Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Widow's Nest - Episode 0 - 7th Sea

8/20/2017
The Widow's Nest

Episode One
"Hello Greg"

7th Sea

The bartender slams down four drinks on the table as rain is pouring outside. The group is at the Widow's Nest, a small island with a town on it southwest of Montaigne, primarily for piracy. Having just landed, the four sit at the bar and share their stories of the recent events that transpired. There is no one else in the bar, save for the bartender, Greg.  The group is exhausted from an encounter with Delacruz, a ship captain.

The group has a brigantine ship named Sophie, one owned by Teofel Lucja, the Sarmatian Zynys who is skilled with dueling. Gabriella, the Strega, downs the drink in one gulp. Alberto McEntyre gasps, musing he just has fallen in love with Gabriella.  Teofel asks for more drinks as Greg asks them what happened.  Agosto Baltasar Carlos Domingo y Esteban remains silent at first.

Teofel shares they barely just escaped from an attack. Alberto counters at the idea that they barely escaped. Greg notices Teofel is the only one with a hat and assumes he is the captain given his "pirate-y" hat. Agosto finally speaks up, saying the "woman" speaks the truth since the rest of them were not having trouble. He shares they had a long day waiting for the ship they hoped to target. But "someone" had failed to make sure the ship was not fully armed. They argue about the fully armed ship and lost most of their other men. Only the four of them and a few other able seamen are left. They ask why the bartender is so interested in them, and the bartender shows there's no one else in the place. Agosto rattles question after question at the bartender, and finds joy in how the man finds the questions confusing. Agosto explains he calls Alberto a "woman" and Gabriella a "man" because Alberto complains a lot and Gabriella can take care of herself. Both Alberto and Gabriella glare at the man for his blatant sexism, unawares of his former history as a priest... and an Inquisitor.

When Greg hears the ship they attacked happened to be an Atabean Trading Company ship. He asks what sort of cargo it carried and this draws Gabriella and Teofel's curiosity on why the bartender would be so interested. The group is still getting used to working as a unit especially since Alberto joined the crew in hopes of inspiring the others to start acting more like honest men than pirates. As the group talks, Agosto stands up and heads for the kitchen. Greg hurries after him!

In the kitchen, Agosto uses his alchemical skills to "fix" the beer Greg has been serving to become something far more palatable. Greg begs to be given the secret formulae and Agosto asks Teofel to make a deal with the man. "The place as a freeport for their operations, and in exchange the beers will stay as lovely as that." Greg insists the bar is a good place and the only reason there are no customers is due to the rain.  Teofel quietly calls for the rain stops, "What rain?" Greg imagines the room being more active and agrees to the deal.

Time stops. The dievas talks to Teofel, unhappy that he's making deals without consulting it first. It admits it needs Teofel alive, but it would prefer he considers its choice on the matter first. "I have such good plans for you," it grins and time starts once more.

When Greg asks about the cargo again, Gabriella reminds him she doesn't like his interest in the cargo. She warns him she can "read" him and Agosto even warns she is, unlike most Voddacce women, actually able to read. Gabriella ignores the backhanded compliment. The bar is the Salty Pig. They were about to get the cargo but Alberto forced Gabriella and Agosto to the side, dropping the cargo into the sea. Alberto, however, insists they shouldn't have attacked the ship. Gabriella questions why they chose to let him join them. Agosto shares how his former faith used to speak of how people are given a role in life and should just choose to accept it. But now he believes in the need for people to choose what they want. He wonders if Alberto sees them as a mission. Alberto insists he will be helping in his own way, but he cannot go against his tenets as a Glamour Knight.  Greg serves them more drinks, with Gabriella asks for three drinks all for herself.

Outside, a heavy knock announces the arrival of the Atabean Trading Company as a Captain Delacruz arrives to drink at the bar.  The same man they had just pirated.  On the same island. Agosto tells Greg to let them in and has them leave the weapons at the table close to the door. When the Captain's men insist the Captain never leaves his weapons, Agosto steps out to talk to them, shows his Vaticine Church symbol and claims as a priest he must insist they leave their weapons.  The Captain wonders why Agosto looks familiar, he laughs that all Castillian's look like and quickly turns away.

A lean man enters with a tri-corn hat, with one hand on his waist. Delacruz. The same man indeed. While Augusto tries to distract the man and show them to a room to drink, the others attempt to dispatch Delacruz' men and deprive them of their weapons. It takes Gabriella's beauty and Sorte to disable Delacruz and when the fight reaches the outside of the ship, the group opts to storm Delacruz' vessel for the "treasure" they have on board.

The treasure, they discover, is a young figure chained in the brig. With the figure, as it turns out, is a dog.

















Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Review: Tadhana



Tadhana is a Filipino Tabletop role-playing game that uses tokens, cards, and character sheets to tell epic tales of heroism and adventure. Inspired by Filipino folklore, urban legends, and mythology, Tadhana (which means, "Fate") is a tremendously promising work of passion and for its current pre-order price (which was less than $20), the set is quite hefty.  The package first arrives in a quaint burlap sack, which has the pretty spiffy logo on the front. I really loved the minimalist approach to design. 

Inside, the colors then explode outwards.



The bag contained two books; one rulebook at 242 pages, and a Starter Campaign book called Bulong (which means, "Whisper") at 98 pages. Both have full softcolor softcovers with black and white interiors. Also inside are a pack of 40 cards known as the Cards of Destiny, 5 black and white character sheets, a pretty bookmark, a bag of "tokens" and a photo-print piece of art with a personal thank you message.

So the game uses the traditional approach to role-playing games, with one being the Overseer (which is your usual Dungeon Master, Game Master, Narrator role) and the others are the players. The players then portray adventurers who have four Attributes: Lakas (Might), Husay (Skill), Talisik (Wit) and Diwa (Spirit).  They then have their Lahi (Race) which is one of the six playable races: Aswang, Diwata, Engkanto, Garuda, Tao and Tikbalang.   Each Lahi has Traits which are unlocked at Level 1, 6, and 11. Each Lahi also offers places of Origin, which provide rich setting and inspirational material you can use to flesh out your concepts more.

The game then offers multiple Professions such as the Mandirigma, Albularyo, Salamangkero, Pana, and Sarong. Each offers their own list of Profession Traits. The Mandirigma, for example, have Fighting Styles and Stances used in battle. Albularyo has Soul magic and spirit companions. These allow each adventurer to have some unique touches. The professions have nice callbacks to their inspirations yet have enough meat to stand out as new unique takes on the concepts.



