As the group was preparing to head to the docks, Toombs came back from the common room with some breakfast. Dúlinnor hadn’t woken up yet so Quinth went over to wake him. Shaking him awake, the elf looked up in confusion. Then pulling the sheet up as if to hid behind, he poked his head out and asked, “What is the meaning of this? Where am I and who are all you people?” Then standing up and wrapping the sheet around himself like a robe, before the others could respond he continued in a more forceful tone, “I demand that you take me back to my people at once! I don’t know what you were planning, but you have made a grave mistake. Do you not know who I am? Or perhaps you do and you are fools! I am Queen Isabella Donatella Helena Rosa Gratia Yasmina Maria Luisa of Luba, Protectorate of Wakanda. If you do not return me to my court this instant you will all suffer slow, painful deaths at the hands of my elite Montesan guards when they find you, which they will!”
Quinth dumbfounded for only a moment, laughs and then replies, “Perhaps if you checked your pants you would notice a discrepancy with your claims ‘your majesty’.”
After a series of questions regarding Dúlinnor’s claims to be the Queen the group eventually gives up on trying to dissuade him of the belief that he is this other person. Toombs pointed out that he did indicate that he might indeed wake with altered memories and that when the group had awoken with missing memories in Red Oak, Dúlinnor had claimed to have experienced something similar in the past. With this knowledge, the group decided to proceed as if Dúlinnor’s change in memories was normal for him and that perhaps his previous memories would return. In the meantime, they “agreed” to take the queen to the docks where a ship could take her back to her people.
They found The Wind’s Mistress where Le Fey’s agents had been seen waiting at the docks. The ship was being manned by hobgoblins hearing the colors of Le Fey. The group was concerned as they had a feeling that such creatures might be enemies of the state. Asking some of the dock workers they were able to determine that the ship was considered sovereign soil and that they were completely free while on board the ship but that truth be told most of the wharf folk didn’t mind them as long as they minded their own business.
Dúlinnor is about to walk out to the hobgoblin ship when Quinth cautions, “Your majesty, if I may be so bold as to propose a change in our course of action……..you can’t possibly go to the ship filled with hobgoblins……..it’s swarming with enemies of the realm!”
Concerned for the safety of “the queen” the group decided to send Dúlinnor back to the inn with Gurtrud and Toombs while the others initiated a plan to investigate the ship. They decided to have Tavious disguise himself as a mercenary and negotate with the hobgoblins. While Morvelus hids behind some of the crates on the dock. Amra would hold Quinth as a prisoner at the end of the dock.
Quinth not sure of the plan says, “Yes Tavious, your plan is brilliant…..right up to the point where it actually starts to work! And then what happens when you turn me over to the hobgoblins?!?!”
Tavious replies, “You are too cautions. My plan will work. Amra will have your sword hidden. We’ll draw them out off of the ship. Don’t be such a worrier. It will all work out.”
Tavious approached the ship and calling out to the crew demanded payment for his prisoner; refusing to speak to just any crewman, he waited for the captain.
The captain called down from the railing, “I see you have captured one of the witchbreed we put a bounty on. Our thanks! Bring him up and we can pay you.”
Tavious called back, “What are you offering me for him?”
“We’re paying 10 gold each for these people.”
“I’m not sure that I’m entirely comfortable bringing my prize into your ship without a guarantee that I’ll get my gold. Plus, my efforts are worth quite a bit more than 10 gold. I think perhaps we should discuss a way to come to a better agreement on terms.”
The captain nodded and a group of hobgoblins appeared on the railing aiming crossbows at Tavious, “I had a standing price of 10 gold, but if you want to negotiate, I’m happy to only give you 8 gold for this one and agree not to fill you full of crossbow bolts. As a show of my good faith however, I’ll be glad to come down and collect the prisoner from you.”
“Ah, yes, 8 gold seems very reasonable. And yes, if you came to get him that would make us feel much more comfortable.”
As the captain started to descend the gangplank, “Tell you what, bring me all the rest and I’ll give you the 10 gold each after all, but only 8 for this first one.” A few other hobgoblins came down the gangplank with the captain to pick up Quinth.
Amra inched Quinth forward slightly, giving the impression that they were advancing, but kept him still well back from the ship.
