It was a cold day as we flew our two vessels, The Dashing Stag and The Blue Albatross, on our journey to Throal. There was a slight drizzle as the misting clouds released their moisture upon us. The crewmen were wrapped up in their cloaks, trying to stay dry in spite of the odds. I was on board The Blue Albatross with Dremnin, Kerick and all of our men who had Air Catching abilities. The plan, if we ran into trouble with another ship and could not outrun them, was that I would ram The Blue Albatross into the enemy vessel, leaving the oarsmen to their fate while my men and I jumped. It would then be up to Quinn and Ardor at the helm of the Dashing Stag to maneuver the ship under us so we could make it to her using our Wind Catcher talents, and not plunge to our deaths.
It was a good plan, but I hoped not to use it. I knew the Albatross would sell for big money if we were able to sell it in Throal. But we had to get her there first.
Those oarsmen of the Blue Albatross were a miserable lot. They were slavers from Urupa we captured in a plan I devised where we ambushed the ship at The Temple of Rashomon. They had been running the notorious Trejack all over Barsaive, capturing slaves and selling them to the Therans. They deserved whatever fate they got as far as I was concerned. The rowers I had ordered chained to their rowing benches while the rest of us handled the rigging and the flight of the ship. I was sure that they had figured out where there were headed, Throal, and that they were uncertain of their fate.
I had wanted to take them to The Reach. It was a much shorter flight and thus, safer with our crew spread out across two ships, with the Dashing Stag overloaded with freed slaves and cargo while those of us on the Albatross tried to manage fifty slaver oarsmen who were at times less than cooperative. I had thought we could leave the Albatross there so that we could have it available at a later date should we need it. With the Therans, my uncle’s assassins, and possibly Omasu’s mercenaries, all hunting us, having another ship at our disposal seemed like a good plan. I had even imagined longer term plans for it, having discussed with Ardor making him a Thane of Konigsberg when I returned and deposed my treacherous uncle. Ardor seemed to love sailing, and I thought that perhaps one day he could use that ship for his own ends as a lord and leader of many name-givers. Yet, it was not to be. Several of the others of The Unchained wished to return to Throal immediately. Dagmar wanted to return to his forge, Urgral to his homeland, Suulin to her Inn, and Vridich to his secretive coven and Ardor to his Nial. All of them, even Ardor, wished to sell the ship.
So be it. We were headed to Throal, where we would be welcomed as heroes and be wealthy.
Not a bad plan either.
I remember standing next to Dremnin at the helm of the ship, his eyes mere slits as he concentrated on guiding the vessel and keeping the stinging mist out of his eyes. The Albatross, though also a fast ship, we not as easily maneuvered as The Dashing Stag, and so Dremnin had his work cut out for him. I nodded to my scout friend in encouragement, and he returned my gesture with an almost imperceptible nod of thanks without ever taking his eyes off of the skies ahead. I glanced behind us and saw The Dashing stag trailing us. It was a lovely ship, and the site of my ancestors banner flying on its mast brought a wave of pride and determination over me. I would not rest until my father and brothers deaths were avenged, my birthright restored and the lands and people of my ancestors, safe. As my thoughts wandered to this subject, I spotted Kerick making his way toward us, pointing to our left, his gesture clear… there was danger that direction.
At first, I saw nothing strange… just a large cumulous cloud hanging lazily in the sky. I begin to wonder if Kerick had spotted a vessel hiding in it, maybe pirates or Therans? Yet, after a moment I realized that something was very out of place with that cloud. On a misty, wet day like that such a white, puffy cloud did not seem like it belonged. Then the wind kicked up, and a moment later a part of the cloud parted with the gust and revealed its secret.
A pair of massive towers floated in among the clouds. They were huge, rivaling that of any castle. I saw a pair of Theran vedettes fly past them in a patrol formation, and those large vessels looked small next to the towers. I stood for a moment, shocked and not comprehending what it was that we were staring at. Then it hit me.
A Theran Behemoth.
A floating small city built as a fortress. A slave life-force powered military bastion, of which merely three had been the antagonists at the Battle of Sky Point and resulted in the decimation of the high troll moots of the Twilight Peaks. I had heard of such a thing but had never laid eyes on one, as I’m sure none of the rest of our men had either. As the cloud continued to move we caught a glimpse of the city that made up the Behemoth. It had high stone walls, towers, parapets and a military airship port. It was an awe inspiring thing, but that feeling of awe was quickly replaced by a feeling of threat.
I snapped out of my stupor and looked at Kerick, and he was looking back at me. “It looks like it is headed South-East!” He shouted.
I shouted back; “Signal The Stag, make sure they see it too!”
Kerick nodded and wheeled around to signal the Stag, then I turned to Dremnin. He was still staring in disbelief at the enormity of the thing, the piloting of the Albatross temporarily forgotten. I put my hand on his shoulder to calm him.
“Do we need to turn around, and head back to The Reach?” I asked? I feared that with the Theran Behemoth to the North of us on a South East bearing that their admiral could send ships to intercept or ambush us on our way to Throal, which required us to fly South-East to Lake Ban, and then North along the Coil River.
He looked back at the ship for a few moments. Then, without looking back at me, shook his head. “No, I think it’s moving too slowly. It’s headed in the direction of Ayodmya and we’re moving much faster than they are. If they send ships out to intercept us we should see them, and I don’t think they can get to us before we make the hook North of the Coil River. We’ve got to pick up the pace though!”
“Right.” I said. Then I turned and walked to the oarsmen of the Albatross and moved to the back of their deck, facing them as they worked their banks of oars. I then used my questor powers of Rashomon, Imminent Forebearance and Inspire Perseverence. I gave them a speech, telling them that I knew that they knew where we were headed, and they were right. Throal. Their they would face justice, but Throalic justice is fitting and that as mere oarsmen, they would live and likely go home to their families someday. I pointed out the Theran Behemoth to them, and saw the shock on their faces. Then I told them what I knew of the horrors of Theran slavery, and that were they captured that they would face the horrors like those they had worked to send so many other name-givers to face. I felt the power of Rashomon take hold of them, inspiring them to be better air sailors and oar the boat as they never had before. It worked, I could see their pace pick up and the boat started moving noticeably faster. When I returned to the deck Dremnin and Kerick were at the helm again.
Kerick looked at me with a cocked eyebrow;
“We are going faster, did you give the oarsmen a little pep talk?”
I looked back at the Stag and could see that the faster boat was having no trouble keeping up with us.
“You could say that.” I replied.
I then heard Dremnin comment;
“So, the slavers downstairs don’t like the idea of being on the receiving end of their trade eh?”
I stifled a grin as we flew our way Eastward through the darkened skies.