I dried off as quickly as I could, but it didn’t stop the fire spreading across my skin. Despite the heat, my shipmates put a dry wool blanket around me; to my surprise, it helped regulate my skin temperature. I have fought fierce foes, including Wolfen, Orcs, Ogres, and Trolls; I have fought on plains and in forests; I have been teleported by gods; but nothing prepared me for the horror I had just faced.
Quixis had just been ripped from the ship, and I dove into the hellish, empty deep. I swam as fast as I could, but there was no end to the black stretching out before me and my prey. It wasn’t just lack of fresh air that was gripping my chest as I swam farther and farther, faster and faster; with my prize in hand, I sped as fast as I could away from the blackness.
Danzi have amazing eyesight generally speaking. I have heard that most races can barely see someone standing in front of them at night, and Humans can barely see a hand in front of their faces. I finally understood what that was like, diving into the ocean. No trees, no rocks, no grass to gauge distances, just blackness.
The air temperature seemed to have risen since I dove, or maybe I had just experienced real cold, so the crisp winter air wasn’t so harsh. Either way, I wasn’t nearly as tired of life aboard our magnificent vessel.
On our way toward Minischmee and the Capitol, we ran into an enormous disturbance in the surface of the ocean. As we got closer, we noticed that it was a school of tuna, a lot bigger than any I had seen in the rivers around my Shabet. Peri went wild; with a shriek, she launched into the air from her perch on the center mast and started hunting for one small enough to bring back to her roost. Gavin scooped up a massive ball of writhing fish and held them out over the deck for us to wrap and store. Gleefully, Peri swiped a reasonably sized trout and spent the next few minutes cracking and tearing fish-flesh out of sight.
The next week was very enjoyable, I barely noticed the cold. As we neared Gatefort, the frontline of defense for the inlet-lagoon that makes up most of the island-kingdom of Bizantium, we noticed the signal flags. They flashed around in intricate patterns and those around me on deck retreated to the helm, where Overkill and Sir Quixis stood. The would-be castaway took the helm, and Captain Overkill took up the flags in their cubby to the side of the wheel-housing. He made a few complex waves, and the flag master in the port answered back. I was told later that it went down a little like this:
Gatefort: Identify yourselves!
Overkill: Crisis (apparently you can’t differentiate between a proper noun and a disaster in flag-ese)
Gatefort: Loyal to King Bafag, or King Minischmee?
Gavin and Terrawhatsit ; ‘Overkill, if you are a follower of light, you will answer truthfully.’
Overkill: All Hail King Minischmee!
After a short pause that lasted forever, we heard a faint call, ‘Lower the chain!’ We noticed a disturbance in a line across the narrow passage between the Forts, and we all sighed a breath of relief we didn’t hold in.
As we passed, they recognized the Torch Flag we were flying, and a great cheer erupted to our sides. In a fit of exuberance Gavin used some music paper of Ferrel’s and folded a strange arrow-shaped contraption. He threw it toward the gate, and it flew! It was the most remarkable thing I had ever seen, though it started to do some bird-like maneuvers, so I guessed he was just making it look like a bird, since paper doesn’t fly, and anything that does flaps its wings. I noticed Ferrel singing toward it, so maybe it was flying on the wings of his song? Either way, it was attacked by Peri mid-flight, who dropped it in the hands of the captain at the fort.
Traitors among us
We reached Bizantium finally. Sir Quixis stood guard on the boat while CrIsis worked their way through the crowds of the city toward the palace. If we didn’t have a contingent of soldiers surrounding us, I’m afraid that we would never have gotten past that first mile. We ran into Horoth shortly after landing that apologized for Kym-Nark-Mar’s deception, and assured us that he is in fact mortal. He accompanied us to the royal grounds, where we would continue alone to the throne room.
On the way, our mind-mage told us that there were evil soldiers accompanying us. Horoth asked the captain of the guard to halt, and Karma asked that he and his soldiers touch Humara and show their respect to the Gods of light and their devotion to the cause of CrIsis. The Captain asked Overkill, cousin of the king, if it was his wish as well. He nodded his agreement, and they formed a line.
‘I wish to go first, if that is all right.’ The captain asked, placing himself at the front of the line; silence pressed from all sides. After the twenty-two soldiers had all passed through, Cava placed two of them near him, and Ferrel took up position near him. Upon reaching the royal grounds, the Captain left the two with us, and his guard left.
