Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fire and Darkness : The Aether Sea

12/20/2014

Fire and Darkness
The Aether Sea : FATE

This was to be the 12th game for my 12 games for 2014.

It was an adventure in space with the unlikeliest of heroes.  Well, perhaps not all of them were heroes.  And not all of them were... let's just say, in the end, it was an adventure unlike any expected.


Among them were:

Braid Locke, sidestreet walker, a kender collector with exceptional skills.

Nabaninth Maluwig, Yezaksigo Scout with a unbreakable loincloth.

March of the Emerald Vale, a disgraced Ship Capture who always cared about what was in it for him.

Bludwen Arrowsmith, the youngest and only daughter of the Arrowsmith dwarves who believed anything guys can do, she could do better.

Johnson Whitaker, the only human elves adored who could never resist forbidden fruit.

The scene opens with a figure in the dark recesses of the ship.  The vessel resembles a galleon, over 80 meters long with three levels.  The veiled circle is wrapped around March and this makes him invisible to any onlookers as he converses with the dark lords.  They speak of the exorcist in their presence and they share how the shadows call for the blood of Johnson Whitaker.  March promises to do his best, though the man is favored by the elves.  He is to live until they are certain of his potential.

A light comes.  A lantern is being carried by someone heading down the steps.  March breaks the circle to end the communion and pulls out his notebook.  Nabaninth arrives with the lantern to check on March, as commanded by the Captain of the vessel.   As March looks up from the pages, he sees how the elves' eyes glow in the darkness.  Nabaninth realizes how much the elf sticks.  Minutes pass as Nabaninth waits to be acknowledges, but March ignores him.  The stare down stretches on.

In the mess hall, the Captain is also the chef of the ship.  He is stirring the pot as he talks to Braid Locke about the sweet and succulent sausages of the seraphim spheres.  He shows the golden flecks swirling in the meatball stew he is cooking.  He talks of the seraphim with eight wings whom he had met and rambles on about that trip, blind to how Braid Locke notices the dish does not look like anything she had tasted in the seraphim spheres in her time there.  He talks about ignoring for the fact she had a lion for a face.  He scoops a meat ball and asks her to taste it.  She realizes it is the most horrible thing she ever tasted.  Being always Hungry for the New, Braid Locke ends up happy with the experience despite it not being the same thing she had tried before.  "Your own version?  Very exqu... ex... uh.. I cannot even say the word anymore."  The Captain seems hurt, however.  He senses she didn't like it.  Braid suggests he simple has a different taste to it.  Unhappy with her response, Captain Nizzie Lazada leaves her to take charge of the cooking.

At the deck, Johnson Whitaker sees the different spheres, different stars and different ships in the distance.  Not too far distant is their destination: The Royal Glory.  He remembers it to be a well-used Amethyst class ship of the Royal Navy.  It is one of the largest ships in the Elven fleet, appearing as a massive tree with the roots up front as a ram, and the leaves behind as the engine.  Taking a deep drag of his cigar, he mutters, "Only elves."  Also airborne are the personal fighter vessels they use, piloted flowers that scout the surroundings.  The Captain arrives, with his platinum hair having the black streak betraying his age.  He takes a puff from Johnson's tinder stick, and blows out a smoke portrait of Braid Locke.  He stresses how much he doesn't like her, especially since she does not know how to lie to flatter him.  He prods and asks Johnson what he thinks of their ship, stressing that its beauty is also reflected in its name: The Stamen.  "We are the only Stamen in the fleet.  The ship can even merge with its sister ship, the Pistil."  His declarations shifts to his sister, who despises him for using his Stamen and getting paid for it.  Johnson offers that his sister will soon appreciate the things he has been doing.   They soon notice Bludwen who is busy tinkering with the cannons of the vessel.  They hurry to confront her about it.

He confronts Bludwen for manhandling his Stamen, and she insists she is oiling it to make it work better.  His frustrations shift again when he realizes the orc has not returned with the missing March.  He mumbles about his sister, and about how Johnson is the only human the elves would ever adore.  "An elf can only love one for an entire lifespan.  And they can love only one which they Recognize."  Bludwen teases however that they have some kind of triangle between them.  Captain Lazada goes exasperated as he explains the difference between the two.  Light flashes between the two of them, and an elven woman emerges as an illusion upon them. The woman asks them to identify themselves and warns them they are within the cannon's perimeter.

