clearing the hall of courtiers. Pedref Kirs protests that the margrave certainly did not mean to include him in that order. Zimmerset ignores the man and he is hustled out of the room with the rest.

Minutes later, the room is quiet. Zimmerset steps closer to Ada. Kao stays close to him, appearing uneasy at his lord being in such proximity to persons of demonstrated power and unknown intentions. But the margrave seems to either not perceive or to discount any danger. He is intent on something.

"Six days ago…" he breathes deeply as he speaks. His voice is calm, but his eyes are wide. "Six days ago…I returned home at night from a survey of the southern fields. I entered my personal rooms and found…found…" Zimmerset’s hand shakes.

Kao interjects, "No, my lord!"

But the margrave ignores the captain’s protestation. His voice is steady as he continues, "I found my wife, Lillei, standing over the body of her chambermaid." He takes a shuddering breath. "The poor girl’s throat had been cut. There was blood everywhere. My Lillei was covered in it. And in her hand was the jeweled dagger I had given her as a wedding present. She turned towards me. Her…eyes were closed. She was smiling…such joy. She said to me, ‘I can see her, Brandon. Don’t be afraid. She’s beautiful. Blood and pain must precede her glory. But she is coming, like a wroth mother to gather her children. By her word, the flesh of her enemies will fall from their living bones.’"

The margrave’s eyes look through Ada as he relives this horror. "And then she collapsed," he says. "Her body lives. But the priests and the mages have been unable to revive her. They say that her spirit is not willing to return from…wherever it is."

Zimmerset shakes his head. He seems to regain his full composure. With a sigh, he continues. "I had hoped hers was an isolated madness. I allowed my advisors to convince me that it was unconnected to the other murders in the city, and that she would heal with time. I have been a fool. And so, I believe you. I believe you have seen whatever evil holds my poor Lillei. I believe you mean to fight it." His eyes turn distant. "And I believe you will fail." He says this with no condescension, in the matter-of-fact tone of a margrave passing judgement. "But I will not contribute to that failure. You may take your ship." He reaches up and clasps Ada’s shoulder as he makes his pronouncement. His hand lingers a moment, and the faintest smile touches his hard lips, as if he has drawn some tiny hope from the contact with this idealistic, naïve young priest.

"I will have my scribes draft the charter. I know little of the mechanics of powered flight, but I would ask that you allow my arcanists and engineers to study the ship before you go. Perhaps they can even help you to understand its workings. Is this acceptable?"

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Last edited by 4eyedBadger; 09-16-2019 at 05:39 PM.
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  #260  
Old 09-17-2019, 12:37 AM
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Doc sees Ada's speech wash over the bourgeois crowd, a wave that turned jeering smiles into concerned looks and murmurs, ending finally at Zimmerset himself whose face becomes grim. Well done, Ada! Bellamy thinks to herself fiercely, clapping a hand firmly on the cleric's shoulder. The Seven Knaves had sent the right emissary.

At the Margrave's command the court was cleared and there were tense few moments as the banished members of the court shuffled out. Most all gave the three women a wide berth as they departed, sparing only glances of concern and irritation as they left. But as Zimmerset tells his story, Bellamy relaxes slightly, her chin lowered and her mouth turned down in a frown of sympathy. It was a story that sounded depressingly all too familiar from Giran to Confire.

Suddenly a thought occurred to Doc and she leans over to whisper into Zara's ears. "Professor, is there any way for you to tell if there are any eyes on us?"


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Old 09-17-2019, 07:20 AM
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The mocking stung, but not as much as the pitying eyes of the Margrave. How dare they? She had been warning them about this for more than a decade, and now, right when her theories were being proven correct right in front of them all, they were treating her like some third-rate scholastic leper! She seethed silently, not even hearing Ada’s words. She glanced round towards Estella and could barely contain her rage at the smug look on her former friend’s face.

A small part of her was relieved that she had relinquished her spellbook at the door, because if she had it on her person… well, she may have acted with undue haste, and a fireball in such a cramped space would be messy.

Suddenly the room was clearing and Zara was completely confused. She started to move towards the exit, trying to keep as many bodies as possible between herself and Estella, but Captain Kao ushered her back into the room. What was going on? Then Zimmerset’s revelation explained everything. She sighed and shook her head, resisting the temptation to pat the man on the shoulder.

"Professor," said Bellamy, breaking her out of her reverie, "is there any way for you to tell if there are any eyes on us?"

Zara pursed her lips. "I would assume the Margrave would have this room secured, but whether we can trust those in control of the security measures…" She shrugged, looking significantly at Capatain Kao. "And if it’s that Kirs fellow who is running things then I’d say, no, we can’t trust it." She turned back to Bellamy, "Unfortunately, m’dear, without my spellbook there is little I can do to improve the situation."

 

 

 
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Old 09-18-2019, 10:04 AM
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Ada
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"Thank you.." Ada says as Zimmerset clasps her shoulder. While she says it with a straight face, she can't help but feel like she just shed a thousand pounds of bricks from her shoulders. It.. worked.. A small victory, but one they desperately needed.

