Fire Down Below
Written by Harry McKenzie, copyright 2008; posted with full permissions.

One: At sea, Cal 15th, 1329 Avard

“Steer two points to starboard.” Seamus told his helmsman. He stood in the command tower of the submersible Copper Kracken, staring intently at the Mage's Divination Board that showed the ships surroundings. He eyes were fixed upon the glowing shape that was a Nabrolian trireme.

“Two points to starboard, aye.” the helmsman replied. He spun his wheel and steadied the ship on it's new course. They had spotted the Nabrolian ship about an hour ago, and luck had placed them in a good position to try to intercept it. They had raced ahead of it's observed course and then dived to a depth of about thirty feet. The they had begun to slowly stalk the huge ship as it continued on.

Now they were lining up to make their attack run. They would close to within catapult range, come up to about ten feet below the surface, and charge full speed into the side of the enemy vessel, hopefully smashing the ram mounted on the Kracken's bow through the side of the huge ship, crippling or sinking it.

Seamus watched as the range began to close. It was almost time to come up to attack depth. He wiped sweat from his brow with a shirtsleeve, it was hot, humid and downright stuffy in the Kracken when it was submerged. Mage orbs provided dim illumination throughout the ship, but the lack of circulating air was something they had yet to find a cure for. “Make your depth ten feet.” He ordered.

“Ten feet, aye.” came the response. The deck below his feet tilted up slightly for a few moments, then leveled off again. “Depth now ten feet, Cap'n”

“Very good.” Seamus said, he continued to watch the Mage Board, it was time, “Ahead full! All hands, brace for impact!” Seamus reached up and grabbed a bar that was bolted above the Mage Board. Most of the rest of the crew grabbed various hand holds near their stations as well. Only Cleo failed to grab a handhold, she merely changed her stance slightly.

There was a long moment before the impact. So when it came, it was a bit of a surprise even though everyone was ready for it. The Kracken's forward momentum halted, throwing most of the crew forward a bit, Cleo merely swayed a bit on her feet, a hand flashing out to grab a Mage Orb that was flung from it's mounting. The Kracken began to swing to port and roll slightly to the right as well, her ram in the side of the Nabrolian ship acting as a leash, dragging her along.

“FULL REVERSE!!” Seamus ordered above the sound of cracking timbers and groaning wood. The two men manning the drive controls quickly spun a pair of wheels, which swung the two large stern rudders over and across the the parabolic dish that housed the drive, redirecting it's force. Slowly, with even more groaning and popping of wood, the Kracken began to back away from the Nabrolian ship.

“That wasn't so bad, was it lads?” Seamus asked as the Kracken came free with a final lurch before righting herself. Cleo gave him a raised eyebrow, and a few others gave him odd looks. “Let's back off a ways and get ready for another run at them if that doesn't sink them.”

On board the trireme Bloodmoon

“Lord Perrine, we're taking water forward!” A crewman reported to the Priest-Captain.

“What in the name of Nabrol did we hit?” Lord Perrine asked with an rather annoyed tone.

“We're not sure My Lord, our charts don't show anything in this area.” his second in command told him.

“Nabrol take the fools who supplied them then.” Perrine snarled, “Get the leak sealed up and the flooding contained.”

“As you command.” his second replied with a bow before trotting off to do his master's bidding.

Perrine turned to another of his officers, “Bring a couple of the slaves to the altar, we'll sacrifice them to speed up the repairs, surely Nabrol will look more favorably upon us if we please him.”

“Yes my Lord.” the man replied before hurrying of to grab the unfortunate sacrifices. Perrine stalked angrily back to his throne, his blood red ceremonial robe swirling about him as he moved.

Aboard the Copper Kracken

“Hmm...they've stopped but are still afloat.” Seamus said as he observed the images on the Mage Board, “Let's hit them again.” He checked the angle of the Kracken's bow against the side of the targets hull and decided that they needed a slight adjustment, “Steer three points to starboard, full ahead.”

The helmsman spun his wheel, watching his compass, after a moment he announced, “Three points to starboard, aye.”