Johnson replies with the proper credentials and they are allowed to proceed with docking procedures. Upon learning she is talking with Johnson, however, she flusters and nearly sends the wrong coordinates.  The scouts begin to escort the Stamen to the proper docking bay.  March confronts Johnson for handling communications, given he usually should be the one to do so.  Johnson, however, stresses that he simply did what the Captain needs of him.  To insult him, he stresses his name as March, not Marc (with the silent h).  He learns that the ship is to be welcomed by Merigamo, who turns out to be the sister of the Captain himself. Johnson tries to reassure them that he can handle the piloting despite the closeness of the scouts, but March ignores him.  To March's annoyance, however, the orc shows up and starts attempting another staredown with him.

With the ship prepping landing procedures, Braid Locke thankfully is told by the Captain to leave the food be as they finalize arrangements for the landing procedures.  Johnson perfectly lands the ship (of course, its perfect) in a position that makes it ready to leave the ship if need be at a later time, and the crew soon disembark to see the Royal Navy in formation to welcome them at the landing bay.  Merigamo is dressed in a fabulous gown with metallic wings, functional extensions that can be used as weapons if she so desired to.  Nabaninth openly shares with the others how kids in his tribe used to catch those things with wings on them with nets and stuff.  "Isn't she like a butterfly?  I know you smell weird, but, I didn't know you were an insect."  Bludwen on the other hand is enthralled at the thought of the mechanism of the wings.  The Captain facepalms as he explains she is wearing a dress.

There is some tension once more between the Captain and Merigamo when she welcomes Johnson with the traditional holding of hands.  Bludwen covets her butterfly dress given it looks like it may conceal weapons.  Given the racist tendencies of the elves, they come forward and clip fake ears upon all the ears of the crew to give them "fake elven ears."  Nabaninth, however, does not like them touching him.  He punches the elf in the throat and all stare frightened of what the orc just did.  The guards close in, but thankfully both Merigamo and Nizzie Lazada tell the others to stand down.  Johnson draws out his own elf ears and offers them to Nabaninth to wear.  March tries to "wave away" the social faux pas as a hilarious moment, rather than an insulting one.  Nabaninth ends up wearing the false ears upside down.

While the elves handle their affairs, both Bludwen and Braid Locke wander the massive vessel and soon find themselves in a section where multiple decks can be easily viewed from balconies.  It is there that they find interest in a strange device that seems to be carefully escorted in one of the lower decks.  The floating discs of light carry the device between the guards.  Braid Locke, coming from a different floor, begins to jump from railing to railing to reach the lower level and get closer.  Bludwen sees her approach, and as she complains about Braid Locke showing of her "Parr something.." she noticed a robed figure, another dwarf, complaining the same.  Braid yells out, "Parkour!" as she continues her movement.  The dwarf identifies himself as Dobbin Arrowsmith, and when he learns of Bludwen's name, he reacts with surprise given the family knows her to be dead.  They even celebrate her death anniversary quite consistently.  To prove their lineage, both show off their solar splitters.  They've known her to be dead for the past ten years.   Their father has told everyone else that she fell in the war with the Orcus horde.  He even claims there were images of her last battle.  Her father, as it turns out, never admitted that he sent her to sail with the Stamen.  Soon, they realize they are family when they both know of the fact Bludwen was mistaken for a son for the first seven years of her life.  Bludwen asks about their father's Elemental Guns that spit out acid, lightning and other ammunition.  Their reunion is filled with laughter as they realize she is alive and that the whole family is at some level below, waiting to show the prototype of the weapon to the Elves.