Ferrel played a tune, and the two guards snapped to attention, and folded their arms as per Ferrel’s command. We started winding our way through the courtyards toward the giant palace. Oh, was it enormous! This almost put the grandness of the Pyramid to shame; almost. Now I know why King Avramson’s royal abode is only called a ‘Manor,’ and not a palace. If the Palace in Bizantium is the standard for palaces, then I have never even seen a building that’s one one-hundredth of a palace before. Oh, Raq’el, you would have loved it. Full of tall cylindrical juttings, and sloped roofs, several stories high, all made from exquisite materials. This is what men make when they try imitating the workings of the Creators, and these men did a good job. It reminded me of the majesties of the Northolme Mountains as seen from far off. It must have taken hundreds of workers years to finish just one part of it. Raq’el, remember our marriage Moot? You insisted on travelling to the mountains, to be surrounded by majesty beyond reckoning. Were you still with me, I would build you a house like this Palace so you could wake up to that majesty daily.
Sorry for the side track; on with the story. I left Peri to play in the leaf-barren trees outside the palace, as she hates confined spaces. It took us almost as long to reach the throne room as it had to get to the palace from the docks. When we got there, we were greeted with even more bowing and praise from the courtiers. The hall was cleared, and I think the King even lasted an extra fifteen seconds before he exclaimed ‘Aww, THE HELL WITH IT!’ and ran to his cousin’s embrace; Karma paid respect to Christine.
‘You look tired, cousin, have you been sleeping?’ Overkill said after they finally released each other.
‘Slept? Not in days. Since I was crowned a civil war has broken out; it’s been awful! The captains Bartimus, Arfax and Norbert are against me, and have created a rift in the kingdom, but Norbert is the main problem.’
Ferrel cleared his throat, looking to the rest of us to ask if it were time to introduce our ‘guests.’ Cava and Karma give him the ‘go,’ and he addressed the king. ‘We found these dissenters among the ranks of our guard. What would you have us do with them?’
‘Do as you would, CrIsis. Your word is good enough for me that these two had nefarious desires.’
Ferrel starts asking questions, and they start to answer, but they still needed the proper… ‘Motivation.’ We found out that they were after the bounty from Timiro on Gavin’s head. The king temporarily relaxed. They let it slip about attempts on the king, but clammed up after that.
I asked to take over, and Karma asked if Gavin should watch this. I told her that it would probably be better that he left. Cava, Tyvernos, Gavin and Karma left for the suites we would be sleeping in during our stay. I then started into them. Interrogations can’t be done with more than one interrogator; it confuses the target, and they think that there’s more chance of empathy in that many people. I couldn’t get into the zone, since everyone decided to pitch in with questions, and took the prey’s focus away from the imminent threat.
I started to pressure them, and one of them broke free from Ferrel’s incantation. ‘FOR THE KING!’ he yelled lunging at Minischmee, but didn’t get farther than his feet before being struck down by the guards surrounding us. The other cried out, ‘I WILL TELL YOU ANYTHING!’ Overkill got in his face and yelled, ‘I WANT NAMES!’ And the terrified interoguee gave up the names of the conspirators; two brothers from the city.
The king sent a group of guards to round them all up, and interrogate them. The prisoner was taken to the dungeons.
After the rest of the guards left the room, Minischmee asked if we could stay and fight by his side for the Kingdom, but we had to decline. We did offer to check his closest advisors and generals; make sure they were all faithful to the cause, and the King. He didn’t feel that was a good move, and that it would be seen as a sign of weakness and mistrust in a time he should show strength and gain earn trust. I understand where he’s coming from, but I would rather earn trust by telling my generals about the tests, if I were him. If they are truly on your side, they would lay down their lives for the king, and showing their devotion would be something they wouldn’t balk at. Oh well, he’s king, and he needs to rule of his own.
Cava asked Horoth, Priest of Algor, if the big n’ tall god could do anything to help the cause or aid in the war. Horoth said that it is enough that Algor came to the declaration of Minischmee’s rule, and added his blessing on that day: nothing further is needed or pending. Minischmee thanked us for our concern, and offered to re-provision our ship. Much to my dismay, the group decided that we would only fill our hold with Fruit and Alcohol. Yes, I know that our Song Mage can summon milk and bread, and we can try to catch fish as we travel, but warriors cannot live on milk like a suckling child, nor can he live on bread alone. When we do not run into fish for weeks on end and are sustained on fruits, bread, and milk for months… I shudder as I think of our upcoming journey. But the word of our addict is obviously better than mine, the honorable Danzi. Oh well, it doesn’t matter.
After finishing with the king, we went to a diabolist to ward our group chest; it will only open when two or more members of CrIsis are present. It’s good to see that the members of Isis’ paragon are finally taking things more seriously. I was surprised that this wasn’t done right after Cava’s Ordeal, but I am glad to see that since Tyvernos’ Betrayal they are buckling down. They will get mad at me after reading this, but I speak my mind.
