Recap: The evening of Dacal the 2nd had the Skate aiming for the Samite Hills -- and a destination that only Xzax knew of. A small storm and five days later, found them in a tiny alcove of the hilly lands. Xzax had expressly warned the crew, many times, not to leave the ship. The crow's nest let the skipper know that nine-foot-tall things watched them from the edges of the natural harbor -- things just out of sight, and vaguely humanoid in the dusky light.
Xzax flew from the crow's nest, wings spread wide by his new application of alter self, and he landed just short of the shore. Wading in, he moved to kneel before an attractive elven maiden that appeared in the darkening twilight. They talked, and then a bowflight from his quiver sent a message to the skipper -- a message Captain Fourth had already anticipated.
Longboats were crewed to the shore, later that evening, and hulking brutes with vacant eyes loaded the longboats with tons of cargo, supplies, and stores. A nearly seven foot elf with reddish hair and a reddish beard, returned with Xzax and the elven maiden to the ship.
Xzax introduced the silver-haired maiden as his 'Aunt Blud', and the giant of an elf as 'Korsth'. Korsth sealed himself off below-decks with tons and tons of raw materials, and grimly set to work repairing the ship from within. Great jets of flame flew out the ballista ports, the crew decided that strange things were afoot. Xzax's aunt, however, was a friendly sort that with a touch and a prayer, restored the gibbering sailors to their full wits, and healed Seamus and Lucian of the effects of the ghost's power. She was a true lady, but she had a message for Jena. "At midnight, have her in the crow's nest. Sthis wishes to speak with this one."
Lady Blud left in the evening, as the crew set about to enjoying the longboats' worth of ales, food, raw materials, and more. Dwarven ale and rot-gut flowed freely, even as Lucian spent time with the brooding Korsth. Korsth turned out to be a distant uncle of Lucian's, and arranged for an elven translation of his pendant -- for it was a journal of an ancient red dragon's that had taken elven form to hide from the Inquisition, and then fallen in love with an elven maiden.
In the dark of the night, when 'the circle of the stars was half-way complete', a raven-haired, light-skinned beauty appeared to Jena and Xzax. Xzax took to one knee, while Jena bowed, and then curtsied, deeply. Sthis had this challenge for her: "You and your kind has hunted us almost to extinction. But I have heard of your work on the behalf of this one," and she pointed to Xzax. "There is still hope for you humans -- and you paladins. If you can keep the Inquisition from attacking us, I have Justicar for you. If not, I will destroy you."
Justicar was Simon Luminar's fabled holy avenger, during the Storm Wars. Sthis had it, in her treasures, and it was Jena's for the taking -- when she was ready. Xzax's report to Sthis, at some later date, would determine her fate.
The morning dawned with the Skate fully repaired, even to the six ballistae that had been destroyed below-decks by Nathamra's ice burst spell. Captain Fourth and the crew slowly recovered from their night of revelry, even as the tomanths delcared the water unsafe. Something larger than the ship lay beneath her -- and the tomanths did not like thinking of themselves as bait.
Captain Fourth, Xzax, and the rest of the crew thanks Lady Blud and Korsth for their help -- and then the Skate set off with all due speed for Rakore.
The voyage would take a month, and in that time, the crew relaxed -- sailing by day, and weighing the sea-anchor by night. Always, the thought of the ghost ship returning disturbed their dreams, but with only sixty crewmen aboard, the shifts off watch or duty were allowed to rest and relax, revelling in the songs of the Skald of the Stonehelms and the ale brought aboard-ship.
Minor storms bothered them on their way home, to Rakore, but nothing of significance until they reached the Straights of Sloph. There, a Kur Maen heavy trireme asked the Skate to heave-to, because she matched the description of a known pirate vessel. Jena's status as a Guardian of Yatindar quickly moved the heavy trireme away -- though for a few hair-raising moments, it looked as though a battle might be enjoined.
Staying well away from Kur Maeth, the Skate finally made land-fall in Teras, Rakore.