Braid Locke, as she follows and stays close enough to the group with the disc, recognizes the other kender in the same floor who is pretending to drink coffee.  She throws the sign language message to him suggesting, "Teamwork"but he replies with a finger running across the nose to say, "No. I was first," in response.   Realizing she hasn't stopped her approach to the disc, he stands up and begins to move closer as well to the disc.  The guards notice his approach, but not hers.  They activate their personal shields in response to his approach.  Using her parkour, she slides closer to eavesdrop on their discussions.  They confront the kender to identify himself and one even casts a spell to invoke a mystical eye to sense any lies.  He walks away rather than answer, leaving Braid Locke to have an opportunity to work alone.  She does notice, however, he has a map with him.  She opts to continue shadowing the group. The two meet and discuss later to finalize who lays claim on the object on the disc first! The Kender turns out to be March (with a "ch") and the two discuss that the object is a dwarven treasure of some sort, and that one of the two escorted discs is a decoy, and it is so great that one of the Dwarven Class Protectors is out there docked to protect it.    Braid Locke asks why is it here and he responds that he doesn't know, "I just found it."  He offers her a Sphere of her own, an island or two if she desires, if she helps him gain the device.  She, however, mentions she has a dwarven friend who might know what it is, and March rolls his eyes on the idea that female dwarves exist.  "The next thing you'd tell me is that Orcs can be intelligent!"

Nabaninth starts going around, staring down at the guards in the area.  He tries to grab one of their solar spitters, but he feels the green field keep his hand at bay.  He draws out chalk to write on the field, but it does not work. The elf apologizes that the Lambert Armor resists all physical threats.  He continues challenging one of the guards, tempted to provoke them to test his strength against theirs.  Most he approach nonchalantly activates their personal forcefield barriers in anticipation of pain.  He shifts the challenge to a staredown, but in response an Orc in Elven armor appears, commands the soldiers to stare down, and when he attempts to do the "Fistbump" greeting among Orcs, the newcomer parries the bump, somersaults over him, and forces him to the ground.  Nabaninth is surprised that there is an Orc wearing such armor.  The Orc identifies Nabaninth as a Scout and even identifies him to be of a tribe that was wiped out.  "You are the Ninth child, Mulawig. The eloquent one."  It soon becomes apparent that the Orc Among the Elves turns out to be someone who used to be from his tribe as well.  In fact, when he smells the Orc, he realizes it is a woman!  He realizes she was an old flame who was exiled for choosing to read rather than fight.  After around seven different attempts to recognize her, he finally remembers her to be the one with a scar on the chest.  "I am Watcha.. and you used to always joke about my name, saying 'Whatcha name?'"  When Nabaninth looks around to boast to the elves he knows her, he notices they have all left them behind.  She asks if he has been doing his part to repopulate the tribe, even asking about his wedding to Lusu, how it failed with Hogan, Roso, Ugath, and others.  Nabanith denies it had worked with any of them.  He gets serious as he admits he has not pillaged successfully and even cites her being a woman thus he would not understand.  She finds offense in his claims, disengages her armor, and shows she too is covered in scars.  When he challenges whether she has pillaged, she reminds him she had been exiled.  She is no longer orc.  She, however, has never forgotten what the two of them once had.

Johnson and the elves discuss matters away from the rest.  Merigamo however and Johnson feel the Recognition between them.  There is an undeniable matching of their... energies.  Johnson however admits the First Mate's duty is to his Captain.  Merigamo sighs, "I've never Mated" and leaves. March raps Johnson on the back of the head to remind him the Captain is waiting for him.  In truth, however, March's action was to steal a few strands of hair from the supposed Chosen one.  March returns back to the bowels of the Stamen.  The Captain and Johnson talk about divine entities and the like.  They talk of the Undying Lights and how Johnson seeks desperately for proof of the deities, but the Captain explains the stars and lights in the sky are not gods.  They are just spheres and moons.

How do I tell him the stars have increased in number
because the elves have increased their territory?


But Johnson notices dark shapes moving in the shadows.  He draws out his weapon and opens fire at it, hitting nothing but the wall!  The guards show up and surround Johnson, calling for him to drop the weapon.  Even the Captain is angry that Johnson had just discharged his solar spitter in the corridor.  The elves argue over who will get the weapon from him given the laws for using weapons in public areas.  Many of them begin to talk to each other in Elven, and in the end, Johnson is allowed to leave.