With that done Overkill, Tyvernos, Terrawhatsit, Karma and set off to the Royal Library to find a map of the Yin Sloth Jungles. I walked through the doors and my jaw dropped. I could fit my village several times over in the walls of the Library. So many bookcases! The walls were floor-to-ceiling books; you could start reading the titles of the books and not finish in your lifetime. We dove in, looking through the piles of maps, books, journals, encyclopedias and ledgers. After an hour or two, Overkill finally found it. It was specifically for the rainforest, but luckily for us we didn’t need a map of anything else. Unfortunately, I wasn’t much of a help – I couldn’t make out a letter of Northern, and there wasn’t much written in Elvish.
While we were having fun in the library Cava, Gavin and Ferrel retrieved several sacks of gold from the ship, and brought it to the palace. Gavin requested an official audience with the King and Queen. He proposed that there be a temple built in Bizantium to his god, Ra. Poor Minischmee was nearly bowled over by his wife, Christine as she rushed to pull the child into a hug. ‘YES!’ she exclaimed. And that is how the Temple of Ra came to be in Bizantium.
Finally the day of our departure came, Algor 25th, and the day dawned bright and sunshiny, despite the early date. King Minischmee called the city to gather in the royal grounds. Overkill gave a speech about Minischmee’s reign to come. He proclaimed that CrIsis and the Gods were both supportive of his appointment, and all those that sustain him as King. Minischmee then asked us to become honorary citizens. In six months, I have gone from being a clan-less exile to having two citizenships. It is not even close to being connected to my ancestors, but it is better than being an outcast.
After the festivities, we made our way to the ship. The discussion was light, even though we brought up the discussion of which way we should go. I am of the mind that we should take the short way around, no matter which sea we sail through. It can’t be any worse than it already has been, right? But the group decided to take the long way, and not through the ‘Sea of Friggin Fighting Something Every Thirty Meters,’ as Cava so delicately put it. We were on the ramp to board Matilda when Overkill exclaimed, ‘‘The Blue Ribbon Club!’ The rest of us looked at him like he had suddenly come down with tourette’s.
He explained that he had promised Robert the Just that he would go to the Blue Ribbon Club, an exclusive captain’s guild, and pay his respects. He ran down to the hold and grabbed Robert’s hat, and we made our way back into the city. He went with Cava and Gavin. They broke the news to the captains, and the funeral service stretched well into the night. They spoke of Robert’s bravery, devotion and valiant final moments in life.
Tyvernos, Karma, Ferrel and I went to the Royal College of Navigation. We were greeted by someone who offered to take our coats. I still don’t understand the need for so many layers. I am from a rather temperate climate, and I still don’t need an undershirt, overshirt and coat to walk around in the north, though it’s much more enjoyable when you are on the open water to have some sort of protection from the wind.
And that’s when it hit me. There is a special resin used to lacquer the wood of Matilda that makes it extra water resistant. Wood in water tends to bloat, but with that resin it stays sturdy. Why don’t I bring a long coat and some tall boots to a shipwright and have him cover them for me? After our visit to the RCN I had them made. I call them slickers, and I am sure after seeing them in action the rest of my group will want some made. They do seem to be a lot more restrictive than normal clothes, though, as they don’t bend well in the arms or at the waist. I’ll think of ways to perfect them, though.
Well let’s get back to the College. So we went to the upper level, and we saw two very different groups of adventurers. Karma and I went to the more weather-worn group at the bar. We walked up, and honestly I am surprised at all of the places Karma’s allowed; seriously, a horse going up the stairs? Standing at a bar? Nothing against her as a person, but it still seems out of place to me.
The rowdy group of five grizzly men didn’t mind her presence, though. One of them made an advance as soon as we walked up. Apparently they had spent a long winter in the North hunting something called Gantrium, and had gained a taste for equine company. No matter my thoughts on her ‘fitting’ in as it were, she’s still a lady and part of my circle of friends.
I made my position known by drawing one of my throwing knives and scraping my arm with the blade. In my village this was a show of power; First it shows that you are confident in your ability with your knife; Second it shows that you have a sharp knife by the sound it makes dragging against your skin; Third, it shows you are ready to defend yourself and yours. To my surprise four of them followed suit. Karma sighed exasperatedly, and two of them laughed.
Karma talked with them about the Centaur and their exploits, but they weren’t forthcoming with information. One of them put his arm on her, so I got ready to relieve him of it. The others immediately got into fighting position, so I released the cad. They then turned their focus on me, asking about my heritage. One of them actually knew a thing or two about Danzi, so we spoke for a few minutes about the futility of my existence. Well not quite, but close enough. I have yet to meet someone so familiar to Danzi culture that he actually greets one properly, but I guess that’s asking too much in a world where no one even knows what one is.