Then, there are Generic Traits which are similar to various advantages and merits from other games, and Magic which the game stresses is accessible for all professions in the game. For that reason, the game refers to them as Powers instead of spells, and are limited by your Talisik rating.  The magic system is nicely crunchy with lots of entries (around 40 pages!) to look through to create your own Powers. This is then followed by around 20 pages of gear, equipment, and trinkets.

Character development is through what is called milestones, and by accomplishing enough milestones, one increases the level of their adventurer. Multi-classing is allowed as the game permits one to have multiple professions, but mentors are required for the second and third professions that are embraced.



Starting page 198, the rules of the game are then introduced. Combat is resolved with Lakas being used against Husay in combat. Husay is subtracted from the attackers Lakas, and the player draws at least one Card of Destiny to resolve the attack. If the drawn cards have no duplicate symbols, the attack misses. If a pair is drawn, then the attack hits. 3 of a kind then deals a critical hit.  It's a simple system that seems elegant in design, but sadly this is marred by the card design they've used.  The cards have one side which seems to have been rushed in the design process due to its simplistic black and white art. The other side looks gorgeous but suffers a fatal flaw in its design.


These are sample cards from the Cards of Destiny. Sadly, the white symbols on the center of each card are the symbols one must use to compare and match to see if you succeed in your challenges. Sadly, white on off-white does not read well at all.  And this painfully mars an otherwise ambitiously innovative game. Had the symbols simply been black, they would have stood out against the card art.  Likewise, this was a place I wish they had more art present. The covers for Tadhana and Bulong itself could have been used instead as additional card designs here.  I personally feel a minimalist cover would have worked given the bag's introduction of a clean design.

Trails of Fate are challenges to the adventurer that may appear during a scene. Trails of Might, Skill, Wit and Spirit may occur and a similar system to combat is used to resolve them. The appropriate Attribute is used in the said Trial, with the difficulty being used to reduce it. The final value is the number of cards that is drawn as above.

The tokens are then used to track the rise and fall of one's Attributes in combat. Lakas is spent when adventurers take damage. Husay is spent from taking certain actions. Talisik is rarely spent as it tends to act as a value used to determine things Power-related. Diwa is spent to use Powers. I do like how Rounds of Combat are split into two phases: Talk Phase and Action Phase, with Talisik determining Initiative.  I definitely can imagine some finding this system a bit quirky, with the tokens being moved around, then the cards being drawn to make sets... then going back to the tokens to mark lost Lakas or spend Diwa. But I always believed any system is daunting until you learn it and most systems become more fun once you master it.

The rest of the main book explores other systems, such as Time, Weather, Training Animals and the like.

Bulong, on the other hand, contains a lot of the meat of the game and I suspect will be the area many will focus on.  They introduce a setting called Sekunda, with Zho as one if its five major continents. The sun is a dark void ringed with silver and two moons accompany the presence of daylight. The book dives in with mentions of 25 hour days, Church of Two Gods, and various scenarios. 



The book is a fun way to get used to the system, acting like both a module and a guided how to play in one.  It also introduces the many monsters and threats in the game, such as the Tiyanaks, the Sigbin and more. A third chapter shares the story of the game's creation story and ends with a list of legendary and rare items.


All in all, the game is clearly the product of love and passion and creativity, and barring some design decisions I feel that could have been better made, I'm pretty impressed with this game overall. Heck, I'd even say it looks damn far better than my simple game, A Single Moment.  While I do feel some art pieces feel rushed (some look like cutouts which didn't seem to look good even if they were an intentional design), or were not given careful editing consideration (forcing colored art to automatically become black and white caused many pieces to suffer), and some of the tables feel very haphazardly pasted into the layout rather than carefully designed to work with the look of the book, the final product is still quite well worth the price.   I do wish the tokens were... thicker stock. Or maybe were a sticker sheet to use with something readily available. But then again, I know tokens are hard to source out for cheap.

The game system is intriguing, with the use of tokens and the drawing of cards as the main system instead of dice. While I'm no stranger to such systems (given I do play at least 12 new games per year), I worry this may become a barrier for others who are more used to simply playing the traditional games and quickly shy away from opportunities to learn new systems.

I highly recommend that people support this game and give it some space on their gaming table. It takes true grit and courage to try to come up with something new and unique and bring it out into the world for others to enjoy. Congratulations to you all, Project Tadhana. You have succeeded in leaving a worthy contribution to the tabletop role-playing game industry.  I hope you find your audience soon enough.  But I really really feel you need to somehow fix those cards. I fear many will give you low reviews because of it.



Visit their facebook group here:
https://www.facebook.com/ProjectTadhana/

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Surreal ‘Itras By’ RPG expands with Philippine-inspired realm



Thank you again for the feature, GMA!   It was truly a wonderful experience writing for Itras By and being given the opportunity to add a dash of Filipino mythology to its surreal landscape. I do hope people find the story seeds I've inserted in there to their liking.

An excerpt:
“I will admit to having a soft spot for the Manananggal Titas,” he said. “The idea of them as social butterflies just strikes me as something so close to home and yet so visually unique. But my favorite would have to be Inang Bai, who was inspired by Carlo Vergara and his fantastic creation, Zsazsa Zaturnnah. Inang Bai was a lonely woman in Imperia Manila who could not find love until a star fell from the sky and embedded into her forehead. I do hope he liked that homage.”
The incorporation of Imperia Manila into “Itras By” is likely to give rise to plenty of interesting scenarios.
“I'm hoping to hear from people who have tried exploring Imperia Manila,” said Tobie. “I’ve already read one review which celebrated the setting as the most interesting since he noticed they were drawn also from old pre-Spanish myths. I’m excited to hear from others who might try the setting and find other ways the stories within relate or connect with them.”
Grab the book here:
www.drivethrurpg.com/product/214386/Itras-By-The-Menagerie-English

Read the full article here:
http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/scitech/technology/629011/surreal-itras-by-rpg-expands-with-philippine-inspired-realm/story/

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Children Cry now available!

The Children Cry, a new 7th Sea adventure set in La Bucca, has launched today.  Do excuse my fanboy moment as I celebrate the fact I've released another piece for 7th Sea. I've been quite a fan of John Wick's work, and to see him now posting about my work is just a treat for me.


Even better, I got to revisit La Bucca, which I loved working on for 7th Sea: Pirate Nations. I really hope people enjoy this little scary adventure I wrote and have fun running it for their players.