"I would go to pray over your wife, but I fear time is something we do not have to expend." She reached up to clasp the man's shoulder, wary of Kao's watchful eye. "As many already have, you have seen this terror for yourself. Anything you can do to aid us would be appreciated.. particularly with regard to Zara's predicament. She may need access to the city and university archives.. and I fear her former employer may not be so... accommodating." She hoped that the Margrave Persuasion - 22might at very least re-open the doors for the scholar, if only temporarily. "Without her, the path forward may be lost."

"And absolutely about the airship, though it might be impressed upon them that time is of the essence. If it is acceptable, we will rejoin our comrades and prepare."



OOCDepending on how we want to move along, Ada would likely use Sending to contact Cyprian so that they could coordinate linking up and whatnot.

I can post or have it as background in your post Badger, whatever works.

And wow, I didn't know the odds were that slim. We will take it!


 


 
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Old 09-18-2019, 12:41 PM
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Meanwhile, back on the ship...
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Verdigris restlessly paced back and forth on the deck. Every now and again his gaze drifted back to the port engine with increasing concern. He hadn't quite followed Zara's explanation, but the rod was kind of like a log on a fire. The engine burned the rod, and made the flames, and the flames kept the ship in the sky. Somehow. But now things were changing. Was the rod burned out?

He cast around again. Everybody was gone. One by one they'd left for the meeting with the Margrave, or to follow the others or something. Now there was nobody to ask about this. He didn't mind being alone. It wasn't like the swamp, he knew where they were and they were coming back. They were still together even they were apart. But he didn't know what to do about the engine, and he didn't have any instructions.

After a few more minutes of anxious pacing, he went down into the body of the ship to find the extra rods someone had pointed out. He knew the ship could land, then it wouldn't need to burn. But he didn't know how to pilot the ship yet, and he wasn't sure how the guards would react to him trying. Would they think he was leaving? What if the ship crashed? Better to keep floating for now.

He looked back and forth between the sky blue rod in the engine and the fresh one in his hand. Was there something special he needed to do? Or did he just... as quick as he could, he tried to pull loose the old rod and replace it with a new one.

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Old 09-18-2019, 03:42 PM
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Talia
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Talia watched everyone go but Verdigris.

So, she was in change of keeping the ship secure. Not a problem. Not.... a problem.

She stood mostly by the ramp for a while and then became bored with it. She got out the cape and tried it on, noting it was a bit too bulky for her to wear everyday. She did note that it fit well, and had some premonitions about what it could do for her.

She then took it off and stowed it away. She left her guard post and
Dice Stealth:
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snuck up on Verdigris.

"BOO! What are you doing to my - our new ship?", she said jokingly.


 
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Old 09-21-2019, 03:58 AM
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The Margrave’s Court"I’m afraid I can’t be much help to you there," Brandon Zimmerset shakes his head. "My position is akin to a military governor. The Council of Tal’Dorei restricts my powers to matters of defense and legal administration. My own library is quite modest. The true repository of knowledge in the city belongs to the monks of the Cobalt Soul. Their order spans most of Exandria, and even within Westruun they maintain a high degree of autonomy. But it is a privilege they do not abuse. I have found them to be very forthcoming when the circumstances adhere to their religious code." The margrave looks tired. Ada can see the weight of responsibility settle back over the man. "Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have many demands on my time this day. I’ll have the scribes deliver your charter this afternoon. Captain, will you see these women back to their ship?"

Westruun, in the following weeks...
The days after the slaver attack are a flurry of activity. Funerals are held for the dead. The major and minor temples of the city host prayer services for those taken by the Leng ships. Even the scarred priests of the Ruiner’s Empty Socket shrine hold a dark ceremony promising vengeance and wrath upon their new-found enemy.

Defenses are strengthened. Ballista are deployed. Patrols are increased. But eventually, life in the big city settles back into a routine.

The Knaves’ airship becomes a hub of activity and curiosity in Westruun. Much to the relief of Estella Ladimar, the ship itself is moved to Palest Park, a few blocks to the south. With the statue of the Black King and his horse looking on, workmen make frequent visits to the ship, converting some of the spaces within while Bellamy gives direction.

Scattered crowds of onlookers peer in through the open air skiff bay doors, curious about the ship and the strange new group of mercenaries that captured it. An ever-present squad of Shields keeps the boldest of them away, but life is comparably peaceful for a time. Alys marks the deepening of autumn, and as the work on the airship nears completion, a chill touches the night air and steady breezes blow yellow and orange leaves across the park.

Meanwhile..."That’s ridiculous!" Garmot, the gnomish merchant wears enough colorful silk to cover someone twice his size. His elaborately wound purple turban seems less designed to cover his head than to be somewhere to put the extra fabric. Here, in the office of one of his guild’s warehouses, Talia and Cyprian haggle with him over the rights to sell the salvaged cargo from the alien ship. The sample crates and casks Ron carried over lay open on the wooden floor. "How can you possibly ask so much for some moldy tea leaves and silk that chafes more than my wife’s unshaven legs?!" Garmot has a habit of yelling, perhaps to make up for his small stature. "Now for, say, half that sum..."