The two men manning the drive controls spun their wheels returning the big aft rudders to their normal position, allowing the drive to push the ship forward at full speed, “Full ahead, Aye.” they reported. Seamus estimated almost a full minute before they would impact.

“Brace yerselves Lads.” he said. Just as Cleo screamed in pure agony and collapsed to the deck. Seamus went to her side instantly, she was breathing but unconscious, no sign of why she had screamed and passed out. “Get her to my cabin.” He ordered. He stood and moved back to the mage board. Angus and Maui moved to Cleo's side.

The Kracken slammed her ram into the Nabrolian again. Once again there was the cracking and groaning of timbers outside the hull. Seamus shouted for full astern again and the Kracken backed away again. Angus picked up Cleo and carried her aft to Seamus' tiny cabin, with Maui following along. Seamus forced himself to concentrate on the attack, once they finished off the Nabrolian, he could find out what was wrong with Cleo.

Seamus watched the Mage Board as they continued to back away. The Nabrolian ship was listing heavily to port now. It looked as if perhaps mortal damage had been done to her. He feverently hoped so. Still, he continued to back away, getting enough distance for a third ramming if it should prove necessary.

On board the trireme Bloodmoon

Lord Perrine finished his prayer to Nabrol and plunged the ceremonial obsidian blade into the slaves chest, just below the ribcage. He pulled the blade back and quickly reached his free hand into the wound, forcing his hand up inside the screaming mans chest until his hand closed around the still beating heart. He got a firm grip, and brought the blade in, severing the heart's connections and pulled it free. It gave two weak pulses as he held it up in front of the slaves eyes. The man was trying to scream, but no sound came forth, as his lungs were ruptured from the sheer trauma inflicted. Finally, mercifully, he fell over dead.

As Perrine reached for the second sacrifice, his ship gave a hard lurch and began to roll to port. With a sinking feeling, he realized that his sacrifices to his God had not been enough, or perhaps just not done quickly enough, as the Bloodmoon was not going to stop. She was going into a death roll. She was going to capsize and then sink. Pushing his dismay aside, as befitted a High Priest of Nabrol, he squared his shoulders and strode to his position by the ship's massive tiller. He plunged his blade into the back of his First Officer and began to chant a final prayer, a curse upon his enemies and a wish for a lingering death.

Before he could complete the curse, the Bloodmoon picked up speed, rolling faster, and flinging anything not secured to the deck over the side, including her crewmen on deck. Perinne was not thrown clear. As he was flung clear of the deck, the aft most boom, swinging free with the force of gravity, intersected his path. With a sound not unlike a melon being stepped on by a horse, his skull shattered, and his brains were sent in an arc free of his head. He had no time for a last thought.

Aboard the Copper Kracken

Seamus stepped back from the Mage Board with a tight grin, the Nabrolian had rolled over and was sinking rapidly, “She's going down, Lads!” He announced. “Bring us around to a north heading, make for Gridolyn, best speed. Surface once we're over the horizon from this area.” He ordered as he began to stride out of the control room, “Vladimir, you have the ship, I'll be in my cabin.”

Vladimir acknowledged the orders with his usual salute and Seamus moved down the cramped passage to his cabin. The Copper Kracken was designed around a central passageway. Aft most on it was the compartment housing the mechanical works that allowed the parabolic dish that housed the magical drive to be angled, ahead of that were crew quarters and storerooms, a tiny captain's cabin, the control room, a tiny mess and galley and another crew compartment. Not a lot of space, but then again, she was a small vessel with a small crew. Seamus entered the tiny captains cabin, having to squeeze in with Angus and Maui, the three of them took up all the available space, save the area the cot sized bunk occupied. Cleo was tucked into the bunk, looking a bit paler than normal, and still completely out. “Any idea what's wrong?” He asked Maui.

“I can't find anything physically wrong with her, Captain.” The big man replied, “I've even tried a healing prayer...and it did nothing.”

