Friday, 8 February 2019

THE CRYSTAL SEAS... Episode 1: The City of Jehemen

And so it came to pass that a thwarted artisan elf named Analicia and a beardless dwarf cleric going by Horace (but we're not really sure about his real name) found themselves thrust together once again (though Analicia can't remember having met in the first instance)... anyway, introductory pleasantries aside (and each with a curious trinket by way of a parting gift from their respective mentors), the pair were packed onto a ship headed to the city of Jehemen, jewel of the Indigo River.

The journey was uneventful, with fine weather making the cramped conditions a little more bearable. Analicia's social standing as a Varanesi elf meant she was offered the captain's cabin, who graciously slept on the deck. Horace slept below deck amidst the bilge water, rats and smelly but friendly sailors. Together they made sure that none of the precious cheese and cured meats fell prey to the wily rodents, and they all became... vaguely acquainted by the end of the voyage.

The city of Jehemen seemed quite interesting, with white marble and dusky sandstone, gold-plated domes and lush palms... but also a strong smell of leather and an incredibly busy dock. Given that there only instructions were to rendezvous with a pale woman in yellow, the pair did their level best to stuff this up, and soon Horace found himself haggling over the price of pistachios while Analicia was carried off in a litter by her new accomplice, the somewhat socially awkward... yellow woman?

Horace was unable to persuade a local that he was an important archbishop, but he was offered 15 silver pieces for his jar of griffin grease and he did find out that the richest man in the city is its ruler, Prince Atembe. Furthermore, this "yellow woman" was a newcomer to town, about whom little was known.

Analicia's research/ flirting with her porters revealed similar information, but came to an abrupt end when they arrived at the lighthouse inn, with Horace loitering some fifty yards behind. Horace then decided to drop the act and stroll in with Analicia. The yellow woman, unperturbed, led them to a spot on the floor of the dingy, sawdust covered opium pit and began to explain what they had been hired to do. Badly.

All they really know is that their respective employers expect them to follow the yellow woman around on her quest to uncover "sensitive historic information" and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. The right hands, apparently, are her master (a senior lecturer at the Old college in Freeport) and the Varanesi crime family. And they are to be accompanied by a 220 lbs, 6'4", great-sword-wielding, minimally-clothed "toxic male" by the name of Burzum... He's had an elf lover before, but Horace wasn't given an answer to his question about dwarves (Burzum: "Are you supposed to be a dwarf?" Horace: "Why, did you have a dwarf lover before, too?"). An insight check by Horace revealed that Burzum's gruff demeanor is a mask for his horrible lack of self-esteem and inability to trust others.

So plans were made to travel at first light to retrieve some sensitive "historical information". Apparently the yellow woman's extensive research has located the site of a legendary tower, belonging to a near-mythical figure known as Thamiel. Analicia recalled from her history class that this was some kind of dark-lord-slash-evil-wizard type, around one thousand years ago ("Y'know, kinda like Voldemort..."). Time wore on, and it was suggested they catch up on their sleep on the beer-saturated, vomit-and-pee strewn floor. Not needing sleep, Analicia decided to find out where the party folk in Jehemen be at.

After bluffing her way past the guards at the entrance to the aristocratic district in her common traveller's clothes (ANALICIA: "I'm meeting a man... this is like... my cosplay outfit" GUARD: "Uhhh... say no more..."), Analicia located the sounds of some debauchery coming from a large villa. This time the guards were less convinced by her persuasive skills, so she attempted to sneak off and scale the wall.... only to be foiled by a stray cat, caught under her foot. What did she do in this situation? Why, attempt to lasso the guards, of course!

This resulted in a brief skirmish, a spear to the guts and a short chase through the city. Slightly ashamed of herself, Analicia made her way to the docks to clean herself up, grab some street food (pistachios?) and meditate to heal her wounds. Later, she managed to sneak back to the Lighthouse Inn before her comrades awoke.

HORACE: "How was your night?"
ANALICIA: "--------------------."

Leaving the city through the quieter east gate, the newly formed party - Burzum, Analicia, Horace and the woman in yellow (now, annoyingly, clothed in green) - made their way along the coastal trail which, according to the de jure party-leader, would take them to the ruins of Thamiel's tower. She reminded the party that not only would they be doing a noble deed (by retrieving valuable artifacts from the ruins, they would be preventing them from falling into the wrong hands), they were also to be allotted a share of any non-historically sensitive treasure. This was of perhaps some comfort to Horace and Analicia, who were both a little confused as to why their respective mentors (Sister Agnes and Donna Serafina) had sent them on this mission.

Costume change!
The coastal path revealed a harsh, desert landscape unfamiliar to the two northerners, but fortunately Burzum seemed prepared, having brought a large (if slightly effeminate) parasol to shield them from the sun. The very fair-skinned lady-in-green was suffering a great deal, while the equally fair-skinned Analicia seemed untroubled by the harsh glare, perhaps due to her elven nature. If Horace was uncomfortable, he didn't mention it. Howver, by noon the heat had grown uncomfortable, and they elected to stop, when suddenly they heard an incredible shriek from the sky, like a terrible bird of prey.

Burzum, almost instantaneously, threw himself on the ground, his giant parasol skipping across the desert, and attempted to bury himself in the hot sand. Not wanting to appear rude, his three comrades did likewise. Ironically, it was his rogue-ish colleague, Analicia (hired exclusively for her skills in matters requiring stealth and guile), who failed to conceal herself from the avian predator... and within a moment, a GIANT FALCON had swooped down and was attempting to cart her off.

The beast tore into her with its razor-sharp talons, before rending her prone with a horrific assault from its huge beak. Almost immediately, Horace and Burzum leapt to their feet and joined the melee, though the lady-in-green remained hidden in the sand. Burzum dealt a horrifying blow to the creature with his great-sword, causing it to release a shrill cry of pain. It released a flurry of attacks at the mighty warrior, all of which he was able to evade.

Horace realised that Analicia was in a bad way... she had been seriously hurt, and in fact was dying. He summoned the holy power invested in him by his unnamed deity, and cured his fallen comrades wounds. With a gasp, Analicia sprang back to her feet. Burzum glanced sideways at her before delivering another mighty blow to the fiendish raptor which, realising it was not going to win this fight, attempted to flee in a flurry of blood and feathers. Sensing an opportunity, Horace swung wildly at the bird, but his warhammer made contact with air only. Analicia was more fortunate, and delivered a killer blow to the beast, which collapsed to the floor after she ran it through with her shortsword.

As the party caught their breath, Burzum shot a (n almost) respectful glance at his non-human colleagues. The green woman, scrambling to her feet, received a look of disdain. Unfazed, the green woman stared blankly at the dead giant falcon for a moment or two, pluck a few of its flight feathers and placed them in her backpack, before stating confidently:

"Right. Shall we get back on track then?"  

To be continued...

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