Grab the adventure today:
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/222720/The-Children-Cry
Also, feel free to check out my other 7th Sea Explorer's Society stuff:
My collection of horror beasties for Eisen in The Dark Journal.
The Dark Journal 
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/206933/The-Dark-Journal
The Dark Journal - Part 2
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/208996/The-Dark-Journal--Part-2
The Dark Journal - Part 3
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/217984/The-Dark-Journal--Part-3
My Montaigne-set adventure against a terror from the places between the worlds.
The Twisted Mirror
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/221350/A-Twisted-Mirror



Monday, September 25, 2017

Grab it: Tadhana

A Filipino table-top role-playing game is on the horizon. I highly recommend you all check out Tadhana: A Filipino Tabletop RPG which is now open to receive the first fifty orders.



The game has very intriguing concepts and actually is played without the use of polyhedral dice.  Instead, there are a bunch of counters to use as well as a Destiny deck.  From those alone, I'm imagining similar touches to Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine or maybe even Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, but mind you this is all speculation at this point. I've yet to receive my copy of the game and I am tremendously anxious to see it.

Who knows, maybe they'll even be lucky enough to get more support from the local blogs and groups to help spread the world of their fantastic work?

If you're interested in learning more, you can reach them on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/ProjectTadhana/

And for those in Manila, they're planning to hold some demo games at the upcoming October Komiket 3rd Filipino Komiks Market.  Information on that can be found here:
https://www.facebook.com/komiketinc

I wish them success and may they find an audience that celebrates their work!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

TAGSESSIONS ANNOUNCES DEAL WITH GALLANT KNIGHT GAMES

Proud to announce that TAGSessions will be partnering with Gallant Knight Games!
To quote Alan Bahr, "Tobie is a repeated collaborator and one of my favorite and go-to creators when I have a challenging project I need eyes on." Alan Bahr, Producer and Lead Designer of Gallant Knight Games. "Working with Tobie sets the bar for our products at a higher level, because Tobie is a rising tide!"

Gallant Knight Games will be my partner and all of the co-produced games with be co-branded with Gallant Knight Games and TAGSessions.

A release schedule for TAGSessions and GKG products will be announced in the near future, but one of the first plans is a deluxe re-release of A Single Moment.
----

So yeah, this is going to be an incredible moment. I can't wait to see the wonderful things I will be able to create with Gallant Knight Games alongside me.   As I have put it:

"It isn't often that a new voice in an industry finds another who shares the passion just as, if not even more intensely, as one's own." Tobie said. "Being invited to partner up with GKG is both an affirmation that I must be doing something right, and an opportunity to share creative juices and resources to make more awesome games. And reach as well a larger audience. I feel tremendously humbled and honored to be part of the growing Gallant Knight family and I can't wait to see what games his partnership will produce in the years to come."

Here's to more games!

Read all about it here:
https://www.gallantknightgames.com/tagsessions-announces-deal-with-gallant-knight/

Bloodlines ep05 : Blades in the Dark

3/25/2016
Bloodlines

Episode Five
"Marks"

Blades in the Dark

Inside a massive manor. The Leech, Puck Maxwell "Professor", has found the group a job under the Lady Roslyn Kellis's home.  She is red haired, reckless, and luxurious.   She has been a family acquaintance of Darius Cromwell - a connection he rarely speaks of.  The group considers the many possible things to score in this heist: from the expensive array of spirits and wines in the basement, the weapons cache of jeweled daggers, the rumors of something called the Spirit Engine whose plans are somewhere in her home, and supposedly a history book which may have information on the Emperor himself.

Robert "The Piper" confirms through Melvr the physicer the existence of the engine. Reginald Eothorn Guiest Drakeboon III "the Thespian" confirms the existence of the prized wines. Darius Cromwell "Ghost" confirms through Roslyn herself that the book actually does exist in her chambers.

Roslyn is the only one in red in the party, accentuating her golden eyes. Everyone else in in white and gray. The six have been taking turns entertaining the guests. They alternate turns distracting the guests so others can explore the manor and try to snag what they can. "Gideon Seymour" Jack Makepeace is called to entertain the group.

The group soon realize that Scurlock is among the guests, looking straight at Gideon. As the performance continues, Darius Cromwell slips away but bumps into the lady Roslyn while he was wandering the halls. She admits she was curious if the group was the same Iruvian she remembered. She asks if they are here for the book, and Darius admits he is. She asks him to walk with her. Roslyn admits the book is in the place but she cannot protect them from the Emperor's guardians who watch over the tome. She asks Darius to entertain the group next, once Gideon is done.

Scurlock asks for a closer demonstration of Gideon's entertainment. The others feel uneasy watching him approach. They feel a compel to stare at him and quickly break eye contact and look away.  Scurlock inspects the spirit eel while he telepathically asks Gideon what brings a Whisper to this place when it is only filled with Screams. Gideon claims they are just entertainers. Scurlock asks if they are not Thespians. Or Theater Actors. Or Nameless.  Implying he knows all of their alias.  Aloud, however, Scurlock tells the audience he is impressed.

While Darius handles the crowd with a "local favorite" and uses his Ghostveil to become invisible after he throws a hood over himself. The group applauds, but to their surprise, the audience does not. The audience starts whispering to each other, wondering what happened. Darius realizes the audience can all still see him! The guests might all be spirits.

The Thespian remembers his meeting with Baszo Baz and how the Red Sashes had good things to say about them. They drink wines and they discuss Rosyln Kellis' sortie and how the fine wines in that place exceed anything they can offer. He snaps out of the flashback and sees the audience booing Darius, asking for him to do something more interesting. Gideon now wishes he had a tomato to throw at Darius. Darius decides to start slipping off his clothes to distract the audience. Reginald remembers the talk again and Baszo informed him that Mylera Klev's daughter, Trisha, the leader of the Red Sashes will be present. Baszo gives them the task to murder her... quietly... as a Mission to prove their loyalties.  Reginald sees the woman in a dove mask and recognizes her to be Trisha. She is currently seated near Scurlock. Reginald finds the best moment to try and slip away from the group. He bumps into a woman in a large padded coat. The sounds of glass bottles clinking are heard. The man apologizes and Reginald stares at her grayish skin, bald head, and a ring with a serrated hook.  Reginald realizes the woman is a Blood dealer and she introduces herself as Jul.  She mentions she can see the mark of the Dimmer Sisters on him, suggesting they had a fight. He admits they have been in tangles with them. Separating from her, Reginald tries to move towards his target.

After a few poses while almost naked, Darius then calls for Puck to handle the next entertainment. Puck throws a potion on stage to cause smoke to erupt to preempt his entry. The audience breaks into a louder applause. He begins mixing reagents on stage to entertain the guests.