“Well..outside our areas of expertise then.” Seamus decided. “Thanks for taking care of her, I'll sit with her for a while.”

Angus nodded to his cousin, and left, Maui followed him a second later, leaving Seamus alone with his love. He took her tiny hand in his own, and sat beside her, not speaking, silently praying she would wake up.

Two: Gridolyn, Cal 16th, 1329 Avard.

Seamus stood on the dock watching as Cleo cursed at Angus, without any real venom, while the Dwarf carried her across the gangplank from the Copper Kracken. She had awakened last evening just at sunset, tired and unsure of what had happened to her. All she could tell them was that she had what felt like the mother of all hangovers. Of her fainting spell, she recalled nothing. Concerned for her safety, Seamus had decided to put her ashore until someone could determine just what had happened.

To say that Cleo was less than happy with his decision was an understatement. She had begged, whined, threatened, cajoled, and cursed him to no avail. The Elf would take no chances with her safety. Just whose care he was going to put her under, he wasn't sure of. Perhaps Cassandra, if she were still in town.

Once Angus had her across the gangway and onto the dock, he let her down and she gave him a death glare, which he ignored, before she stalked over to Seamus. After giving him a suitably annoyed glare, which he also ignored, she allowed him to lead the way up to Prat's keep. She was of mixed emotions right now, frightened because of what had happened, annoyed that Seamus was going to make her stay ashore, rather flattered that he loved her enough to make her stay, and concerned for his safety. A rather frustrating mix.

They had just entered the main courtyard, when a familiar figure caught Cleo's eye. She focused her attention and to the casual observer, vanished. It wasn't invisibility, per say, it was more a very refined blending into the background. Unless one concentrated exceptionally well, and in the correct spot, the eyes would simply miss her.

She moved silently over to the figure, leaving Seamus standing wondering what she thought she was up to now. Since he hadn't spotted the figure, he had no idea where Cleo had vanished to. He was just starting to get annoyed enough to call out to her, when Cleo reached the figure. Her hand reached out and touched the woman on the shoulder.

To any observer, it would appear that Cleo simply appeared in front of Jena, Paladin of Yentindar. “Jena.” Cleo said warmly, her voice uncharacteristically soft.

“CLEO?!” Jena shouted, flinging her arms around her friend in a quite uncharacteristic show of affection. “Where have you been? What are you doing here? What have you been up to? Where's Seamus?” she asked in rapid succession.

“I've been around.” Cleo replied as she returned the hug, “It's good to see you again.”

“Well, this is a pleasant surprise.” Seamus observed from behind Jena, “And solid proof that The Lady must look out for me.”

“Seamus, you rascal.” Jena turned, not releasing Cleo and pulled him in for a hug as well. She found herself overcome with joy at seeing two of her closest friends, the last several weeks stress seeming to melt away, “I knew you had to be here somewhere if she was here.”

“Well...that's usually true.” The Elf allowed from his rather interesting position in between the two women, “But ye might want tae turn me loose...people might get the wrong idea if ye don't.” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

Jena flushed, and let go of him, putting a proper and respectable distance between them. “You are such an ass.” she observed as she looked to make sure no one had paid them too much attention.

“Guilty of that and so much more.” He agreed with a smile. He turned serious then, “Our running into ye is a fortunate thing indeed, Lady Jena. We have a small matter that perhaps you'd be willing to help with.”

“Oh?” Jena asked, she became wary, with Seamus, a small matter could easily be anything up to a full blown battle. The last time she had helped him with a “small matter” she had ended up helping him fight a horde of pirates.

“Something happened tae Cleo yesterday.” Seamus replied uneasily, “She screamed and passed out...and we don't know why.”

Jena gave Cleo a questioning look, the smaller girl merely shrugged, “I don't remember any of it.” she explained.

“We can nae find anything wrong with her, but I don't have time at the moment to look into it.” He continued, “And I din nae want her to be doing it again in the middle of a fight or some such. I need someone to look after her until I get back from my current duties.”

“Done.” Jena interrupted before he could go any farther, “I'll even see if we can figure out what caused her little spell.”