Rolling his eyes, Cyprian begins to close up the chests of samples they have brought. At a signal, Ron picks up the cask of tea leaves and hefts it onto his shoulder. Talia arches an eyebrow patronizingly.

Garmot looks longingly at the exotic Leng silks that disappear beneath the lid of the chest. "Wait! Wait. Of course that is not my final offer."

Cyprian sets the chest down with a smile...

The Temple of the DawnfatherAda is kneeling at prayer when she hears footsteps and the swishing of robes behind her. Rising, she turns to greet Father Hilliard with a smile.

The middle aged priest returns the smile. He looks past Ada at the huge stained glass window depicting the sun on the east wall. "’The Sun rises over the holy and the unholy alike.’" Ada recognizes the text he is quoting, but says nothing, sensing that the man isn’t finished speaking. "I do not understand the path you walk, child. Nor the company you choose to walk it with. Are you certain you’ll not stay with us for a while?" Ada’s face gives him his answer. "I thought not. You are choosing to walk in darkness. That much I can see. And, though I think you are making a mistake, I would not send you into that darkness without something of the light."

Father Hilliard reaches into the voluminous pockets of his vestments. His hand emerges with a small piece of golden jewelry. Two tiny golden shields, each bearing a radiant sun, connected by a chain of gold. The item shines in the morning light. Father Hilliard pins the brooch to Ada’s tabard. "This belongs to the church. As do you, child. I hope it helps preserve you and brings some light to the darkness you will face. I will pray for you. And your friends."

The Wayward Pony
Ron is on his fourth ale of the evening when Dolon, the big half-orc, sits down on the stool next to him. The red-haired barmaid quickly brings him a mug. The pair drink in silence for a moment. Then Dolon says in his deep voice, "Yer crew’s working for the margrave now, huh? Gholesh and Oalan ain’t happy ‘bout it." Dolon refers to the Westruun Spirelings of Shadows and Blades without their titles. "Fetch thinks yer boss might have some sort of double-cross up his sleeve. But they’re all gettin’...impatient. They’ve left you all ‘lone til now ‘cause yer technic’ly Stilben set. But you know the rules. You come play in our playground, you gots to pay the man, right? T’wouldn’t be no diff’rent if I went to Stilben fer a time and made coin. It’s about respect. You’re a good’n, Ron. You make sure yore boss don’ forget the rules, ‘kay?"

Both of their mugs are empty now. Dolon waives over the bartender. "Set us up agin’, Stell." He reaches into his purse and slides a few silver across the bar. "Keep ‘em comin’ til this runs out."

The airshipThe most frequent visitors to the ship during this time are the alchemists. Tsumichi Muburo could be a hundred years old, or less than fifty. His seemingly ageless skin and sparkling eyes make it difficult to tell, although he has begun to walk with a bent posture in recent years. Every day he inspects the engines and draws samples of the ether into his ample supply of vials and jars.

Tsumichi’s apprentice, Cisho Rain, makes constant notes of her mentor’s observations in a thick, stained volume that never leaves her hand. The pair are a bit incongruent, Cisho being rather large and loud spoken, despite her mere 17 years. But she shares her master’s passion for understanding the workings of the ether, and everything else, as a matter of fact. Often, while Tsumichi sits on the deck in silent meditation between experiments, Cisho engages the others in wide-eyed conversation. Alys and Bellamy especially intrigue her, being closest to her own age. Many times she expresses her wonder at the events that have led them to this life of danger and violence so early.

Tsumichi is truly a genius in the alchemical arts. Four weeks into his experimentations, he and Cisho return to the ship one morning with an air of triumph. Cisho can barely contain herself, giggling as they climb the gangplank. Even the stoic Tsumichi is smiling under his thin fu manchu as he produces the spent ether rod he has successfully infused with fuel! Carefully, he monitors the starboard engine as he inserts the rod. The hue of the flame from that engine burns a deeper blue than usual. Once Tsumichi is satisfied by his observations at idle, Zara takes them on a victorious test flight. There, in the skies above Westruun, they look out over the Dividing Plains to the south and east, the Bramblewood to the west, stretching north into the Black Valley and Umbra Hills, and beyond, to the distant peaks of the Cliffkeep Mountains. Tsumichi produces a flask and proposes a toast. "This day we take another step toward the distant horizon of understanding. May we never fully arrive at our destination." He takes a drink from the flask and passes it to Verdigris.


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Last edited by 4eyedBadger; 09-21-2019 at 04:08 AM.
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  #266  
Old 09-22-2019, 09:52 AM
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Ronald ‘One-Bone’ Devyn
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Ever since leaving Stilben, under direct order from the Spireling, Ron has had no real idea what’s going on and why weird things happen to the small band of miscreants he’s traveling with. Regardless of this, he is content that he’s doing the right thing and that the boss will have an idea of what to do and why. Confire betraying them, somehow, was a surprise to Ron, but he never liked the man anyway so he’s fine with it. Nobody has really bothered explaining to him why Confire betrayed them, but just knowing that he did is enough for Ron to want to hurt the man. You don’t turn on your own, that’s the basic rule everyone associated with the Clasp knows. Even a dum-dum like Ron.