As the captain and his crew members passed through the area where Morvelus was hiding behind the crates, the captain noticed that something felt off and he turned slightly and started to ask Tavious something. As he did so, however, Morvelus loosed an eldritch blast at one of the crew members and then hopped off the dock into a dingy. Tavious backed away from the captain and whispered arcane words that slithered through the air and wormed their way into the captain’s head. The captain clutched his head, screamed and ran back towards the ship.
One of the crewmen, not quite as surprised as the rest swung his sword at Tavious as he backed away from the captain, but missed hitting only the space where Tavious had been moments before. The crewman’s companion however, taking advantage of his fellow’s attack throwing Tavious off balance, stabbed at Tavious and struck him a doughty blow.
Quinth grabs the sword that Amra had concealed for him and advances to attack. As he does so, Amra moves forward to heal Tavious and then backs away keeping out of the middle of the fight.
Suddenly, a hail of crossbow bolts land in the fray with a couple hitting Quinth. Looking up at the archers, the group sees not only the crossbowmen, but also more of the crew descending the gangplank.
Morvelus fires off a series of magic missiles at the remaining crewmen that the group is fighting. Tavious fires a few eldritch blasts and Quinth lays into them with his sword. The manage to drop two of the crewmen and seriously injure one of the others. But the captain and reinforcements have arrived back and while the captain is also heavily injured the group isn’t sure that dropping him will cause the others to flee. While they are telepathically debating this, an ogre appears on the deck of the ship and begins to head towards to the gangplank. The group agrees that a strategic retreat is in order and so that quickly leave, thankful that the crew doesn’t follow them past the end of the dock.
Back at the inn they rest up and heal and come up with a plan B. Quinth says something about the plan not working out like it was supposed to. Tavious brushes off the jibe and suggests that he can give the captain a telepathic suggestion to search the docks for one of the missing people from the earlier combat and while he is alone they will ambush him. After some debate the group decides that Tavious will give his suggestion from a vantage point on an adjacent pier just within range of his telepathy. Tavious implants his suggestion once the captain gets close to the edge of the ship who then proceeds to head for the dock.
The group waits for him to get far enough onto the dock so that he is partially obscured by crates so that his crew are unlikely to see him, then they spring out from the shadows and attack him. Ruak leaps down from above knocks him out with a single blow. The others stand ready should he rise again, but he is out cold. Quinth and Ruak pick up the unconscious body and they take him back to the inn.
The captain wakes in their darkened room, securely tied to a chair with a sword lightly poking into his chest, Ruak croaks, “Rakey, rakey.”
Quinth starts the interrogation, “Let’s start with something simple, what is your name?”
The captain looks around as he gets his bearings, “Lex, my name is Lex, Captain of The Wind’s Mistress.”
Tavious interrupts, “Tell us what you know!”
The captain looks confused then sneers, “You’ll have to be more specific or else you’ll need a tutor not a ship’s captain.”
Tavious’ hands glow with eldritch energy and he sneers back, “We can kill you you know and we will if you don’t like your answers.”
The captain relaxes in the chair, “I’ll gladly die in the service of my queen.”
Quinth asks, “Which queen do you serve?”
The captain looks at Quinth, “Le Fey.”
“She ordered you to capture us?”
“How did you recognize us?”
Ruak adds, “You say we are witchbreed, how do you know this?”
The captain says, “We were given pictures of you and were told that you would likely have magical powers and that you were witchbreed.”
“Why were you supposed to capture us?”
“Who am I to question my queen’s orders.”
Tavious was frustrated with the captain’s answers and so asked, “Why shouldn’t we kill you?”
The captain countered, “Why should you, are you murderers?” He paused a moment then continued, “You probably should though. At this point you are likely to get into quite a bit of trouble regardless of what you do. You have kidnapped a member of Le Fey’s military.”
Quinth interrupted, “You attacked us.”
“Only after you attacked me. Do what you want. As I said, I am happy to die in my queen’s service.”
Tavious transformed into a likeness of the captain, “I could take over the ship as you and go back on my own.”
The captain laughed, “And what do you know of running a ship? You’d be dead in the first squall and the ship a wreck.” Tavious scowled.