Robert remembers his meeting with Melvr, who related the story of the Spirit Engine and how the Kellis family had long sought to use it to leave Duskwall. It was an attempt to go beyond even the Salted City but everything changed when the Scurlock family gained control. The engine was abandoned and some believe it remains unused in the basement levels of the manor. Scurlock holds the territories and they have no reason to use the engine. Melvr admits his father finished building it and that two men can carry it in their arms. The engine is functional and in a test, a vessel was able to evade a lighthouse's notice. His father paid for it with his life as he was silenced to keep others from learning of it. Robert admits the sailors spoke of such a thing in rumors. The entrance to the basement should be behind a "painting that keeps watch." Melvr offers he is willing to pay his life savings for the engine.

As Puck finishes his presentation, Robert's eyes scan the room and he sees the painting at the far side of the room. A massive portrait of an angry looking man.  Scurlock stands and asks Puck if he can do another trick. "What say I wished for a metal..." and be picks up a knife, "... to melt?" and when Puck admits it can be done, he asks if it can be done to wood instead? Puck admits he can. Kellis stands and asks Scurlock to let some other exhibition be done. Scurlock insists he wants to see it and heads to join Puck at the stage. Puck realizes Scurlock is now asking Gideon to produce a stake for the demonstration. Robert takes this opportunity to slip away for the door. Darius uses this also as a chance to slip away, remembering the plans he had gathered earlier to guide him to the book's location. Scurlock asks Puck to apply his alchemical mix to the handkerchief that he now places above his breast, admitting he will pay good coin for this if it works. Puck wonders if he should intentionally make it fail.

The painting shows a massive chair with strange heads upon it; a man, a woman, a wolf, and a strange beast thing.  The chair is empty, however. Robert realizes the eyes of the "heads" do seem to follow him around. He remembers how the Kellis family used to traffic in spirits prior to the rules that were set up. The family supposedly hired practitioners of Spectrology to craft paintings that were haunted by spirits whose families were still under their command. The four "guardians" likely were still serving while trapped in the frame. Robert did his research and he knows of a woman is the manor.

Down on his knees, Darius peers through a keyhole at a room where the book might be kept. Inside, a woman sleeps inside. Sliding into the room, he walks up to the woman and notices she is breathing shallowly. Her head is lolled to the side and bite marks are upon her throat. She has curved blades tucked into her belt. Disarming her, Darius inspects the room for signs of the attacker but only sees an open window. Turning back, he sees her awake now - though still too weak to communicate properly. Her body is frozen in something akin to rigor mortis. Darius tries to comfort her as he collects her belongings - sensing she probably won't live long. He finds a garotte hidden in her boot.

Reginald meets with Trisha and using his charms suggests they retire to a more private place. Away from the crowd, they head down the corridor and make for a balcony Reginald mentally mapped out earlier. There, they step into the cold air and smile as they look at each other. Trisha asks why he brought her here and he claims she brought her here to get to know her more. They talk a bit and Reginald feels something is wrong but can't quite place it.

Puck claims to stake his reputation on this challenge. Gideon plunges the stake, as Scurlock instructs, into the handkerchief against the old man's heart. The wooden stake melts against the cloth. A successful miracle.  Cliff Lawford notices he can smell something in the air.  He pulls away from the audience and the cheering and follows the scent. It leads him to a door that is partly closed. The scent of a type of oil used to sharpen weapons by those from the Dagger Isles. The oil keeps a weapon sharp for weeks. Slipping the door open, Cliff finds the source to be woman who seems to be frozen near someone else. Cliff's eyes widen in shock as he sees Mercy, a killer from the Dagger Isles.  He remembers her to be dead! He sees the bite marks on her throat and suspecting a vampire had attacked her, he turns to track the smell of the oil - realizing Mercy's weapons are no longer with her. Darius continues towards the concealed room where the book would be hidden. With his Darkside Mask on, Darius leads the way down the winding passageways. He hears someone following behind him, but he ignores it for now.

Robert approaches the painting and signals the woman he recognized from before. She approaches him and warns him they do not approach the painting.  Believing him to be an inspector sent by the Duskwall Council, she admits the painting only had two faces when she was brought here.

Trisha asks Reginald if this is the part he kills her, or is this the part where she kills him. When he feels her cold hand against his, he only now realizes she has not been exhaling mist here on the balcony the whole time.  She has not been breathing. He reveals a rose from his pocket and invites her to talk more of love. Their conversation shifts to Mylera and how the Red Sashes hope to find wealth and honor in Duskwall. She hopes to find a way to escape this place of Leviathans and Greed. Reginald offers to whisk her away. Trisha implies she can do that better for him. "Wouldn't you want to be free of this... life?"

The stake dissolves as the Whisper strikes Scurlock. The audience cheers. But when the next entertainer is called for, Puck realizes he is completely alone.  Kellis comes up to him and asks what is going on. Puck claims they have very small bladders. She is unhappy given she paid coin for six, but only four have entertained them so far. Puck claims the next show will be done by the monkey.

Cliff reaches the bookshelf, unawares that Darius is there ahead of him. Cliff tries moving the bookshelf and tries taking the books off one by one to try to find whatever triggers the mechanism open. Mercy gazes at the bookshelf in her weakness, and noticing it, Cliff asks her to help identify the right book. Cliff leans closer and Mercy asks him to carry her out of here and in return, she will tell him which book would open the hidden door. He lifts her up and using climbing gear, he attached her to it and descends her out the window.  Mercy fulfills her bargain and gives him the instructions needed to open the hidden door. In the confined space, Cliff walks carefully, tracing the faint traces of the oil.

Darius reaches a gated area leading to another door. The gate is marked with a ghostly lock. He tries to pick it, unawares of the monkey doing the circus routine to entertain the gathered crowd. Puck then reveals the tiny automaton he built that resembles the monkey to add to the show. The audience cheers and applauds. Puck hates the fact they all abandoned him with the crowd. He wonders when he will head to join Robert to carry the engine out. To buy them more time, he continues entertaining everyone with a few more antics.

At the table, Scurlock watches Gideon as he walks past him to get to the Blood dealer. Jul is showing some blood jars at the gathered group. Gideon asks to buy the lot and Jul admits the others are still choosing their wares. Gideon insists he wants to purchase everything else, but then confuses her by claiming he's not particularly decided on what to buy. He pays her and pockets the jar. Jul asks Gideon about the dancing man on the stage. Gideon makes conversation, asking for an extra jar while Jul shares how she thought the Professor is still alive given her last update was he was murdered. Gideon indulges in his vice, sniffing the blood. Scurlock, however, asks Gideon for some time and he walks off, expecting him to follow. Jul warns Gideon that Scurlock is not the type he would want to consort with. At another room, Scurlock calls the Blood dealer a roach, scavengers peddling garbage. Scurlock tells him Gideon should consider getting fresher blood, and when Gideon teases him about how Scurlock would know, Scurlock explains vampires now no longer drink blood.