If he was uncertain why the others wanted to go to Westruun before, he’s positively perplexed at why they are now just staying put, doing nothing of consequence except getting the flying ship ready. It is confusing, but Ron’s entire life has confused him so this is nothing new to the enforcer. He doesn’t ask the others why, and they don’t tell him. This saves him from having to think about something he’ll probably don’t understand anyway.

And staying in Westruun has its benefits. Dolon is nice people, as are most of his guys. Ron has even gone with them on jobs now and again. Nothing too serious, beating up some drunks that thought they could skip out without paying the full price at some brothel, looming in the background while one of Dolon’s talkers leaned on a merchant. That sort of thing. Things Ron knows and understands. Dolon and his guys have also shown Ron the city, and how to avoid the guards. They call the guards “the fuzz”, which Ron finds amusing.

Ron also has to go with Cyprian and the others occasionally, especially when they are trying to unload the loot they found on the ship. And, for some reason, the others seem to want to keep the flying ship, which Ron thinks is a terrible idea. He doesn’t say anything though. The others are smarter than him and it’s not his place to critizise their plans. Besides, he doesn’t know what the plan is, or how having a flying ship plays into that. All he knows is that having something so flashy makes them a target for everyone. Only rich people have flying ships. Or, that’s Ron’s conclusion since the only flying ship he’s ever been on has a lot of very expensive loot. And people tend to pay attention to rich people with flashy gear. People like Ron. And then they tend to try to take the flashy gear away from the rich people.

One night, when most of the loot has been sold off, Dolon asks if Ron and the other Knaves are working for this margrave-figure. Ron stops to think for a moment before replying. He’s found out that the margrave is some local big-shot, but he’s not sure the others are working for him exactly. All Ron knows is that he’s never been asked to do anything for this margrave. And now, apparently, the local spirelings aren’t happy with this arrangement that the boss and the others have with the guy.

“The boss knows the rules,” Ron says, automatically defending Cyprian. “They still haven’t sold off all the loot. I’m sure he’s waiting until it’s all gone before kicking the spirelings their due. He knows better than to disrespect the bosses,” continues, knocking back the remaining half of his tankard.

In the morning, when Ron is sober again, he figures he should at least mention this to Cyprian. It sounds important. When most of the others are eating breakfast, he nudges Cyprian. “Hey, boss, I heard something you should know,” the dim-witted thug says. His breath still smells of cheap booze and the porridge he’s shoveling into his mouth with the fervor of a man who’s been starving for a week. Ron knows that you’ve got to eat fast if you want to get enough food.

“I heard the local spirelings are getting impatient. They figure we can operate in the city and all, but that they deserve a cut of our loot. They got a point, you know. If we were in Stilben and made profits like this we’d have to kick the spirelings a share,” he says, burping loudly and filling the air with the smell of stale beer.

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  #267  
Old 09-22-2019, 10:56 PM
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Talia
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Talia kept away from the crowds and their view of the innards of the ship. She'd come and go and only acknowledge she was one of the seven, if pressed.
She knew it was hard to do her kind of business in the city, if she became well known.

On the ship, she had carpenters build her a high loft like bed up in a high corner of the old Captain's quarters, or wherever it was decided they'd put quarters - though she'd really, really, really, try to have that be the room. In an alcove up in her loft bed, with a lock and a trap, is where she'd keep her things and her coins.

She'd purchased two daggers since she never found her other ones. As long as they weren't cheap, and had a good balance for throwing, she wasn't too picky.

Selling their wares:

Talia had thrown all kinds of boasts out there about how "this" stuff came from the ship and how each item would have the significance of its capture forever tied to it. How can you cheapen it by
Dice Persuasion:
1d20+5 (1)+5 Total = 6
haggling?
When the ploy to leave had succeeded, she sat on the chest as Cyprian closed it, crossing her legs and getting out a dagger to appear as if she was filing her long nails.


 
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  #268  
Old 09-23-2019, 03:25 PM
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The Days of our Lives
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Verdigris had flushed and stammered for a moment when Talia suddenly appeared on the ship with him. Had she been there the whole time? Eventually he realized that she was teasing him, mostly and began a rambling explanation of what he had been doing with the rod and his thoughts behind it. Luckily everything seemed to be in place, and the ship was still floating in the air as the others eventually began to filter back. He was all too glad to surrender control of the ship to the alchemists, although he would frequently spend hours watching Tsumichi about his work, trying to glean as much information as he could from the man.