The party conferred amongst themselves. The considered killing him and sneaking on again. The discussed going with him and eventually proposed that.
Quinth offered, “Captain, what if we went with you as quests, would that be possible, not as prisoners?”
The captain considered, “You wouldn’t have free reign of the ship, but you wouldn’t have to come as prisoners. Yes, that would be possible.”
The group cut him loose and he started to take them to the ship.
Ruak said, “Wait, we need to get our stuff.”
The captain looked irritated, “Will you be long? Hours, days, weeks perhaps ‘gathering your stuff’?”
Quinth said, “No, we’ll be at your ship later today.”
The captain nodded and left, “Very well, we’ll look forward to your peaceful arrival then.”
The group arrived at the docks later that day, but as they approached the piers Toombs noticed something strange as another group of uniformed men started getting closer to their position. Suddenly, one of the uniformed men, pointing at the group, shouts out, “There they are. She was right, they did go to the docks. Get them!” The soldiers break into two groups, one group heading directly for the party and another group heading closer to the pier to cut off their escape that direction. As the party starts to engage the jackbooted thugs they quickly realize that while they might be able to hold their own against the group that broke off to detain them, they won’t be able to fight off the group that went to cut them off at the pier and so they begin discussing another retreat strategy. As they are doing so, a halfling woman appears from the piers and begins casting spells on the group that blocking their path that way. Half of the soldiers fall into a deep slumber. She calls out to the party, “This way, quickly before more of the Steam King’s servants arrive.”
The group begins moving in her direction. Quinth drawing the attacks of the nearest jackbooted thugs to create an opening for his allies. A few of the soldiers blows glance off Amra’s blessed robes and land unluckily on Dúlinnor in his befuddled state. The ‘queen’ falls to the ground and pleads for mercy as another soldier knocks ‘her’ unconscious. Gurtrud quickly scoops ‘her’ up and carries Dúlinnor after Quinth. Morvelus magic missiles the soldier blocking his way and then rushes out from the alley his was hiding in following the voice of reason as well. Soon all racing after the halfling mage who blasts more of the soldiers with a cone of freezing cold. As she does her eyes go wide and the others look to see a giant automaton start lumbering in their direction. “We must leave quickly. I can assist with the soldiers, but I am defenseless against a SteamJack,” says the wizardess.
As the party boards a waiting ship that the mage directs them to, crew on board are laying down covering crossbow fire to discourage the pursuit of the soldiers. The SteamJack however ignores the bolts and continues to advance. “We have nothing on board that will significantly slow the SteamJack,” says the mage, “we just tell the captain and lift off immediately!”
The crew quickly gets to work and the captain orders the ship to set sail.
As they moved away from the pier, Quinth and the others turn to the lady and say, “My lady, we thank you for your timely arrival. Were it not for your assistance, we’d likely be captured or worse. How is it that you came to see our plight? And what caused you to be moved to assist us?”
The mage answered, “One of our crewmen thought that he had seen you in town, but hadn’t been sure. But we were keeping an eye out just in case. I saw you on the dock and when the Steam King’s men started attacking you, I alerted the crew and rushed to your aid.”
Ruak interrupted, “While I also thank you for the timely rescue, friends, do you not recall our promise to the other captain that we would join him. Should we not be joining him?”
The halfling offered, “Of course, we’d be happy to take you where you want to go. You are welcome to travel with us; or, we can take you to where you would like to be dropped off. We only suggest that we continue to move away from the dock here where the Steam King’s men can get to you.”
Quinth said, “Your offer is very kind. Ruak, are you suggesting that we leave these fine folk who have just risked their lives to save us and go with the hobgoblins who wanted to capture us and take is as prisoners to Bretonia?”
Ruak, “No, I’m suggesting that we keep our promise to meet with the captain to go as guests to Bretonia with someone who we know rather than travel with total strangers.” Ruak climbed up on the rail of the ship. “You are welcome to make your own choice. As for me, I’m going with Captain Lex.” So saying, he jumped into the water.
Stunned at their companion’s action, the rest of the party rushed to the edge of the boat but couldn’t see their friend in the murky water. Tavious reached out with his telepathy, “Ruak?”