March summons the dark forces once again while alone.  They send him images and he learns of what must be done.   The images are... unexpected.   But they do clarify the goal he is to focus on.

The Captain wants to finalize what cargo they are supposed to carry with them when they leave.  He insists that Johnson bear in mind elves do not sleep, and he plans to save most of his time focused on him.  He fears his sister had twisted her with her presence.  They head for the Admiral. March emerges to follow behind them, and when a door locks between them, he summons a black shadow to open the door behind them.  He claims he was gathering information in his absence.  He promises to do his best to learn from the human.  He asks for a word to speak with the Captain.  The two speak in pure Elven to discuss secretly that there are stories of a possible threat out in the Aether, a dark star.  Neither realize that Johnson understands every word, being the only human who is loved by the elves.  The Captain remind March that Marigamo is not to be close to Johnson at any time, but he does promise March to see what he can do to bring the ship to the Dark Star.

Nabaninth and Whatcha discuss looking for the other crew members, with her stressing the use of the True Magic to find the others.  He stresses however that she is the reason she was thrown away from the tribe.  She now accepts that she is an elf, not an orc.  He storms away, not liking the elven things.  She suggests maybe he should leave the ship.  He yells back he is working on finding them.

The kender tells the dwarves about the treasure, and while Dobbin admits he doesn't quite trust the kender, Bludwen proudly admits she trusts her.  The trust takes Braid Locke aback for a moment.  They head down to meet with the family down below, and realize neither of them can open the door to where the object is stored safety.  Four black shadows emerge, stretching from the walls and close in on them.  Bludwen calls out for Dobbin to see the threat closing in.  The shadows rise up into three-dimensional humanoid shapes, armed with bladed weapons.  The dwarves draw their solar spitters and fire away.  Braid Locke remembers the solar spitter pistol she had stolen from Bludwen many years back and tries to draw it to shoot at the shadows as well.  Unfortunately, given her deep pockets, she finds instead a mug!  The moment, however, the trigger is pressed, sirens blare out in the ship!  One shadow loses an arm from the shot.  A second swipes at Bludwen to slash at her, but she dodges out of the way easily.  Dobbin opens fire as well, shooting the head of the one that struck at Bludwen.  Braid Locke dodges the shadows that move close, ready to smash the mug into the head of the closest shadow.  Another shadow closes in, with its hands merging into a spinning wheel of blades.  Bludwen uses her Uncanny Accuracy to tear into the wheel of death and kill the shadow.  Braid Locke realizes the mug is actually a solar collector and points it at the last shadow and pries it open.  The blade clips her on the left hand, as well as taking away some hair. 

The Captain and the others see the walls light up as the warnings emerge.  The fight is then visible to the crew.  Realizing the others are involved, Johnson hurries to the area.  So does Nabaninth and Watcha.  March reminds the Captain the need to secure the weapon to destroy the dark star.  The Captain tells March to lead the way. When Watcha attempts to punch Nabaninth to stall him and tell him this is all elven business, he remembers her fear of beetles and uses his orc magic to summon an illusion of a large beetle to scare her.  The illusion delays Watcha long enough for Nabaninth to throw an orcish weapon at her face, one made of stone.  They question each other if the other is trying to prove something.  He insists he rather continue the confrontation another time and tries to slip away to get to the others.  He pulls his loincloth out and she recognizes it to be the tribal relic.  He holds it before her to silence her for a moment.

More shadows emerge as Johnson makes his way to the others as quick as he can.  He fails to notice the figure in the alcove.  He does see Braid Locke struggling against her shadow.  Johnson draws out his Undying light source, then proclaiming a call to his Faith, he banishes the thing away.  The light fades revealing them all, but none of the shadows.  The security of the Elves declares all to surrender with their hands in the air.  Bludwen reminds Dobbin that their Father always told him his weapon is small and he is to pocket it.  Watcha arrives with Nabaninth, and Johnson tries to calm the situation down.  Watcha turns out to be the Captain of the Guard, and she tells them to surrender to the Guard.  The Captain calls for Nabaninth to come to his side.  Watcha, however, tells them to repeat what they said.  Bludwen explains they were accosted by dark shadows with sickles for arms.  March gasps at the term dark shadows, amused at this attack.  He whispers to the Captain to discuss the mission quickly to the elves.  Watcha has the security footage replay, and to their surprise, there is no sign of any shadows in the images.