Much of the terminology and words being thrown around were completely lost on the ravenite, who spent many evenings asking questions of Pharos, to try and make sense of what he had learned during the day. Pharos, for his part, was glad to have someone who would listen to his meandering lectures for once, although his answers frequently diverged from airship mechanics into subjects that the dragonette was more familiar with. It was on one such night that Verdigris posed a new question to Pharos. Earlier that day, Talia and Cyprian had returned to the ship with a large number of coins. His time in Stilben and now in Westruun had familiarized Verdigris with the general concept of money, but the sheer amount pushed into his hands as 'his share' seemed overwhelming. They had almost seemed disappointed it was too small!

"Three thousand gold pieces? What am I supposed to do with so much metal? It is very heavy. I have learned to trade coins for food, because it is hard to hunt here. But I don't think I will ever eat this much!"

Pharos nodded sagely at his pupil. "The economics of people such as yourself is quite an interesting topic. Not one on which I am an expert, I suppose, but most scholars are of course familiar with the famous paper by a'Lan of the Emerald Span. You see, for the average citizen, what you have sitting in front of you would represent an unimaginable windfall, allowing them to live in comfort, invest into a business or purchase a larger home or any number of things. But there is a subsection of the populace for which such things are by and large meaningless, fundamentally shifting the demand curves. These people are itinerant, and frequently risk their lives, exposing themselves to levels of danger that make long term investment impractical. a'Lan called them the 'Adventuring Classes' and explained that while they had less immediate need of ongoing material wealth, they were ironically more prone to sudden large fluctuations in liquid capital, such as the one sitting there. This led to a supernumerary economic cycle whereby adventurers acquire wealth with astonishing rapidity, but then spend it just as easily on a vanishingly small supply of 'items of power' that will in turn improve their odds of surviving and gaining even larger amounts of wealth."

Verdigris' eyes had glazed over very shortly into the dragonette's explanation, but he was able to pick out a few words towards the end. "Items of power?"

Pharos nodded again "Mhmm." He glanced at Verdigris and quickly ascertained that the question had been genuine rather than a simple confirmation. He quickly launched again into another lecture. "Of course, the principles of binding magical energy into objects has long been understood, through ritual runic inscription or suspended in a solution. But the art of permanently imbuing something with magic requires much more balance and skill, requiring the artificer in question to form cyclical patterns of magical energy or provide a modus for the object to recharge itself from ambient thaumaturgic fields. The simplest bindings simply allow an object to be better. A sword sharper, armor harder, that sort of thing. But with enough power, time and skill almost any magical effect can be bound into a suitable vessel. There is even a whole subclass of items devoted simply to storing thaumaturgic potentia in a suspended state, allowing it to recharge a personal supply such as those tapped by any spell caster such as yourself. It's quite interesting how they use nacreous, iridescent spheres to harness atmospheric thaums. I suppose it is an art as much as it as science. You see the natural origin provides a stronger link to latent energies, and the shape is maximized for efficient storage, and the color, well I suppose it's mostly symbolic, but I like to think that white (which, as everyone knows, is actually made up of all colors as opposed to none) is tied to its ability to represent any potential magics."

Verdigris had quickly become deeply lost again, but some of what the dragonette was saying almost made some kind of sense. "Natural... white... spheres? Pearls! Pearls will help me use magic better?"

Pharos paused a moment, blinking at Verdigris for a moment. "Well, to put it in crudest terms, I suppose. But really it would be more accurate to say that..."

Verdigris quickly cut him off. "How do I find one?"

Pharos looked down at the pile of gold, then thoughtfully back up at the dragonborn's face. "Well, I suppose in the morning we could head over to the Langbourne Chandlery. Paraffin tapers and lamp oil are one thing, but I hear they're doing absolutely amazing things with beeswax."

Verdigris was confused again, but this time he had understood all the words. "Candles? Why candles?"

It was hard for a dragonette to smile, but a sense of smug satisfaction radiated through the mental link they shared. "Because, if you're going to find a Pearl of Power, you need to hire a guide."



The next day was a long one. It started off simply enough, purchasing the dragonette a number of candles the first of which were devoured immediately upon acquisition. From there, Pharos confidently led Verdigris to the first of an innumerable number of tiny shops hidden in strange corners of the city. Confidence quickly turned to exasperation and eventually a sense of wounded pride that would not let the dragonette stop until they had tried every possible vendor in the city. Finally, Verdigris had been able to trade half of his gold for a single lustrous pearl that nonetheless radiated warmth and a familiar feeling. He still had far more gold than he was comfortable with, but they were both so exhausted that he didn't see fit to ask Pharos for any more suggestions.



The rest of the time passed in a whirlwind for Verdigris. Despite his initial reluctance, Westruun had ended up having so much to offer him. Once his initial awkwardness had passed, he found that there was much to do in the city, although from time to time he did head out of the walls to explore the lands outside. They weren't the coastlines or the swamps he had grown used to, but they had their own beauty and his connection to them didn't feel in any way diminished. He gathered herbs different than those he was used to, but no less effective. He watched the animals and learned from them which would aid in healing, and which should be avoided. He ran wild wearing any number of forms as he explored, but every so often he would cast his gaze skywards, remembering the eagles that had aided them so against the void pirates. Flight still eluded him, for now...