Ruak replied, “Join me or not. We’ll meet again if it is fated will we not? I trust these ho…” And he was out of range.
Tavious voice spoke to him Fate or folly follows the frog, you will rejoin him after the fog.
Tavious looked back at the others, “He is all right; he’s on his way to meet the hobgoblins. I think we’ll be okay leaving him to his own for now.”
Morvelus asks, “You said ‘one of your crew though you’d seen us in town.’ That sounds like you know us. Is that so?”
Quinth adds, “Yes, for that matter, who are you all and why did you rescue us?”
The woman laughs, “No, no, it wasn’t just out of the goodness of our hearts, you are right. Welcome to the Celestial Voice. My name is Voirrey. We saw you were under attack from forces of the Steam King and recognized you as some of the people who were with Dr. Mirabalus. Though we were surprised to see you up and about as you were catatonic when last we saw you. We are servants of His Majesty King Seamus (in absentia) and Queen Bodicia. Though there are official representatives from the country of Lantis on board as well.”
“What is your connection to the Doctor? Who is he to you?”
“We transported him from the new world to the old. He is respected as a great physician, wizard, and inventor in the old world. The king trusted him as does the queen.”
“Do you know what he was doing with us?”
“He had crates with your bodies in them. You appeared to be either dead or sleeping. He said that he needed to be taken to the new world for a great experiment, not sure what that was if it involved you or not. He did unload the crates with your bodies as well as some other personal effects when he got here. We were expecting that he would return with us but had not heard from him until recently when we found out that he had been escorted back to the old world with agents of Le Fey.”
“Have you heard anything about entire villages disappearing with evil runes being present, including possibly a gate to an alternate realm?”
“No, this is nothing we’ve heard of. Is this something that you have run into?”
The group proceeds to tell them of their experience in Red Oak.
“Villages are abandoned from time to time. I suppose that it is possible that some of those abandonments could be due to something like what you describe. Usually it is attributed to plague or attack or lack of resources. But what you describe is something more drastic and ominous.”
“Do you know a woman by the name of Margery Eyre?”
“I am afraid that I don’t know that name,” she looks around at some of the other crew that have joined the conversation and all shrug their shoulders in ignorance.
“As you now know, we’re having trouble with our memories. Can you tell us anything of Anspach?”
She’ll say, “I’ve heard of it, but haven’t been there myself. Perhaps one of the others?”
The ship’s purser, Andrei, answers, “I’ve been there. It is a nice trading town on the River Bagen in the Reichlands. The local ruler, Count Gumbert, keeps to himself in a castle not far from the town. They trade in wool and wine mostly though the nearby mountains produce lead and silver so they see a lot of that in the town. It is on the coach route for, which was it now…Royal Stag and The Empire Express, if I recall correctly so they see a lot of travelers. There’s an Abby that has a fine school and some finer students, Franciz Lionheart for example.”
Voirrey interrupts, “Ah, is that the same school where Mariam Simias studied?”
Andrei continued, “It is and the Transmuter Ernest George.”
Morvelus asked, “And where are the Reichlands?”
Andrei smiled, “Yes, your memory is definitely faulty if you’re not recalling the Reichlands. The Reichlands are one of the provinces of the Great Grey Empire.”
As they were talking, the captain of the ship approached the group and introduced himself, “I am captain of the Celestial Voice, Captain Nels Aidan at your service. Glad we could help get you out from a bad situation. I believe I heard Voirrey offer our services to take you where you want to go and I don’t disagree with her enthusiastic promise, though we have other duties that we must attend to as well. We will do our best to accommodate whatever destination you desire as a way of assisting Dr. Mirabalus and of seeing you to better circumstances that where we’ve found you. You are welcome guests. We have room at the moment and so you are welcome to stay until we have more paying passengers.”
“Are you a passenger ship?”
“No, our primary duties are exploration and courier duties for the crown. But we have guest quarters for occasional passengers, whether then are paying or not.”
The first mate approached the captain, she asked, “Sir, shall we set sail for Albion as originally planned?”
The captain nodded, “Let’s stay damp until our guests have had a chance to get their bearings and then we’ll set a final destination. But for now keep to our course.”