Johnson however admits he expected this would happen, given the walls captured light.  Their enemies were not of light.  The Admiral releaves Watcha of her duties, and commands her to proceed to the brig.  The Admiral addresses the Captain as his cousin, and that it has been a long time.  Bludwen tries to gather some of the ashes from the ground which the enemies.  March fails to catch this.   Braid Locke tries to explain to the Captain everything that has happened, and Bludwen feels slighted he trusts Braid Locke more than her.  The Captain demands Nabaninth explain this flirtation, and he does apologize for it.  When he asks if he was trying to initiate a relationship, he admits he was ending one but clearly she is into him too much to accept it.  The Admiral insists, "She is an elf. Clearly you should know appearances do not determine who you are." Nabaninth, being the tribal illusionist, reverses the image to make his point.  He transforms to a draconian, then to a rabbit, then he steps in and out of it.  March admits the sight of this makes him feel like throwing up.  Nabaninth transforms himself to look like a Mindflayer and then throws a muscle pose to highlight his orcish nature.  Johnson admits he is familiar with the need to copulate with others.  Nabaninth admits he smells the same need within him.

The door opens. Marigamo arrives.  Bludwen, curious, watches the Captain.  The Captain stares at Johnson.  Curious to the shift in the atmosphere, Nabaninth tries to read the Captain's discomfort, but he's not certain who is causing it.  He asks the Captain aloud why he's suddenly feeling that way.  The Captain admits his crew is not as efficient as his own, but admits there's a reason they are in the vessel.  He asks March of the Emerald Vale to share the threat he has been aware of.  He expresses the troubles ahead, shifting to Elvish at most of the details however.  The Admiral turns to the wall and has the adjoining room become visible.  Bludwen's eyes widen in surprise to see her family in the other side.  The Admiral asks the Dwarves if they understood the declaration, and they admit they do.  The opt to deal with the matter jointly.

Johnson, however, suspects March is up to something and mistakenly believes he is meant to be the one who should destroy the Dark Star.  The rest of them are thrown back to the cabins to wait, while the others are to discuss things.  

The Elves, the Dwarves and the crew of the Stamen now understand why there have been reports of Elven vessels have ceased to communicate in a certain sector of the Aether.   And how the Dwarves seemingly have created such a weapon at such an auspicious moment.  The KingDwarf however admits only Dwarves can use it, and that it has not been tested fully outside a vessel.  Marigamo is curious to what the nature of the threat is.  March shares the shadow agents must be a hint to what the threat is.  Johnson admits seeing the shadows and trying to shoot them down.  The nature of the threat seems to be magical in nature.   If not infernal.  Or abyssal.  Maybe even sorcerous.    Johnson feels it may be a demon.  They think the threat fears what the weapon can do to it.  When the KingDwarf questions why this human would know of the darkness, March explains he is a Priest of the Undying Light.  Marigamo is shocked to learn this.  More so the fact he is under a vow of celibacy.

Back in the room, while Braid Locke and Nabaninth discuss what has been happening, the ceiling grill opens up to reveal a second kender.  "One kender is bad enough," Nabaninth gasps.  Braid Locke recognizes March and stops the orc from throwing the rock at the newcomer.  She complains he had vanished and ruined their plan, but he reveals he has a wound from a stray shot and that he needs to fulfill his promise to the Lord... to the client.  He convinces the two to help him complete the big sale, given they have only a few hours left to fulfill the exchange.  Braid Locke, however, realizes he's twice now slipped and called the client something more honorific.  The kenders secretly discuss the possibility of the orc being a distraction.  The orc throws a rock at him, out of irritation.  March reveals he is a Spellsword and shows a demonstration by invoking a sword of flame with a single incantation.  When the orc teases him about being someone who can spell the word sword, the kender uses the flaming blade to burn him on the chest.  "Insult me again and you will face the wrath of all five elements," the kender growls.  