He watched the Alchemists work, and learned everything he could about the ship and its workings. As a surprise for Talia, he purchased a number of daggers and hid them as best as he could around the ship. In the evenings he chatted with Pharos, or went out drinking with Ron and his friends.

He also spent some time in the Wildmother's glade. The wilderness within the city seemed strange at times, but he spoke at length with a priestess there who discussed the balance between Erathis and Melora. He declined to mention his dreams to her, feeling they were somehow private, but he did mention his own observations about the natural order of life in the city. He would often plant Melora's Blessing in the soft, fertile soil of the glade and lay in its shade as he got lost in his own thoughts.



The time passed quicker than he had anticipated. Verdigris took the flask from Tsumichi and raised it up. "To the sky. May she shelter us." Several weeks among humans had definitely improved his usage of the common tongue, and he spoke more clearly and confidently before as he took a sip and passed the flask along.

Early in the morning before their departute, Verdigris makes two last stops. His first is to the temple of Erathis, Lawbearer. He had subconsciously avoided the building during his time in Westruun. He still wasn't quite sure how comfortable he was with the notion of two goddesses watching over him. Melora represented the world, and everything he understood on an instinctual level. But until recently, civilization had represented only the new alien land he had found himself in, or else the rule of the masters and all that they stood for. Perhaps balance had its place too. He left a healthy donation in the temple's box, but did not linger long on his way to the glade. The clergy there received an equal amount of coins as Verdigris sought to divest himself of unnecessary weight before his voyage.

He stood there a moment before he was struck with a sudden idea. He took Melora's Blessing in hand and planted it deeply in the soil again. He spoke the word and watched it reach towards the sky in an instant as he reached into his pouch and retrieved the pearl that Pharos had helped him purchase. He reached for his magic, wrapping himself in its comforting embrace and at the last moment he let the pearl drop from his fingers as his form dropped away. An instant later, Verdigris-the-squirrel caught the falling gem gently in his teeth and in flash he scampered up the tree, up, up up, all the way to the top. He paused there a moment, taking in the glade, and Westruun and all it encompassed. Then he found a suitable spot where two branches diverged and nestled the pearl inside before running back down the tree.

Verdigris, himself once more, called the staff back to him and looked it over carefully. There at the top, among whorls and twists and knots, the pearl sat nestled within the staff. What better place to keep it safe than within the blessing of Melora himself. Ready at last, with a new level of confidence, purpose and understanding, Verdigris returned to the ship to meet his companions. He stood among friends and family, and smiled as he felt the winds of fate blowing over them.

"Let us fly."

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  #269  
Old 09-24-2019, 05:10 PM
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It wasn’t a difficult decision to join the crew of this as-yet-unnamed airship, Estella had seen to that. Stripped of her teaching job and her position as a Scion of Yuminor there was nothing left to keep her here, except perhaps sentiment. Zara grinned at the thought; nobody had ever accused her of sufferering from an over-abundance of sentimentality!

At the very first opportunity she recruited any of the group who would offer some of their time to help her pack her most precious things into boxes. With access to the library of Westhall Academy, of course, she could have quickly found a spell to create little arcane helpers to do all of this for her, but now she was reduced to only being able to perform spells which she had thought to copy into her own spellbook. It was vexing, but on the other hand the invisible servants wouldn’t have been as comforting to her now as her heavily armed companions were. Since Confire had assaulted her in her own home she just didn’t feel safe here any more, but of course she would never admit that to anyone, not even Pharos. So instead of taking her time and boxing up her belongings on her own, she invited everybody to help and got it over with as quickly as possible.

Her cabin in the bow of the ship was considerably smaller than her house so she had been prepared to be ruthless in culling anything unnecessary, but she was surprised to find that there were very few things that she had any real desire to keep. The majority of her shells actually fitted into three large trunks, with the giant conch necessitating a box of its very own. Other than those the only things she felt the need to keep were her books and papers, some of which were already boxed having recently been delivered from her old office at the Academy. As the others began to carry the boxes out onto the floating disk she had conjured up outside, she started sorting through the books, piling them up all around her as she flicked through them one by one.

"Is that your ‘keep’ pile?" The familiar voice made her smile. She had tried to keep Pharos away from this part of the job because he just couldn’t be objective when it came to books. She glanced at the pile he was indicating and shook her head.

"You’re getting rid of Keever’s Permutations of Undruvian Storytelling?" The little dragon snatched the book from the top of the pile, hugging it to his little body with his tail. "Do you remember how long it took us to get a copy of that?! You don’t just… wait… is that The Vestiges of Unebelief?! Zara, no!"

Sighing, Zara reached out and stroked the cover of the book. "Darling, you know I can’t keep them all…"

"I bought you this! It was a gift!"

