We left Haven promptly at dawn and tried to make our way back to the location where we had buried Veranda of our way here. This was to be where we camped for the night. The skies were clear but we were unable to find it. I could see that Dremnin was quite frustrated by this. I however was somewhat glad for the fact that we couldn’t find the spot. After making the plan it occurred to me that staying the night where we had buried a crewmen would do no good for moral. Instead we pulled into a small cove along the peaks and set anchor. I doubled the normal night guard and made sure that we paired up those without night sight to someone who had it.
The night passed uneventfully, and the next morning we were off again at dawn. I scanned the rocky outcroppings for Veranda’s gravestone as we left, but did not see it.
We flew South once again in calm and clear weather with few clouds to speak of in the sky. However this day would not go by as uneventfully as the former.
About mid day, I saw a plume of smoke in the distance. Just a faint snake of dark shadow against the sky, but there nonetheless. Moments later, Solara called out from the crow’s nest that she saw the smoke as well. It was hard to tell at this distance what was causing it, but it was something that at a minimum required a fly-by look.
We flew to the smoke, wary of whatever may have caused it. I yelled for Solara to keep her eyes peeled in the skies, as most of the crew was looking at the smoke billowing from the jungle below, eager to see what it was. Dremnin guided the ship smartly over what was clearly a wreckage site of an airship.
I had seen such a wreck before during my time with the Stoneclaw moot. I had taken part in an ambush on a galleon from the Bartertown region. The ship was a merchant vessel rigged for speed. They had been trying to steal living crystal from the Twilight Peaks near our moot home. When we dropped out of the upper skies and surprised them, the captain of that ship dove to the treetops and tried to skim across them. He dove too low however, and caught some trees. His vessel crashed into the forest, cutting a groove in the tree canopy similar to what I saw below.
The vessel appeared to be a modified Threan Vedette, the hull, though broken in several places from the crash, had clearly been trimmed down to make the ship more agile. We circled for a moment and Vridich offered to have his rather unsettling familiar fly down and investigate. It was a good idea. The disgusting creature flew down to the wreckage for a minute or two and then came back reporting that the vessel was void of living name-givers. Only bodies remained aboard.
Solara called from the crows nest. There were a number of creatures circling in the sky off in the distance. We later identified them as Espagra, bold dragon-like creatures that are known to harass air ships. There were a great number of the circling over something. Likely too far away to be survivors of this doomed ship.
Without taking my eyes off of the circling beasts I called down to the main deck.
“Draiden, Skram, ready the men. We’re going to check it out!”
Skram shot back. "Already done!"
I glanced down and saw that Draiden and Skram were already marshaling the crew into a combat unit. Many, our less capable fighters were toting missile weapons while the rest, almost all of them adepts, we’re standing in ranks behind Skram and Draiden. Skram had placed a line of men along the port side with bows and crossbows. A wise move that we had practiced many times in morning drills.
Our training paid off. Dremnin banked the ship just right and our archers took aim and unleashed a salvo of arrows and bolts at a pair of the Espagra that were corcling high above the others. Solara’s shot felled one of them, and the other howled and fled into the safety of the tree canopy. We passed again, and a third time, raking several Espagra with bolts and arrows until they were all fled and were mostly hidden under the canopy.
We could catch glimpses of the beasts milling about on the deck of what appeared to be a crashed slave barge, similar to the one we captured off of the Twilight Peaks which had been trying to capture the Unchained. Clearly there was some kind of fight going on aboard the ship. The Espagra had some survivors trapped in a hold on the deck and were trying hard to get at them. I was guessing the people in there were probably cowardly Theran slavers, and I did not want to risk our ship or crew for the likes of them. Being eaten alive by hungry Espagra was better than most of the Therans deserved. Espagra need to eat, as do worms… that’s what my initial thought was. Yet, something compelled me to act. I don’t know what it was, call it intuition, the touch of the Passions, or fate if you will. But act we did.
I turned to Dremnin and Kerick; “ We are going to board that ship and save whoever is down there. You have the helm, try to help pick them off with our archers.”