Back in the meeting, March brings up the Stamen being the best ship in the fleet. Marigamo however does challenge that.  Johnson agrees and he explains that the Stamen is one of the fastest, and the Pistil is not fast enough on its own, but when both are cojoined, the vessels are meant to function perfectly together.  The KingDwarf breaks into laughter at the idea that the ships can join together.   The Admiral turns to the human, admitting he is right.  March then adds it is then just a matter of finding the right person to bring the weapon to the Dark Star.  The Captain is bothered that Johnson and Marigamo are to be flying together, cojoined.  The KingDwarf still does not grasp how the prototype weapon is to work given it is merely a hand weapon.  "How can such a thing murder a star?"  March admits it is what it is.  

The weapon cannot be wielded for it harms the wielder.  No one of sufficient fortitude exists who can bear it without succumbing to the pain.  Johnson wonders if Nabaninth might actually have that fortitude.  Marigamo however asks about the demons, wonders who has invoked them.

March and Braid Locke talk about the client and he lets slip that the client can only stay... I mean visit for an hour.  She tries to think of a way to convince March that they need to go to the dwarves first.  "She has knowledge on how to use the weapon," she admits, "We need Bludwen."  He realizes they need to do this before time runs out.

In the dwarven landing platform, the dwarves welcome their sister back!  She wonders what they buried in the grave to represent her.  She learns their father, the KingDwarf, actually claimed to have witnessed her death and for the last ten years, they've all been mourning her passing.  She asks them about the weapon, and they admit that none of the weapons are downstairs.  Instead, there is a giant cube, a Dwarven Vault, with them the whole time.  As they open it, the cube adjusts and cycles into a twenty-sided container, then shifts once more to reveal... it is empty!

Braid Locke and the others arrive that moment, and Bludwen proudly introduces them to her brothers.  Braid Locke tells her she is "Half Braid Locke now given her hair," and the group discusses that they have much to discuss, and have to avoid being arrested.

The group discuss the matter of flying to the Dark Star, and someone who can handle the pain should wield the weapon to kill the Dark Star.  The elves ask to take command of the safety of the device, and the KingDwarf admits he is unhappy that it had been taken from them without his consent.  The Admiral admits it was done given the weapon was deemed to be a threat even to the Royal Guard itself.  But as a show of good faith, the Admiral calls for the Royal Glory to secure the chamber of the weapon to open only for one single person, a member of Captain Lazada's crew.  The Captain volunteers March's name, given its rarity.

Back in the dwarven chamber, March explains to them that they can open the vault and get the device.  But Bludwen asks why they have to get it in advance and ask permission to get it.  Braid Locke doesn't see a problem with getting it that moment.  March yells that it is because they are under attack!  Dark shadows emerge and close in to attack them.  Nabaninth begins juggling his weapons to be ready to fight.  The dwarven brothers see the incoming threats.  Sadly, none of them are armed with weapons given the Elves rules of not using weapons in the Royal Glory.  Seeing the threat, they draw their weapons and decide to risk their father's ire.  March reminds Braid Locke and the rest they have to go right now.  The time is short.

March throws a challenge to Nabaninth, stating that the dwarves believe they can fight better than him.  He suggests he show them how good he can fight these shadows.  Nabaninth creates an illusionary wall of light to surround them.  Unfortunately, these demons seem to be unaffected by the illusions!   The rest of them run for the chamber.  Braid Locke is starting to have doubts regarding March, so he calls out to Nabaninth to follow them when he can.    Bludwen is curious to why the kender is so interested in the weapon.  Both kender end up replying, "Because it is shiny!"

The Admiral reinstates the Captain to the Elven Navy and orders him to accompany the Captain Marigamo.  The two are shocked at the decision.  The KingDwarf still remains uncertain who will wield the weapon given it is an Ultimate-Nullifier, as it has killed anyone who has used it.  Marigamo is aghast however, given she thought Johnson was to fly with her.  Instead, he is tasked to cast protections to protect the device.