Suddenly Zara remembered just how big a deal the pseudodragon had made of it at the time. She had told him years before about how the tattered old copy she had found in her childhood had sparked her interest in history. He had remembered and searched for a new copy for years, eventually paying a travelling merchant to keep his eyes open as he wandered the great cities of the land until he had finally brought it back to Westruun. It had been that gesture more than anything which had cemented the little dragon as her closest friend, and now she wondered just how she could have forgotten all of that.

"Oh, that shouldn’t be there! Please, put it…"

"Zara," Pharos interrupted, "why are you doing this?"

Zara looked up, knowing that the question wasn’t really about the books.

"I’ve never seen you run away from anything in your life. Why aren’t you fighting Estella?! You know that she didn’t have valid grounds to terminate you. You have tenure! That has to mean something!"

"Is that what you think I’m doing?" The idea that her best friend thought she was fleeing into the night hurt as much as anything which had happened before. "These people," she gestured at the front door, to where the others were hauling out boxes and pointedly not getting involved in the conversation, "they have struck a blow, several blows, against the Sightless One. Nobody knows the lore like I do, with my help they could… well… they have a better chance of making a real difference. I’m not running away! I’m going to prove all of my theories were correct! I’m going to find this new Sight Shepherd, this Confire, and I’m going to obliterate him! And then, when the threat is over and we can be sure that the world will go on as before… I’m going to return to Westruun, vindicated, more! I’ll return a bloody hero, and I’m going to tell Estella Ladimara precisely what I think of her and her little empire. And believe me, it won’t be pretty."

She wiped some saliva from her lip and then realised just how carried away she was getting. Pharos was staring at her, comprehension obviously dawning. The silence stretched on and Zara wanted nothing more than to retreat back into sorting out the books, but she had to know what Pharos was thinking.

"Hmmm," he said eventually, "I wouldn’t fancy being in her shoes. But I still don’t understand why you can’t take Permutations…"




That evening Zara found her new quarters filled floor to ceiling with boxes of books. Pharos had made some points which had been hard to refute at the time, and by the time they had finished sorting through everything, the pile of books to be given away was so small that they had decided she may as well just keep them too. She had been too exhausted to begin unpacking just yet, so she had to thread her way between stacked boxes to get to the bed. No, the berth, she corrected herself, that’s the term that sailors use.

She lay awake for many minutes, her mind unable to let go of a worry. Finally she relented and pulled her spellbook and crystal ball onto the bed. Quickly flicking through the pages she found the spell she needed, one which she had mostly used to track down particular papers in the vast vaults of the Westhall Library or to prove a student wrong who had claimed they had lost their assignment. She started the chant, running through the complex sequence of sounds with practiced ease. Eventually the spell was complete and she waited, unable to even breathe.

Nothing.

She sighed, relieved. It was always better to know. Confire, or at least the blasted tablet he carried around, wasn’t nearby. She snuffed out the light and got herself comfortable, still clutching her spellbook.




The next day Cyprian and Talia turned up with a huge pile of coins and handed them out to the group. Zara’s eyes widened at the bounty and she shared a look with Pharos. "So this is what it’s like in the private sector?"

She hauled her portion of the wealth into her cabin and just stared at it for a while. She had always been fairly well off compared to most, and perhaps because of that she had never really sought wealth. But now, presented with it like this, she couldn’t help but dream of ways of spending it. She could have jewels, beautiful clothes, a large house with servants! But the dreams didn’t last long. What use was any of that when the world was likely to end soon. No, better to be practical about it. She thought about what would be most useful on their journey and her encounter with Confire informed her planning; she had to protect herself. The man had so easily taken control of her mind, and had then swatted her as though she was a fly. She was too vulnerable, in body and mind both. But what could she do about it? She was no warrior, so she doubted she would benefit from any type of armor, but there were spells of protection, spells of illusion or abjuration, which should help to protect her from physical harm. As for her mental protection, well she would just have to see what was available for that.

She scoured the ship for any sign of that damned dragon, whom she had hoped would accompany her in her trawl of the local arcanists, but apparently he had already gone with Verdigris. His loss, she decided and set off into the city.

The market was, as always, abuzz with the voices and smells of too much humanity, and it started to sap her energy immediately. She skirted the edges of the great open bazaars and instead ducked into out-of-the-way shops which were down alleys and hidden up narrow sets of stairs. She had known most of the proprietors for years, having worked with them to acquire objects of historical interest which may have come into their possession, but now she wanted something a little more practical; actual spells or items of power.

"Drusan,"s he snapped as the fifth vendor that day tried to duck away as soon as he saw her, "I don’t care what rumours you’ve heard, I’m still the same person I was before and I have coin to spend."

The little man sighed and turned back towards her, straightening his spectacles as he did so. "But you’re not the same person, are you? You used to represent the Academy, now you represent, what? Some bloodthirsty bandits?"

"Bandits? Those people saved a number of your customers!"

"I hear they work for the Clasp."

Zara’s mouth snapped shut. This was the second time the Clasp had been mentioned in connection with her new friends. The first time had been Confire saying it, so she had been able to discount it as the ravings of a madman intent on driving a wedge between his enemies. But where was a mostly honest trader like Drusan Specklewright getting this information?