Trisha and Reginald at the balcony discuss how none of them are vampires, save for one guest. She admits they are something else entirely.  Darius slides the gate open and Cliff, behind him, hears the gate. Cliff closes the distance but diverts to a different room where light emerges from the frame. Robert tells the maid to close her eyes and guides her to speak to her ancestors to grant them access.  Scurlock admits vampires now drink the future a life may have.  Trisha explains the rest of them are restless. Reginald asks what the difference is and Trisha admits they have long given up their bodies for the freedom of their spirit. As the door opens a the circular room, Cliff sees the guests all lying on the ground. All the guests who are outside. A guard with his eyes sewn shut asks for whoever arrived to identify themselves. Cliff closes the door.  The painting slides open, recognizing the maid - Robert's plan works. The audience claps and Puck bows.

Scurlock bites Gideon to demonstrate.  The map leads Darius down the library but he stops when he sees someone already inside. Someone he is not in good terms with: Setarra. Darius stares in shock at the demon whose eyes do not match. He asks why Darius is here given the event is clearly a trap. A lure. But whose trap shall spring first, hers or his. Darius notices Setarra has the book in the demon's hands and wonders what the stench in the air is. Setarra points to the daggers Darius has taken from Mercy and admits they stink of Whale Piss. Darius realizes he's not willing to make a deal with the demon.   At the open painting entrance, Robert switches places with Puck.  Puck goes inside while Robert moves to distract everyone else.  The maid, however, is now weeping as she talks to the painting as she relives a chance to speak with her loved ones. At the end of a spiral staircase, Puck heads down to a gate and picks the Spirit Lock open.  In the chamber further inside, he finds the Spirit Engine in the room.

Kellis is starting to suspect something is up. Robert plays his pipes to distract them but he can sense time is running out.  Cliff reaches the library and finds Darius talking to the demon, Setarra. He realizes the smell is coming from Darius.  Setarra asks if this is a trap, and Darius looks back to see Cliff come into view. Cliff claims he was here to get his knives back from "him." Darius asks for the book. Setarra admits he would not claim ownership of it, given it is the property of the Emperor. He does not quite understand why Cliff would be here in the library though, given Darius obviously came for the tome. Cliff confesses he just came here for the blades, given they remind him of home. Cliff then decides to ask the demon what has happened to his arm and shows the markings that move on their own. Setarra bargains; offering to tell what he knows of the markings in exchange for them swearing that once they know what it is, they will never harm him or those of his choosing. Cliff agrees. Darius is given the book and is warned the Scurlocks will hunt him down.  Cliff is told of the Nephilim and he is pulled into Setarra's world.  "You have been marked by the Nephilim."

Generations of Scurlocks filled the pages of the diary. Darius realizes the handwriting changes do suggest different eras of writing in the tome. He bags it and hurries back to rejoin the others. Reginald asks if Trisha can leave and she admits they go where they want. And death is no longer something they can suffer. Perfectly timed, Reginald had Baszo Bas steps into the balcony to see the Slide striking the woman in the chest with a blade. Baszo Bas steps away, seeing the kill committed.  Trisha looks up, shocked, wondering what just happened and Reginald smiles telling her he just wanted to test her.  The two laugh. Gideon sees the wound and notices there is no blood dripping from the bite. He asks if he will transform into a vampire too and Scurlock explains that too is a falsehood. They drink the future and the years that have yet to come. Gideon is now to die a year sooner. Hence all that serve them die young and beautiful. He tells Gideon now is the best time to leave given Madame Kellis now senses things are awry. But her gods are distracted now.

The book begins to scream as Darius carries the tome to the surface. The leather cover has cracked open as a mouth and is screaming for being brought out of the dark dungeon. Darius rushes down the passageway, hoping to find a way out of the manor before Kellis notices it.  Robert hears the faint screaming and tries to distract the guests once more by doing the "Special Number" he has prepared. He sings a song, matching the pitch of the distant scream to distract them. At the inner chamber, Puck sees the Engine and other things, including more tomes and other artifacts.  He quickly studies the room for any thing else of value and if there's any other way to bring the engine out.

Cliff is told he is touched by the Leviathans and is to help them find death so they can be reborn as the children of the fallen they are.  He isn't certain if that story makes sense and asks about Mercy's condition. Setarra takes Mercy's blade, and while meditating on it, Cliff sees the events that transpired in the blade's surface.  Mercy had slipped into the manor but encountered Scurlock. Scurlock drank 74 of Mercy's future years.  She has lost all her remaining years. The rope snaps that moment, fulfilling Scurlock's condemnation.  Reginald is warned that the castle is under assault and Trisha asks her to leave before its guardians wake up. Scurlock bids Gideon goodbye. Gideon informs him that Tesslyn has been looking for him. Gideon makes his way out, knowing it would be best to get away now.

The book continues to scream, calling for help. Darius pulls out a vial of Silence and pours it on the book to silence it. Darius remembers the deal she made with Madame Kellis. Kellis actually wanted to have the book "stolen" for purposes she has yet to explain. Darius trusts her to fulfill this deal and circles back to her. Kellis sees him and she taunts him for being as reckless as him. She promises to return for it in one month's time and claim she "retrieved it" from the thieves. No one is to know of the deal, not even his friends.  Darius smiles and exits.

Puck studies the chamber, despite the sounds of commotion above. Robert realizes the other audience are starting to notice that even Kellis is missing. Robert asks everyone to dance and he plays his pipes to encourage them to dance. Even his monkey joins the dance. But the spirits are simply staring at him, unwilling to be distracted. Robert maintains his composure, trusting Puck to fulfill the plan. But when the ghosts reach for him, Robert grabs the rope of the chandelier and twists his pipe to reveal the hidden channel which he blow to fire a dart and sever the opposite end of the rope. The rope strains, but wasn't completely cut. The spirits grab hold of Robert, clawing at him and tearing at his clothes and skin! But as he swings up, his pipes fly from his hands, dropping to the ground. He swings with his monkey across the room to land at the opposite end of the room.  Down below, Puck hears the whistle from Robert, signaling it is time. Puck and Robert grab the engine despite the howls of the spirits as they close in towards them. The two move, quickly exiting the chamber to find their way out. They get to the passageway and shut the door behind them. They hear the spirits clawing on the door, the spirit wards keeping it strong. They slide down to leave through the exit they prepared before hand.