Alarms go on.  Illusionary screens project and show the fight the dwarves are having, even if they cannot see any enemy besides what looks like an orc.   Johnson is to accompany March to go to the device and protect it.

Braid Locke, March and Bludwen arrive at the room where the weapon is stored and as they discuss the plans to move the weapon to keep it safe, the security systems of the door open on their own in response to his name.  Bludwen is shocked, "You're name is March too?!?! I know another one."    March, however, does use this moment (even as it surprises him) as "proof" that this is part of the major plan of the leaders above.  They see the two discs. Only one is the truth.  Bludwen studies the two and through her knowledge of her father's crafts hopes to discern which is the real one.  She believes she chose the correct one and insists an Arrowsmith knows which is the correct one.  

Seeing his wall of light fail, Nabaninth notices the dwarves are shooting light guns.  He takes tinder out of his pouch then sets fire to his hair.  As the flames grow, he ignores the pain and uses the fire to bring the beat down on the demons themselves!  He bangs his head to cause the flames to spread even more and the dwarves stare dumbfounded as he begins doing an Orcish sun dance to call forth the powers of fire.  He goes berserk and begins punching and attacking any demons within arms reach.  The dwarves and elves pull back upon seeing the orc leaves burning trails in its crazed determination to kill the shadow demons.  Both begin to ignore the shadows and focus on stopping the fires from spreading.  

A figure stares at an orb which reveals the events in the ship.  "Great is this man. Almost dangerous. A pity he is merely an orc and not one of us, or I would make him a Destroyer."  The figure leans back on his celestial chair, a golden throne that allows him to survive the Aether.

Back in the Royal Guard, the plans to depart for the Dark Star is finalized.  The triangle between the Captain and Marigamo is clearly there as they both insist Johnson should ride with them. They leave March to decide who will sit where.

Bludwen decides the disc on the left would be the correct one, given the dwarves would have placed on the right the false one since most take the one on the right.  She sees March smiling, happy she had picked the right one.  Bludwen realizes the smile March showed was of deception, not greed.  Braid Locke challenges ownership of the weapon, claiming she rather own it than continue the trade.    As they argue, Bludwen points the device at March. "I don't trust you."  They turn to see her holding the Ultimate-Nullifer at him.

March tries to claim that Braid Locke hired her to do this job.  He claims proof can be found in his pocket.  Bludwen unfortunately cannot shake the feeling that he isn't lying.  Braid Locke however smiles, given she had already stolen the supposed items he hopes Bludwen to find earlier while they walked in the corridor.   The dwarf tells March to turn the pocket inside out and to his surprise the pocket is empty.  He tries to accuse her of doing this, but the truth is now out.  He promises to tell the truth if Bludwen promises a Dwarven promise to not harm him.  Braid Locke shares everything she had overheard and Bludwen decides to make the dwarven promise not to hurt March.  He admits he was commanded-

A black hand tears through his chest before he could say moer.  Blood explodes out as he falls dead.  The black shadowy figures close in.  Bludwen activates the Ultimate Nullifier and blasts at the shadows closing in.

Nabaninth burns through the corridors, causing the ship tremendous damage.  At one point, however, he burns through the ground and falls.  Rather than stop his fall, he spins like a fireball that leaving a further burning trail behind him.  He finds himself crashing into the brig.  Watcha stares at him shocked, wondering what he wants to do or what he is thinking of doing. But rather than a moment of rescue, the two end up fighting more as Watcha tries to stop him from burning further, while he relishes this chance to fight her again!


The vessel is being abandoned as the shadow attackers grow in number.  Johnson and March rush to get the weapon, as the crew is unaware that Bludwen and the kenders had already gained a hold of it.  Bludwen is in pain, however, as the Ultimate Nullifer has been activated.  March sees her enveloped in what looks like a surge of five elements.  Bludwen is unable to walk, crippled by the immense energies.  She asks Braid Locke to help her go to the ship, only to painfully learn the energies surrounding her tear away her left arm!  The prismatic energies swirl around Bludwen.  Using his knowledge of Adjurations, Johnson casts a spell to protect Bludwen from the energies.  They tell them of the other March, and that the Orc is missing.  The Admiral addresses the whole vessel and calls for the evacuation of the Royal Glory.