Dremnin grinned and Kerick grinned. Yes lord!" He said this with enthusiasm, he loved a good fight, and I knew while he was excited to be at the helm with Dremnin, he wanted to board the ship with us. I would have likes to have him at my side too, but I needed a man I could absolutely trust in charge of the ship and I could think of nobody more capable than Kerick.
I made my way to the bow and joined our fighters that had assembled there. I was surprised to see Suulin among them, but if the girl wanted to join the chaos of the fray aboard that ship, she was welcome to do so.
I pointed to the bow of the enemy ship and shouted to the men; “Over there!”
We leaped off of the rail of the ship in two groups, those in my group were descending using Wind Catcher while the others, lead by Skram, we’re descending by rope. My group uniformly dropped and then set our Wind Catcher to slow our descent after falling most of the distance. This would give our opponents no time to react to our rapid approach. We guided ourselves to the bow, so far all was going like clockwork. Then it all unravelled.
A pound crashing sound, immediately followed by another preceded my landing. I looked over to the opposite side of the ship to see that both Skram and the girl Suulin had lost hold of their ropes and had fallen, crashing down to the deck with great force. Both looked badly injured. Behind them Urgral, Suulin, Wheeler and Womax slid down their ropes and landed on the deck. The Espagra around them saw the small group with two badly hurt, and immediately closed.
This was bad. I had wanted our two groups to land on the same area of the ship, so we could form ranks and fight as a unit. Yet somehow in our haste to go to battle, my order did not get heard by both groups. Now Wheeler, Womax and Urgral were in a desperate fight while Suulin and Skram tried to recover. Though Skram and Urgral are excelent in combat, Wheeler and Womax are not amon our top fighters and though Suulin has proven her worth in combat, this type of chaotic melee was not suitable for her skills. I saw Wheeler form up in a line with Womax and Urgral, as several Espagra lunged toward them. Womax had his usual determined look on his face, and I noticed with a small amount of pride that Wheeler looked excited. The boy was practically fearless! I had little time to worry about them though, as two of the Espagra closed on me, jaws hungrily snapping and claws slashing. I charged the two and swung my blade at them in a fury, hoping to cut them down quickly so I could help the others. But it was not be so.
After what had been only moments of fighting, I had wounded one of the Espagra, which reared back from me. Then I heard Womax cry out. I stole a glance in their direction and saw the group harried by many Espagra. Skram was back in the fight, but clearly fighting in pain from his fall. Womax had the claws of an Espagra buried in his shoulder, he pulled free and then collapsed to the deck. Wheeler stepped forward to protect Womax, he swung his sword wildly. Then dragged Womax back toward Urgral and Skram. I saw no sign of Suulin, I could only hope she had managed to escape somehow.
Arrows rained down from our ship still flying overhead and the crewmen aboard were trying to place shots through the thick canopy. A couple of the Espagra had broken of to attack them, which was a relief. Behind me, Osrack went down as I killed the Espagra infront of me. I moved back to protect him, and joined our crewmen fighting there. Then Hakka was struck in the head by a vicious blow from a tail of another beast facing him. The big man went down like a sack of potatoes. Draiden moved over to protect him.
Then, a short, stocky troll wearing crystal ringmail armor came crashing out of the hold that the Espagra had been trying to get into, and he slew one of the beasts that had been fighting him with a huge two handed sword. The creature howled as he ripped his blade out of its chest, a mortal blow. The bear fell to the deck in a heap, and the troll immediately joined our ranks, shouting obscenities at the beasts, daring them to face his blade.
He was welcome sight indeed.
Come they did, yet this time their numbers were dwindled and we had rallied. They came and died under our blades. Some fled, or tried to flee. Those we cut down if we could. I killed another one as it flew toward me with a quick overhand slash the neatly removed its head and long neck from its body. It’s body crashed into the jungle below, and just like that, the battle was over.
This is how I met the lowland troll Weaponsmith named Dagmar Steelsong.