The heist is done.

Their reputation grows. A gang of ten joins their number, impressed by their activity. Robert and Puck surrender the Spirit Engine and in return it allows them to expand on their turf. Their actions gain them Heat, however, as the law enforcement begin to notice their activities.  And lastly, Gideon works on more assets using the spirit jars they have gathered and the possibility of their own Spirit Engine.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Victory Condition Gaming: Tiny Dungeon 2e + an announcement



From the Victory Condition Gaming site:
Join me as I talk with Alan Bahr, Gallant Knight Games founder and designer of Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition currently on Kickstarter. Also joining us Tobie Abad, Ben Woerner and John Kennedy who are writing micro settings for Tiny Dungeon 2e.

---------

Yup, we talked about Tiny Dungeon 2e and the microsettings we are working on, as well as shared some stories on our experiences working with Alan.  As a bonus, an unexpected announcement regarding TAG Sessions and A Single Moment!

Come support the Kickstarter today!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gallantknightgames/tiny-dungeon-2e-minimalist-fantasy-roleplaying-is

Once again, thank you GMA! I am extremely humbled by the love.


GMA has another article out and I remain extremely appreciative and humbled by the love. If anything, I do hope the local gaming community finds this to be a source of encouragement and positive enablement.  Write!  And get your work out there, everyone!

Read the article here:
http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/scitech/technology/625668/pinoy-helped-shape-award-winning-7th-sea-pirate-nations-rpg/story/

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Ongoing Kickstarter: Tiny Dungeon 2nd edition



You might want to back this awesome game, Tiny Dungeon 2e before the Kickstarter campaign ends.  With currently more than 10 micro-settings already unlocked, this game is getting more and more awesome... which is amazing cause it already started out pretty awesome!

Tiny Dungeon 2e is Alan Bahr's new baby, and is the 5th kickstarter campaign launched by Gallant Knight Games.  The game uses the Tiny D6 engine, which is a robust system for something that seems to be quite simple.  The campaign completely funded and hit all 10 stretch goals within the first 24-hours and is already part of the @Kicktraq's Top 25 RPGs.

For this game, I'm writing a micro-setting called Legacy.
Alan lists it down as:
Tobie Abad brings us a fantastic micro-setting about choice, history and the future, with Legacy. The War of the Widows has raged for nearly 300 years. With your grandfather's blade, and your father's ring, your time to join the war has come.
So head on to the Kickstarter page and back it before it is too late!
You don't wanna miss this!
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gallantknightgames/tiny-dungeon-2e-minimalist-fantasy-roleplaying-is

Now available: Itras By: The Menagerie


Itras By: The Menagerie is a cabinet of curiosities: new scenarios, setting elements, short games, tools, cards, articles to help your group fine-tune the game for your purposes. An optional card deck is also available.

The book is presented to you by an international team of 40 creators, representing LARP and OSR, professionals and hobbyists, scholars and artists. All share a passion for roleplaying and the strange.

Emily Care Boss from the foreword (abbreviated):
“The game captured something for me. A period, a mind-set, a feeling. Surrealism, German expressionism, dada, modernism, poetry, dreams. All these were there. But also, a slipping feeling, where the ground beneath you becomes sand. The solid pillars of reality pass through your hands like smoke. Meaning comes into question. The realm of creative play in role playing games harnessed to embody that feeling. And yet keep us grounded in the shared story. With the Menagerie, we revisit this ground with new tour guides. They give us tools as players to embrace the surreal in our game, flexing our imaginations and abilities to encompass the unknown. The authors even lead us to look sideways at our own world. Raising prickly questions about the arbitrary nature of what exactly we all may believe to be real and true.”

This wonderful cabinet of curiosities contains stuff such as:
MANILA MYTHOLOGY | RADIO STARS | SEX WORK | CAPYBARAS WITH HATS | FRINGE SCIENCE | NEW CARDS | GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM | A FRENCH CONNECTION | SURREALIST GAMES | MAPPING THE UNREAL | GRIMASQUES | SUBDUERS/THE DARKNESS | DRESS TO IMPRESS | SAYING NĂ˜ | AUTISTIC ITRA | RIGHT TOOLS FOR A WEIRD TRADE

The companion book is perfect in enhancing your Itras By sessions.
But can also be used as tools for any other game.

I'm proud to have contributed Imperia Manila, which reimagines many Philippine mythological concepts to fit in the surreal world of Itras By.  For those who check it out, do let me know if you recognize the easter eggs I left in there.

Grab it today:
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/214386/Itras-By-The-Menagerie-English

7th Sea: Tagbites "The Gray"

7/22/2017
Tagbites: 7th Sea

"The Gray"
A one-shot session

As part of our ongoing contribution to the gaming community and our desire to help expand everyone's horizons by exploring other game systems, TAG bites are one-shot open table sessions that welcome practically anyone to join us and are completely free.

This game had four players:

Lawrence played Catarina de Graciele a Fontanelle, a rough-and-tumble sort of gal who has always been an embarrassment to her mother. Catarina has picked up a few Alquimista skills and now seeks to escape her life in Castille.  She is Passionate, but in many ways, Overzealous. She is trained in the Aldana school of Dueling.

En is Argyle MacDermont, a Glamour Knight from the Highland Marches. He is the embodiment of the Knight Hereward and has come to Castille after a long journey searching for adventure. He was once  Seahchaidh among his people and known to be both Astute and Trusting. He never gets lost, knows all languages, and has been known to inspire others when times get rough.

Chester plays Josef Xaver Hlinka, an Ugetumjager from Eisen who once was a Hexe.  He has a tendency to be Comforting and Curious, a combination that has lead him to many battles in the past. Some at times confuse him for a Villain, finding them not so different.

Ivan plays Gunthere Hellstrum, an older Krieger who had some years spent as a Mercenary before he realized he wanted to make the world better.  He can be Commanding, but some would say at other times he acts Foolhardy. He is Academy trained and is quite Fearsome. Some say he is even Hard to Kill.

Intro

Catarina stands atop the Morning Star. All around her, the battle rages as the crew fights against the gray figures that serve the enemy ship. Gunshots ring out as smoke billows from the lower deck. Screams punctuate the sounds of combat as blades find flesh and bodies strike the ground.  The waves crash against the ships. The Morning Star is being boarded by The Gray and the Heroes know the crew needs their help to survive this assault.