“Thank you.” Seamus said, giving her a direct look that spoke more than words.

Jena merely nodded. They understood each other very well, having both led a thus-far failed quest off and on for the last two years. Both knew the burdens the other bore, and both loved Cleo, one as a lover, and one as a sister.

Seamus turned his attention to Cleo, “I'll be back in a few days, me love...try not to get arrested while I'm gone.” He pulled her in and gave her a gentle hug and a warm brush of his lips across hers, before turning to leave.

“I'll do that.” She relied quietly, “Come back to me, Seamus...don't you dare make me a sailor's widow.”

“I've no intent of doing that just yet.” He grinned as he began to walk away.

The two women watched as he merged into the crowd and was gone. After a few minutes of silence, Jena asked, “Don't you have to be married to be a widow?”

Prat's keep, a bit later

“Captain Seamus, a moment please.” Seamus halted as a familiar voice brought him up short. He turned to see Rial Mhenace, his boss at Firestorm crossing the courtyard towards him. “What can I do for ye, Mr. Mhenace?” Seamus asked politely.

“Not what you can do for me, it's what you can do for the King.” Rial replied. He looked around, “Follow me please, we shall discuss this somewhere a bit more private.” Seamus nodded and fell in step with him. Rial led him across the courtyard to what Seamus recalled as being one of Prat's guest towers.

Once they reached it, guards in Warkore colors presented arms and let them pass. Rial continued until they came into a great hall that mirrored the one he knew to be be in Prat's tower. There were literally a hundred souls in here, hurrying to and fro, conducting the business of running a kingdom at war. Seamus realized with a start that he was being led directly to King Graniteshoulders himself. He wished he had taken time to put on fresh clothes, his own smelled of stale sweat and unwashed bodies from the Copper Kracken.

“Majesty, may I present Captain Stonehelm?” Rial said as the King acknowledged his presence with a nod.

“Ah...Seamus isn't it?” King Feldspar Graniteshoulders asked as Seamus bowed and wished he were elsewhere. It struck him that the King was almost as young as his cousin Angus. He had expected someone older than that for some reason. “I've heard good things about you from both Lord Henrik and Rial here.”

“You are too kind, your Majesty.” Seamus replied.

“I know your father and most of your family quite well...fine folk.” the King said with a grin, “The general opinion when they took you in was that they were even madder than we all thought...but perhaps they were simply...canny? Anyway...I have a job that needs doing...and Rial says you are the best choice to do it.”

“As you command, so I endeavor to obey.” Seamus replied. His head was reeling a bit from that last struck him that the King knew a lot more about Seamus and his family than the Elf had assumed.

“A refreshing attitude indeed.” the King laughed, “Verra well...Rial will give you the details...I just wanted to meet the fellow that has managed to put my court in an uproar at least twice. Galgarin be with you.”

Thank you, your Majesty.” Seamus said as the King turned away, already speaking to someone else on another topic.

Rial led Seamus out of the main hall and back out to the courtyard. “The King needs you to deliver something.” he told Seamus as they walked along, “And he needs it done as quickly as possible, so I'm giving you the Black Holly II to do it with.”

“Sounds pretty forthright.” Seamus observed as they left Prat's keep and made their way back to the docks.

“You take whatever crew you think you need, the item you're to deliver must be safeguarded at all costs.” Rial told him as they arrived at his office, “If it should look like the item might fall into the wrong hands, you are to sacrifice everyone including yourself to see that it doesn't. Do you understand?” He looked directly into Seamus' eyes as he asked this final question, a look of urgency etched upon his face.

“Aye.” Seamus replied quietly. He considered asking just what was so important that his own life and those of his crew were to be forfeit to prevent it's loss, but decided to remain silent for now.

Rial led him to a corner of his office where a locked strongbox sat. He produced a key and opened it. He sorted through several parchments before pulling out two and handing them to Seamus, “This is a map to where you are to meet the person you will hand the item over to...her name is Klarissa, she's a human girl, blond, about your height and maybe a few years older than Cleo. Tell her you have her brother's inheritance...she will reply that it has been a long time in arriving. Got it?”