“Aye, sir.” She set of and barked orders to the Boson who then relayed orders to the crew who began scurrying around the deck like children late for class.
Over the course of the next couple days, the captain and crew presented the group with various options for destinations taking them: back to Garl’s Town, to Albion, to Bretonia, or to Luba (for Dúlinnor had awoken with his own memories again, though he retained some of the Queen’s memories of Luba as well). Eventually they decided that if they wanted to have their best chance to meet up with Ruak again, they should head to Bretonia. Quinth pointed out that it was also where Dr. Mirabalus was and was as good a place to start as any. While they were considering, the captain informed them that their own plans had changed and that they too needed to head to Bretonia so it seemed that the best course of action was to head there first.
The captain ordered the ship to lift sail and moments later the group was amazed to feel the ship sway under their feet as it broke from the swirling waves beneath them and gracefully took to the air. Now free of the water, it began to race towards the horizon. The ship was able to fly around a storm that barred their way at one point, but otherwise th journey from then on was largely uneventful. The sights from the ship where amazing and the group enjoyed the peaceful journey.
During the trip Quinth was sparring on the deck and one of the other passengers approached him, “Do you mind if I practice with you? My name is Guntar Helbaern. I notice that you using some of the basic moves of the von Sarpe school. I have also studied that school. Do you know any of the advanced maneuvers?”
Quinth nods and asks as they begin sparring, “I’m not familiar with the name of the school. These moves are ones that seem familiar to me, but I don’t recall where I picked them up.”
Guntar continues, “The von Sarpe school of combat is a style of fighting that is common in the Empire though it is occasionally seen elsewhere. It is based on a series of progressively more difficult moves that give a warrior an edge in combat over his opponent. If you want I can show you some of the maneuvers that I am familiar with.”
They continue to spar for a while and as they finish Guntar adds, “You should go to the school’s headquarters in München to continue your training, you have a natural talent.”
Quinth says, “I thank you for the compliment and may well do that.”
Guntar grows more serious for a moment, “Once one begins training in the von Sarpe school one does not leave off. I would advise that you visit the school within the year.”
As Guntar left he glanced at Morvelus and seemed to recognize him but acted as if he didn’t. Later that evening there was a crashing noise in the passenger bunks and when the crew and the party came running they found Morvelus standing over the dead body of Guntar.
Morvelus held up his bloody hands which had slashes where he had clearly defended himself from the blade that was still in Guntar’s dead hands, “He came at me claiming that I was an enemy of the Empire. I said that I didn’t know what he was talking about and that he had me mistaken for someone else. He wouldn’t listen but came at me with his dagger so I had to defend myself. I blasted him with a few magic missiles, but that knocked him backwards and he tripped and hit his head on the edge of the bunk.”
The first mate examined the body and seemed to agree with Morvelus’ story, “Are you an enemy of the Empire?”
Morvelus said, “Not that I know of. But we’ve people hunting us so who knows what’s going on or has happened.”
The first mate started going through Guntar’s pockets and pulled out a note, “This looks like a letter from the ambassador of Bretonia to the Empire, but the seal has been broken.” She hands it to Morvelus, “He thought you were an enemy, perhaps there is something in here that marks you as an enemy of the Empire.”
Morvelus scans the letter and as he does so there is mention of a town, Mettis. The mention of the town sparks the memory that he and Ruak had shared earlier. This was the town that the two of them had garrisoned as part of the militia. The letter mentions consession and reparations regarding a border skirmish three years ago, though no fault is claimed by either party.
Later during the trip, Voirrey was talking to Quinth in the galley, “You were asking about the witchbreed earlier and I couldn’t help but notice that you have a gift yourself. Is that why you were asking?”
Quinth replied, “It is in part. We have been, I’m not sure if the word I want is accused or not, but labeled at least, as witchbreed. And we are in the dark as to what that means. But what do you mean ‘I have a gift’?”
Voirrey said, “Witchbreed are as a whole as we discussed with the others at dinner the other night. Some, most, witchbreed have but minor gifts; some few, rare, witchbreed have greater gifts. But your particular gift is a natural ability with sorcery. I am able to recognize that gift in the witchbreed that have it. I can help you release it if you are having difficulty accessing your gift.”