She has one pistol drawn, and her sword readied as she faces the man who leads the other ship.  Across from her, a man stands. He is Gray and no other word captures him best but that word. His skin, his hair, his clothes, they are all gray. The only thing that isn't is his black oil like blood, dripping from his self-inflicted wound.  He is The Admiral, Stephan Peter Favier.  The man seems to command the very waters of the Widow's Sea.  Catarina's mind races back to how events lead to this day.
Act I - The Meeting

Catarina escapes from another family gala by climbing down the vines outside the garden only to bump into Argyle MacDermont who was currently confronting a mugger that has held a knife at him and a woman.  To Argyle's surprise, the mugger runs away upon recognizing Catarina, as if fearing her for some reason. The two quickly exchange hellos, with Argyle eager to see more of the place. Argyle notes how Catarina clearly has her way with the people in the area. Argyle shares he's looking for a good place to write more songs. Catarina offers to bring him to the docks. 

At the docks, Gunthere Hellstrum is with his companions at the Morning Star. He has yet to meet the supposed captain of the ship despite having known Veronica Buonarroti, its Ship Master, for quite some time.  He has started to befriend St. George, the Boastwain who seems to be from Ifri. Veronica asks Gunthere to consider staying with the Morning Star instead to increase his experiences a hundredfold. Gunthere admits he is looking for a good-paying job. She suggests he try eating at the docks, but turns down Gunthere's invitation to have her join him. Charles St. Pierre, the ship's Master Gunner jokes to Gunthere that if none of the ladies catch his eye, he can consider a man like him. Veronica scolds Charles for hitting on the older man and nags him to go away and clean his cannon elsewhere.  As Gunthere heads down to find St. George, he finds the whole place fascinating, given the mix of cultures all around.

A jenny invites him to have a good roll, and when he admits later tonight might be better, Jenny clarifies she's talking about betting. Gambling. Rolling dice. She angrily explains this is a gambling house and not a Whorehouse. She even clarifies it is betting, since gambling is illegal. Inside, the betting process, which involves wooden horses and rolled dice, amuses Gunthere for a while. The other gambler, a rotund and short man with a lot of money, introduces himself to Gunthere as Einar Isben. Gunthere sees the man bet horribly, placing so much money on the table so in the end one of the bets still wins, but he effectively lost more than he won. Einar doesn't see it that way, however.  He only sees the fact he "tricked the house" and he always wins.

Argyle and Catarina continue to look around.Catarina leads them to a tailor and there, she bribes the City Watch to not reveal any information on her whereabouts and does the same to have the tailor produce an outfit appropriate for the coming journey. It includes pants. Black pants. Argyle decides to entertain himself for the time being by playing with his musical instrument.

Soon, Gunthere cannot hold back and tries to help Einar realize how he's losing on every bet. When Einar finally understands he is losing money, he quips, "Well it is a good thing I have more." Gunthere decides to leave, with Einar accompanying him. Argyle notices the old mercenary at the street and decides to go out and say hello. The two get reacquainted but while they're trying to remember each other, Einar starts sprouting information on Argyle and Gunthere - remembering Argyle as the bard who uses pipes in Avalon, and Gunthere as one of the mercenaries they hired to watch over a ship way back when he was only 12 years of age. Einar, it seems, has quite exceptional memory. He even knows about Catarina and her life, despite not having met her. Gunthere sees an opportunity with having Einar as a friend and perhaps more so if Catarina is invited to join them at the tavern.  Enroute to the tavern, Einar admits he's happy to be with "friends" as earlier he was at the tavern, there was a dark man who kept insisting they should head back to the ship.  The man turns out to be St. George who admits this is a very strange day.

With Einar seeing Gunthere as a friend, St. George promotes Gunthere to an Able Seaman and declares him to be the client's personal guard. Gunthere promises to do what he has to. He remembers how St. George once saved his life when he fell overboard, despite the Sailor belief in leaving the Sea to claim what is hers.  At the ship, Josef Hlinka and Katarina Lumiere are scrubbing the deck and talk about how sibling rivalry is intense among Castillians. Griffin, the Master Mate, tells them they should leave when St. George returns with their client. They are supposedly delivering a man to the Crescent Empire, at Iskander. Josef realizes he has never been there. Katarina argues the barnacles would be removed faster if Griffin helps too, but he just walks away happy to be the Master Mate. She shares how the people call her, "Le Tompo" since he bounces around the deck when the waters get rough. She also shares having a falling out with Veronica, which is why she is no longer the Master Mate. Katarina suggests to Josef to volunteer to look for the others, and to not waste time, Veronica asks for Griffin to help scrub the deck. Josef worries this will bite him back in the future.

Josef heads to the docks, at first converses with the jenny watching over the betting house, but upon realizing he's from Eisen, he is shooed away. Not too far away, Einar and the others are enjoying their drinks. They end up listening to Einar as he starts talking about each of them, knowing so much about their histories and their families. All of them end up looking at him funny. "And this is St. George. I just met him today," Einar grins. St. George identifies Einar and the others as a group then, and they all agree to go with him since according to Einar, "I never travel without my friends." Catarina slips Gunthere some money to let them just accompany Einar without further questions. St. George gives his nod of approval.  Gunthere considers having a word with Einar later, especially when Einar celebrates the night by offering free drinks to everyone.   Josef sees the door slam open and he sees his shipmates stepping out, clearly confused, as they accompany a group towards the ship. On the way, Einar admits he never forgets names and faces and places he's been... but then he stops and realizes he knows Hlinka, the man who he recalls seeing digging a grave for the eyeballs. Einar it seems has been in their lives in many ways while younger and has never forgotten the meetings. Veronica later explains to the crew that Einar is playing thrice the usual fee to bring him to the Crescent Empire. And so they respect his privacy and accept the wealth.

St. George shares his story with the others, about how he was once a slave but the Morning Star liberated him and gave him a new life. Argyle appreciates the sharing, and notices how the crew tends to rag on Josef for being a new Seaman. The talk about the seamen superstitions and hope they don't face any complications on their journey.  Down below, Josef has gone to the cook and finds him complaining about having to prepare more food given its more than one guest now. The cook admits to Josef they'll always treat him as a child until he's no longer a child. Josef feels he will find opportunities to prove himself.

Now

As the battle rages around them, with the Morning Star parallel to a Gray ship, Josef watches from the crow's nest as the gray men are boarding the ship. He feels the need to prove himself now upon him. Down below, he sees the Admiral, the leader of the Gray, on the deck with one hand of exposed bone distorted into a hook like shape. Catarina aims a pistol at the man. The Admiral is laughing, however, allowing his black blood to drip down into the water. Josef ties a rope to his waist and prepares to jump down. He sees a dark shadow in the water beginning to stir.  "Large black thing in the water!" he calls out.