“Aye...I've got her brother's inheritance...she says it's been a long time arriving.” Seamus parroted back.

“This is a set of instructions on how to activate the item.” He said handing Seamus the second parchment, “Read it and commit it to memory, because it's not leaving my office. Should you face the possibility of this item falling into ANYONE's hands but Klarissa' activate it.”

Seamus nodded and began to read the parchment, as he did, his legs gave out under him and he fell onto his backside with a thump, his face going white, “By The Lady!” He croaked, “You can nae be serious!”

“Desperate times, Seamus.” Rial replied tiredly, “There is no other way.”

“But...but...if we do this...”

“We end the war.” Rial finished for him.

“Is there no other way then?” Seamus asked. He almost appeared to be aging before Rials eyes.

“No. If we wait much longer, there won't be a Rakore left.” Rial told him gently.

Seamus was silent for a long moment, finally, he closed his eyes and whispered a prayer. He opened them when he finished, straightened his back and stood up. He read through the parchment carefully and handed it back. “I'll sail with the morning tide.” He told Rial. His eyes were clear and his color had returned.

Rial nodded, the Captain was ready, his doubts and fears set aside, “The item will be delivered to the Holly just before sunset...come, I'll show you where she's docked.” He led Seamus out of the office, both of them pretending that Rial hadn't heard Seamus pray to Lady Habrem to grant him the strength to kill millions to save his homeland.

Three: Aboard the Black Holly II, Cal 17th, 1329 Avard

Seamus watched from his position on the Quarterdeck as his tiny command cleared the harbor's outer limit. As soon as he was certain they were clear, and no other shipping was in their path, he began to bark out orders, “ Set Full sail! Steer due south!”

His crew, greatly reduced from their normal numbers due to the Holly's small size, scrambled to set the black canvas of her sails as the helm brought her around until her compass pointed due south. Once they were steady on course, and her sails were set, Seamus, pulled a lever which activated the Holly's most unusual feature. A set of twin hydrofoils extended out from the hull, raising her clear of the water as she planed up on them, her speed increasing to far beyond anything any other ship, including his beloved Rattler could reach.

Seamus stood for several minutes, watching and getting a feel for the ship again. To him, each ship “felt” different. He couldn't explain it, but after he gained a feel of the particular ship, he could tell by sight, sound and touch, just what she was doing, or more importantly, what might be amiss. It was a knack some very few sailors possessed, a rare gift that could make for greatness in a captain.

Finally satisfied with what his senses told him, he moved to the hatchway leading down to the aft cabin, he went down into the captain's cabin and took a seat behind the tiny desk, unrolling a map and examining it in great detail. His finger traced the route he planned; south around Hallis Island, east-southeast down to the Rakoran coast, east along the Northern Rakoran coast, until they were past the Rakanus Mountains.

Just prior to reaching the Choranil Desert, there was a small bay, nestled in that bay was a tiny fishing village known as Sandrok Bay, named for the bay itself. That was his destination. His contact was a fishmonger in the village. According to all reports, the Ogarian forces had left most of the smaller settlements alone, to include Sandrok. He would meek Klarissa, turn the item over to her, and leave, his part in the greater plan to save Rakore finished.

He spared a glance over to the far side of his cabin, where Tor stood guard over a locked and chained strongbox. It had arrived at sunset yesterday as promised. Since then, Tot, Hrothgar, and Bjarne had taken turns standing guard over it. Seamus still found it hard to believe that the box contained enough power to level a mountain. He shook his head and put away his map. “See you later, Tor.” He said to the Minotaur as he left the cabin again. Tor merely grunted in reply. As ever, not one for words.

The following afternoon, Sandrok Bay

Seamus shaded his eyes with his hand, watching as his small command glided into the bay under much reduced sail. Her outriggers had been retracted well over a mark past, and aside from her black sails and black paint, she didn't look much different from the fishing sloops that lined a beach below a small village further inside the bay. He lowered his hand and checked astern, making sure there were were no sails on the horizon which might indicate an approaching vessel.