Karma inquired about Galtron Khejas, the head of the College and brother to the man who discovered the piece of Osiris in the Wastelands. They told us that he is currently in Credia, Timiro, but they didn’t have any idea where he would head after that. We spoke for a while before I noticed one of the people Ferrel and Tyvernos was talking to started to touch the Gnome’s clothes, and look around like he’d never seen a ceiling before. Dang it, Ferrel!
Let’s back up a bit. Ferrel and Tyvernos chose the more reserved bunch. They walked up, and Tyvernos addressed the bunch. They couldn’t help but make jokes about his choice of placement for the Finger of Osiris. They started right into the meat of why we were there, and as soon as Rystrom was brought up two of the three left by a silent cue. They learned from James Khejas, cousin to Rystrom and Galtron, that Rystrom had been taken by Giants during his travels, and was taken to their king; all of his companions were killed.
To understand what happened next, you have to know three things. First, that Ferrel laces his peach brandy with a hallucinogen called Rashad. Second, he has a love of hijinx. Third, he only had one dose left of his drug.
Ferrel offered a stiff drink to James, both to comfort him and to see what would happen. What happened? We got nothing else out of the adventurer’s cousin that night. They finished out the night at Robert’s wake. It was shortly after they left that I slipped off to buy my slickers.
The next morning, we visited James’ manor who was just waking up and surprisingly without a headache. We talked for a good long time about the Khejas family. He also told us about the Minotaurs that use the piece of Osiris, the Idrijians who serve the dreaded Old Ones, and the tribe they are warring with, the Serelan.
Finally we were ready to leave, two days after our farewell.
Return to the Deep
That first week of sailing was back to sleet, but with my new clothes it wasn’t bad at all. We sailed past ships in the Bizantium navy as we made our way out of their national waters. The month of Algor slowly turned to the month of Gryphon. And then disaster struck… well kinda. It could have been a lot worse, and we thought we were going down when it happened, but it was a lot better than it felt at the time, but…. I’ll just tell the story.
The 8th of Gryphon dawned grey and bleak. About halfway through the morning, those of us with 6th sense felt that ‘prickling sensation’ moments before the boat jolted sideways, knocking us from our feet.
As if kick started by the heat of battle, a fight broke out in our ranks centered on Cava, Gavin and Ferrel. It lasted quite a while, and even the sea serpent stopped his attack on our little piece of driftwood to pop his head out of the water and watch. Listening to their reasoning, I could see merit in both arguments. Luckily it ended without a casualty. Shortly afterward the serpent launched back into its assault.
Pots and pans clattered in the galley, as we heard the cracking of wood shudder through the ship.
Tyvernos called to a water elemental, and the ship was covered by waves as a huge water elemental rose to the surface. They look into each others’ eyes, like lovers in a spat. I got knocked down again, and it felt like my legs were filled with water. Tyvernos declared to us all ‘I’m not sure if you know, but there’s a giant serpent that is plaguing us.’ Sometimes he can be obtuse, but that’s why we love him.
Gavin yelled, ‘Go below deck Morgan! Take the baby!’ He then made an illusion in what I can only guess is supposed to be Rell. I touched my warrior tattoo as I got up, and Gavin yelled down, ‘Tie a rope to me!’
Quixis jumped into the water, and I jumped up to the mast. My eyes were torn from the mast as Terradude fired a fireball at the beast. Tyvernos touched Gavin, and I threw Gavin a fantastic rope work harness; looks like all those life lines I made paid off. Karma flew to the Gavin’s side. Cava shot the serpent with a lightning arrow, and Terrawhatever dove in, following Quixis’ lead.
Tyvernos followed through with his promise to Cava with a handful of lightning arrows. I prepare myself, ok maybe I just wanted to wait a bit longer, and decided to jump in after the reckless ‘protectors’ of CrIsis. My vision was covered again by that impossible blindness, but I was able to pick out Quixis and the serpent, a ‘horned ramrod’, on collision course. I saw Karma and Gavin appear from the water’s surface, and I yelled at them before I remembered I was underwater. But to my surprise, the serpent suddenly stopped moving and sunk well out of sight. We inspected the damage to the ship quickly, and verified it wouldn’t need to be fixed immediately. The lot of us rose to the surface, and for the second time in a month I felt that now-familiar inferno spreading across my skin. I looked over at Terramore and Sir Quixis with the beginnings of respect. We’ll have to talk to these two as a group.
>>As written by Drauka, in the language of the Danzi, translated by Thoth. The fourth log of Drauka, Mercenary Danzi Warrior, Written on Gryphon 8 in Drauka’s 105th year.<<