Captain Fourth paid off his crew, so they could enjoy shore leave -- and paid the party for their time, as well. Captain Fourth made Seamus an offer to stay on as his bosun, and Seamus was hard-pressed to decide. The next night, he visited a priestess of Habrem who used the commune spell for him, to ask the Lady of Music her voice in the matter. The answers Seamus received pushed him deffinatively back to the quest.
Gunju had a chance to have his armor fixed, as well as spend more time with Jena.
Xzax and N'Kara spent the time together, in the woods, despite the chill rains.
Lucian, for his part, simply enjoyed some fine elven company at one of the inns that catered almost exclusively to elves.
Xzax also spent a little time with Lucian in the Temple of Lul in Teras. The two made a fateful, terrifying discovery: the 'halls of the faery queen' might be a small, abandoned desert kingdom found in the Srik-controlled lands. If that were true, then 'the mounds of the mother' could refer to a queen Srik...
Meanwhile, by the time Seamus had made his decision, word came from Captain Fourth that 'Mister Mhenace' wanted to see him. Seamus took the five mile hike along the Western Road to Thayer's Rock, the heart of the shipbuilding operation known as Gideon Enterprises. Rial Mhenace, the administrative head of Gideon Enterprises, had received word of the quest from Captain Fourth, and assured Seamus that only three other people in Rakore knew about the quest -- the Baron and the Bishop Fistforger, Duke Orcbane, and the king. The three of them had decided not to interfere in prophecy, and that Gideon Enterprises would aid the quest -- through Firestorm.
There was also mention of the other part of the prophecy, naming them in turn -- something that made Seamus distinctly uncomfortable with.
Seamus accepted Rial's offer to join Firestorm, as well as take command of the Black Holly II -- a specially outfitted penance that would let the party 'do what needed doing'. Rial made this offer based off of Captain Fourth's recommendation, and off of his own, personal observations of the party. Seamus accepted.
Rial warned Seamus that the Baron and the Bishop would want to talk with the party before they left, and that they should move quickly. A possible shake-down was coming through the Rakoran government, because someone on the King's council was leaking information to the Ogre Nations.
Seamus returned to the Skate, and barely had time to brief the others, before the Skate was boarded. Actors looking identical to the party, along with some of GE's men, helped cause some confusion with anyone who might be looking. The look-alikes intermingled with the party, and then the party split up -- some going to the Black Holly II by longboat, and others going through town, to pick up the last of their supplies, and the like.
Even as they were preparing to leave, dark clouds were racing in from the sea -- clouds that could not be natural.
The Baron and the Bishop Dwarfendale appeared on the deck of the Black Holly II in a gout of flame, and had some farewell advice for the party. He also had some dark warnings, as well as a few crates that he hoped would help them on their way. He disappeared in another gout of flame, even as golems began working themselves loose from their stone housings at Thayer's Rock -- in preparation for the battle ahead.
The Black Holly II set sail northwest as quickly as possibly -- even as four ghost ships were seen to the south, bearing down on Thayer's Rock. The Black Holly II apparently had some considerable innovations in its design -- to include extendable hydrofoils when the need arose. She ran as far as possible from the ghost ships, and seemed to lose them behind.
Rather than staying in Firland, the nearest city on the map they possessed, and the western-most tip of Rakore, they put in for the night in a tiny, rocky alcove well-hidden from prying eyes. The Black Holly II was dyed black, from its decking to its sails, and it was unlikely that non-magical means would ever find her in the darkness of the night, on Trical the 3rd.
XP Awarded: 1,600 (total to date is 8,950)
DM's Notes: Meeting again the next day, we had meant to get out of there early, as the whole group wanted to go the Rennaissance Festival in nearby Kansas City -- and we'd have to leave early the next morning, to make it. Despite Adam's repeated pleas to order food, we continually assured him that we would soon be through -- and then we'd play another hour or so.
At this point, we began to contemplate just what we would do while Brandy was in Oklahoma for a month. The guys kept tossing around twin dwarves for the two Macs -- who think eerily alike, at times -- and I was wondering what kind of beer-and-chips madness we could get into, after I had a nice vacation.