Satisfied, he returned his attention to the bay itself. It was fairly small, he estimated that the Rattle would be hard pressed to get inside without grounding, and even if she did, turning her about would be a tricky task. He moved over and took the wheel from the sailor manning the helm. It wasn't that he didn't trust his crews skill, he just hadn't conned a ship himself in some time. He found it to be a pleasurable job most of the time, one he was usually too busy to enjoy anymore.

He steered the Holly in close to the beach where the fishing boats lay grounded. He gave the order to take in all sail and drop anchor. The Holly came to a halt as her anchor found purchase in the bay's rocky floor. Seamus gave a tight smile, they were less than half a cable from the beach. As good a place as he could have asked for.

By now, a small group of locals were gathering on the shore, having watched the strange vessel's arrival. Seamus gave them a quick glance, common folk, mostly fishermen if he was to guess. He saw a few weapons in evidence, mostly bows and a few axes. This caused him no concern, it was wartime, and strangers arriving could well be trouble of some sort. Had they gathered and there been no weapons in sight, he would have become suspicious.

The Holly's sole boat was lowered, and Seamus, Angus, Tor, and Bjarne loaded up, along with a few crewmen and rowed to the beach. AS they grounded and splashed ashore, several men began to nock arrows, backing away with nervous glances at Tor's massive frame.

“Lower your weapons, I am Captain Stonehelm, Knight of Kestaria, in service to King Graniteshoulders.” Seamus ordered in his best commanding tones, “I seek Klarissa of Sandrok, is she here?”

The group hesitantly lowered their bows, and and a human of roughly fifty years of age came forward, he was dark haired with a lot of gray streaked through it, his face was tanned and lined from may years outdoors, his body lean and hard, even though he was past prime for a human, and where his right hand should have been, a steel hook had been mounted, “I am Lothos, elder of Sandrok, Sir Stonehelm.” He introduced himself, “May I ask what business you have with her?”

“You may ask as it is your right.” Seamus replied as he stepped up to Lothos and showed him the ring that adorned his right hand. A ring that bore the emblem of Firestorm, “But as my business with her is of a personal nature, I shall have to decline to answer.”

Lothos looked at the ring for a long moment before slowly nodding his head, “Aye...things of a personal nature are none of the village's affair. My apologies for your rude welcome, Sir Stonehelm.” As Lothos spoke, weapons were put away and the group of men began to move away.

“No apologies are necessary, it is a time of war, and caution towards a strange ship and crew are merely prudent measures.” Seamus told him. Lothos nodded and shouted to someone to fetch Klarissa. Seamus gave a satisfied nod of his own and stood waiting as several younger men went scurrying off to find Klarissa.

Several minutes passed before Klarissa appeared. She was a young human woman, perhaps five or ten years older than Seamus' beloved Cleo, with sandy colored hair, and green eyes, came up to them. She raised her hand in greeting, displaying a ring very similar to the one Seamus wore. Seamus noted that Lothos seemed surprised that she had that ring, he chuckled to himself, it wasn't as if every Firestorm operative let their identities be known to everyone around them.

“Klarissa, I presume?” Seamus inquired as he let her see his own ring. Lothos, proving that he was wise as well as strong for his age, bowed and walked away, leaving them to whatever business they were about to conduct.

“Yes, and you would be?” She replied with her own question.

“Captain Seamus Stonehelm, I am here with your brother's inheritance.” he replied smoothly.

“It has been long in coming.” she said after a long pause. She gazed more intently at Seamus now, “I thought perhaps I would never see it...I...I suppose I should like to have a look at it then.”

“Follow me then.” Seamus told her. He thought for a second as he started to turn around, thought better of it and then offered her his hand. She seemed a bit surprised, but she took the offered hand and he escorted her to the longboat. He made sure she was seated and then everyone pushed the small boat off the sand. Once it was afloat, the crew climbed in and took their seats. Tor climbing in last, as if he tried before the boat was truly afloat, his great weight would ground it.