"That’s the first I’ve heard about it," she lied, "they’re a bit rough around the edges but believe me, they’re trying to do the right thing. Do you really think I of all people would be getting involved with anything shady?"

"It’s amazing how quickly a person’s ideals melt away when faced with financial hardship, miss."

Zara slammed a big bag of gold coins down on his countertop. "Is this what financial hardship looks like?"

Drusan took a step forward, licking his lips. "No miss, no it aint. But, if ye don’t mind me asking, where did you come by this money?"

Zara hesitated, reluctant to admit it was from her new friends. Drusan smiled in triumph. "Aye, that’s what I thought. Where are those high-minded ideals now?"

Fuming, Zara took her purse and turned towards the door but she hadn’t made it two steps before Drusan shot in front of her. "Now now now, I didn’t say I wouldn’t serve you, did I?"



The following day passed in a blur. Zara worked closely with Tsumichi as they studied the intricacies of the airship and she learned rather a lot from the man. Zara daydreamed of a world in which she had followed a different path and had studied more applied magics, and the infusion of magical energies into objects. What wonders might she have created? But in this world she had made her decisions and she had no regrets, she would play the hand which Fate had dealt her.

She was amused to find that Verdigris was at least as interested in the workings of the ship as she was herself, he didn’t have much of a head for the details but he seemed to grasp the greater concepts with almost an instinctive ease.

The one who most intrigued her, though, was Ron. The first thing she noticed was his disgusting physicality. Everywhere he went he had to flex those muscles and she watched in fascinated horror as they moved around under his skin. It was horrid, but also strangely compelling, she found herself watching him more and more as the days went on. And then she noticed that he would often stand just staring into the distance. He could stand for what felt like hours, an unreadable expression on his face, staring off into nothing. She started to wonder what was going through his mind in these instances, what mysteries could be taking up so much of his faculties? She began to suspect that there was much more going on beneath the surface there than he let on. Hidden depths, she found herself thinking as she watched him, and her observation that he didn’t speak much only added to that impression; it took somebody with supreme intellectual self-assurance to be able to hold their counsel like that, she decided.

But her musings were interrupted when Tsumichi and Cisho brought their greatest triumph on board. Four weeks it had taken them! A mere four weeks to recreate whatever alchemy provided energy to run the ship! Why, at that rate Westruun could start to build its own sky navy within a few months, a year at most! Her heart filled with patriotic pride until she remembered that the world might not have a year. Yet she still enthusiastically held aloft her cup of water to join in the toast that Tsumichi proposed.

"Understanding!"

It was an exciting moment, because now they could be off on their mission, although it was a melancholy moment also, because she would be leaving behind her home... and her friend. She stepped away from the crowd and gestured for Pharos to join her.

"I suppose this is it then," she said trying not to cry, "take care of yourself, old boy,"

 

 

 
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  #270  
Old 09-24-2019, 10:29 PM
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Alys
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Life in Westruun quickly, and surprisingly, became routine. Somehow Ada and Doc had successfully negotiated for the airship. They'd actually become chartered, even! It was strange to think that they'd come so far from Stilben. That she had come so far from Stilben. They'd become wealthier and more successful than her wildest dreams. And yet...there was still work to be done.

By an agreement that, for Alys, needn't be spoken aloud, the group was still on the trail of...whatever...entity was at work in the world. Whatever it was that was hijacking people's mind's, loosing insane cults and astral pirates throughout the world. Alys wasn't sure what, exactly, it was. The tablet had been important, she knew, but it had disappeared with Confire. Still, she wouldn't run from this.

So, she stayed with the Knaves without question. She spent her days mostly examining the airship, keen to learn more about the craft that promised such freedom. Alys spent a fair amount of time in the company of Tsumichi Muburo and Cisho Rain, soaking up whatever knowledge she could from them about the airship and how it worked. She found Cisho's company particularly entertaining; the apprentice was as curious about Alys and company as Alys was about the airship and their attempts to fuel it, so she often swapped (larger than life) stories.

There was plenty to do before they could be ready to leave, of course, particularly supplies to buy. Alys got a good recommendation for an alchemist from Cisho and picked up a few potions to keep one hale and hearty. After the past few months, that seemed completely necessary. More than that, though, she spent her time focusing, trying to hone that internal fire in her own defense. Alys was tired of having her mind manipulated. If the anger would help defend her mind against everything that went bump in the night, she'd lean into it as much as necessary.

For the most part, though Alys uncharacteristically stayed out of trouble. She had the looming sense that their presence had become something of a known factor in the city, their profiles uncomfortably visible. For a girl who'd lived most of her life well out of public view, such a thing felt...strange. She'd chased attention most of her life, suddenly having it on demand was almost threatening.

The successful testflight reignited Alys' wanderlust. It had lain dormant, fixated as she was on the craft, but now that the skies were open to them...where should they go? What could they see? Alys couldn't wait to find out. She was ready, and wanted more.
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