Watcha wrestles with him, duty bound to avenge the fall of the Elven structure, while Nabaninth uses the indestructible loincloth to grapple her with an unbreakable rope. They bash into each other, stuck together, until the Royal Glory itself explodes.  As the vessel breaks apart, Nabaninth and Watcha struggle in the crashing debris, kept alive by the local self-contained environment of the orc's legendary loin cloth.    They crash into the nearest planet, and yet not find death.  Instead, the lioncloth's ancient magics do the impossible and spare them.  But just as Watcha thought she avenged her fallen Elven heritage, Nabaninth reveals he survived as well.  The two learn it will be up to them to build a whole new tribe anew.

With the ship falling apart, the groups make their way to escape the collapsing vessel and make their way to the docks.  Thankfully, Johnson had set the ship to be able to leave the dock as soon as possible.  Johnson calls upon the living light and it guides them as they fly away from the Royal Glory in the Stamen.  


As the survivors consider how they will deal with the Dark Star, the "client" arrives.  Seated on the Golden Throne, the terrifying figure arrives and challenges them to submit the weapon to him.  Bludwen, Johnson, March and Braid Locke realize the end is near.  Braid Locke installs onto herself the arm to try and give her a still functional limb.  March, however, then reveals at this moment his true loyalties.

The master of the dark shadows turns out to be a cruel and terrible being.  One who worships death and the darkness.

Sacrifices.  Tragic decisions.  And cruelties lead to unexpected moments.  Braid Locke moves to hold the figure hostage with her cybernetic arm.  But the dark cloak of March actually prevents Braid from properly grappling him.  Jamming the gun behind him, he fires at her.  The shot misses.  Pain rips into March.  He embraces it gladly, knowing he has served his master well.

"Don't you see, little Exorcist, the darkness has been waiting for this moment?"

Calling upon his magic, and tapping to the Undying Light, Johnson feels unable to call the magic he can summon.  The dark being explains it is because they are under his dark star.    A blast of energy strikes and the group sees Captain Lazada arrive, near death but armed.  He fires at the enemy and Bludwen risks the weapon to fire a second time.   Seeing his master struck, March is distracted!  

He tries to pull the Nullifer away from Bludwen, but a shot strikes him from the Captain's weapon.  His arm now hangs useless.   The purple skinned master smiles at all of them, amused to see how they are-

A crash.  The Pistil slams into where the Dark one was standing! This gives the heroes what might just be the final opening they need to defeat the god like being.

"Give me the weapon," Bludwen screams out!

Johnson grabs hold of March, screaming at him to explain why he is doing this.  Braid Locke grabs the weapon and flings it at Bludwen, but she fails to throw it properly and its skids to the ground.  She pulls herself free form the chair and leaps for it.

Johnson yells at March to answer. He reminds him of their friendship.  March, however, reminds him he is a Disciple of the Dark.  And admits he didn't know they were friends.   Bludwen looks up to see the purple figure emerge from the debris and fire.  And in his hands, the unconscious body of Merigamo.  Bludwen fires the Nullifer.    The blast captures the Captin.  It captures Merigamo.  And it captures the purple figure.  The blast of energy washes over and becomes a bright while blinding light.

"You were the only elf that has ever treated me like I was not some celebrity," Johnson gasps.  March reveals an artifact from his bag, and jams it into his wound to activate it with his own blood. "Then I shall save you... my.... friend."  The Soul Prison activates, pulling them both inside.  Forever trapped. But in their own way, alive.

*

Bludwen looks around, now alone.  The ship is fractured.  It is only a matter of time before it collapses.  The Captain, the sister and the purple one are gone.  Nullfied.  Somehow, Johnson's Prismatic shield had protected her.  But death was but a few breaths away.  She lights a cigarette, telling herself this would not be a bad way to die.

*
From the shadows, Braid Locke smiles.  She reaches for the shiny things left behind and quietly vanishes into the shadows.   Maybe she survives.  Maybe she doesn't.

But in the end, no one knows how dreams end in the Aether Sea.







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