They rowed back out to the Holly, no one speaking. Once they reached the ship, Seamus helped Klarissa over the rail and then led her to his tiny cabin. As he entered, he held up his hand to Hrothgar, who was standing guard over the chest, “Ye can go now Hrothgar, the chest is no longer in need of a guard.”

Hrothgar stretched and shook himself a bit, giving them a toothy smile before yipping and darting out of the cabin. Klarissa, stood a bit shocked by what she had just witnessed, finally regaining her wits and voice she spoke, “You are the madman who helped evacuate Kashin, aren't you?”

“Aye...I was in on that circus.” Seamus admitted as he moved over to the strongbox. He knelt in front of it, producing a key and inserting it into the lock.

That was the talk of all Firestorm.” She told him, “Of how an Elven madman sailed a galleon upriver to help evacuate the town..”

The lock opened with an audible click, “It wasn't anything any capable sailor couldn't do.” he replied as he reached inside and withdrew a velvet bag. It looked as if it contained a mace of some sort, but Seamus treated it as if it were quite fragile.

“You know what this is, then.” He asked her.

“Yes.” she replied, “Though I had hoped to never actually see one.”

“And ye know what it means.” He asked as he turned and faced her, still kneeling.

“Yes.” She whispered.

“To activate will mean your death.” He whispered as he held the item out to her.

“I know.” she whispered back as she gently took it from his hands, “But I have no family, no ties left since the War of the Undead.”

“Surely you have someone who loves you?” Seamus asked, his eyes were starting to sting as he fought not to weaken his resolve.

“No. I have devoted my life to the study of the arcane.” She told him, “I've not really ever made many friends.”

Seamus was silent for a moment, deeply troubled, “I understand. You are a willing sacrifice for our nation.” He stood and turned to his desk, retrieving a quill and parchment, “But I would ask that today, before you leave, you allow me to record your life's story, so that you may be remembered.”

Klarissa felt tears forming in her own eyes, her entire life, since the undead horrors had taken her family, she had allowed no one to get close to her, devoting her life energy to the study of magic, no one had ever tried to get close to her, seeing her intense focus as unattractive. The fishing village she had been placed in as a Firestorm operative had been no different, she was an outsider and a merchant to them. But now, now this fellow Firestorm operative wanted to know her story so that she would be remembered.

She sat down on the tiny bed and sniffed as she wiped the tears away, it somehow felt right to her that she tell him. “Alright. My name is Klarissa...I was born in Terras.”

Sunset, aboard the Black Holly II

Seamus stood on the quarterdeck, watching as Klarissa was rowed ashore. She now had the Storm Hammer in her possession, and Seamus had a sheaf of parchment with her life story rolled up in a scroll case on his desk. He also had a dilemma on his hands. It concerned Klarissa and her final request to him.

After she had told him her story, she had noticed his holy symbol. She had recognized it as belonging to Lady Habrem and had asked if he was merely a follower, or an actual priest. When he had told her that he was in fact a priest, she had asked for the Lady's blessing. Specifically, she had asked for the Lady's blessing in it's original form.

That she knew that the blessing came in two forms surprised him. That she would ask for the original form came as a bigger surprise. As one of the Lady's chosen, he was obligated to honor her request. And therein lay his dilemma: The original form of the blessing was given by a priest during sex. And he was pretty sure Cleo was going to be rather upset with him when she found out about it. He only hoped she would understand.

He was sending Klarissa to her death. That made him responsible for her, the least he could do was grant her the blessing she asked. If it were in his power, he would have gladly changed places with her, but his skills were not that of a mage, and a mage was required to get the Storm Hammer where it needed to go.

He sighed and went below to his cabin. He lit an oil lamp and sat down at his desk. He picked up the scroll case, and held it in his hand. For a long time, he simply sat there, looking at it. One woman's life, condensed down to words on parchment. He was responsible for her death, he would now be responsible for her being remembered for her sacrifice. He wondered if he would ever wipe this stain from his soul.


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