Then

Josef spits into the mugs and brings it back upstairs to Griffin and Argyle. Unfortunately, Griffin pulls out a flask and has Josef drink from the same mug he brought. They toast and Josef cringes at the black thing in his own drink.  Argyle asks if he spat into the rum and Josef just shrugs, admitting there's plently more below.


Now

At the helm, Argyle remembers Josef's words, "There's many more down below."  As he considered how to create an explosion to damage the enemy ship, he remembers there's many more barrels of alcohol below. He hurries down the ship, using his flute as a bashing weapon to strike at any of the gray men that loom too close. As one attacks him, he parries the sword of the first, then bashes his flute into its head followed by a kick to a second one that is thrown overboard.

The Admiral tells Catarina to surrender the ship, and he promises the crew will have a quick death. Catarina admits she will never do such a thing and she aims and fires at the Admiral. The headshot causes a black spray as the Admiral stumbles backwards. He stops the fall with his cane and he rights himself up despite what should have been a fatal wound. "My turn," the Admiral smiles and say.   Tentacles begin to rise up from the churning waters.

By the rear, Gunthere sees the ongoing fight and he feels the regret that Veronica is not here and that he must save her. He weaves through the gray soldiers, punching and kicking his way through the crowd. Enroute to Catarina, however, Gunthere sees Katarina in trouble, pinned down by some of the Gray.  With one hand, he grabs the sword through one of the Gray's chest, then kicks him away to free the blade.  Then strike at the others. Katarina calls out that she cannot find the Captain!


Then

The three guests are seated at the table.Veronica explained to them the Captain will be joining them today.  Both Gunthere and Josef have not seen the Captain even from before. At the dining hall, there is a massive painting of a naked old man reclined with a corgi covering his privates. "Captain on deck!" someone calls out and all the guests stand up. Coming into view, Veronica arrives and walks up to the table but then props the chair closer to the head of the table. "Captain," she calls out and a dog leaps onto the chair, props up on the table, and watches them.  The same corgi from the painting. The crew question the guests if there is a problem, concealing their giggles whenever the word Captain is spoken. The corgi barks whenever anyone says, "Captain." St. George asks the guests if they think this is a joke.  When they say no, he adds, "It is a very good joke."  Veronica shares the story of how their Captain owned the dog, which he also named "Captain."  They lost their Captain when they encountered a Gray ship at sea. Since then, they have not replaced him and venerate the corgi in his memory.  Their Captain was Stephan Peter Favier.

As they eat, they now ask what brings a lady of Castille to the sea.  Einar answers for her, explaining she's tired of explaining the story over and over about how she's tired of being seen as noble first and her personality second. Catarina blushes when the topic shifts to if she fancies anyone.

After the dinner, Josef watches the dog and follows him around. The dog is far more seaworthy than he is, walking without trouble from the turbulent waters.  He even sees the dog running around grabbing the ropes to hand them to the crew to help out. At one point, Griffin even teases Josef that a dog knows more than him on the ship.

Catarina, on the other hand, hangs with the cook, sharing she has knowledge in Alchemy to make the food nicer. He challenges her to prove her skill, scrapes lard with a spoon, and asks her to make it palatable. She easily does so and he admits she will need to win the captain over. The Captain used to bark at Griffin the whole time whenever he'd command people on deck, until Veronica was given instead the duty as the Ship's Master. But they could use an engineer on this ship. She offers to help prepare a hearty breakfast in the morning.  Catarina spends some time to prepare a concoction to make herself more amicable to Veronica.

Leaving San Cristobal, down the Widow's Sea, they continue to Numinari's Approach.  The waters are calm and the weather is lovely. As they move past the Senora Islands, they can see how Vodacce seems so happily distanced from the troubled life most have.  As the night grows late, Einar stays in his quarters because his shoulders seem to be very painful on one side (the side where he carries his money bag).  Gunthere opts to keep watch with St. George. Argyle goes around the book, curious to study it. The ship has gone through a lot of rough scraps it seems having gone through a lot and survived even more.  Josef clambers up the Crow's Nest to stay there, opting to keep an eye out from above.  While there, Josef checks his unguents - double checking if any have gone bad.

Catarina visits Veronica, who asks if there is a problem. Catarina offers the perfume as a token of friendship and thanks. Veronica takes it, and starts identifying the components and notes of the aroma without opening it. Catarina is fascinated, seeing Veronica recognizes her skill as an Alquimista. "It was something I was working on behind my mother's back." Veronica asks why she is giving this given Einar is playing a substantial amount for their journey already. Catarina stumbles with her words somewhat as she explains and Veronica directly asks if the Madam Fontanelle is asking her out. She admits yes. Veronica is flattered and finds it nice but she then reveals Katarina is currently on her bed.  They ask if she would like to join them for wine. Catarina smiles, "I suppose."  Veronica suggests to her to leave the shoes and walks back to the bed. Catarina smiles.  Catarina admits she is running away from a life of "Wealth, Popularity, and Beauty." Life in the court is dull and fails to satisfy her.  "There's more to life than this hubris of opulence." Veronica admits she felt that way about men, "the need for something more." She asks if Catarina is interested in women too, and Catarina admits she has turned down 47 courtiers and is still a virgin right now. They talk about how men still think they are in charge at Vodacce. They enjoy the wine, deal with the present, and hope for a wonderful future.

St. George and Gunthere talk and he shares how he finds the client a strange man. Einar asked St. George if he was this dark because he was always under the sun. Einar knows so many and so little at the same time. He knows about people but not about the people of Ifri. They talk about Josef working hard enough and how he should stop being under Griffin's shadow. They talk about the Gray ship, the Admiral, and how it was as gray as the dust of a burning fire. It moves without a sound, with unnatural efficiency. St. George admits he thinks it merely came upon the Morning Star for it was in its path. The Captain dueled with the Gray in exchange for the crew's freedom. St. George does not know if the Captain would still be alive.  Josef, overhearing them while above, he does know that all the undead are vulnerable to hexenwerk.  He prepares the unguents against them in case they will be necessary. Veronica admitted Josef to join thinking it would be healthy to have a hexe onboard.


Now

The waters explode as tentacles begin to rise. They realize the tentacles are fleshy and moist and not gray. Down below, Charles St. Pierre calls for the crew to reload despite being that close to the other ship. Lumiere thanks Gunthere for her help but then points across to the other ship, "It's Veronica!" The only splash of color against the Gray.  Catarina calls out to Peter Favier and challenges him to a duel. He responds that she is mistaken as this ship is "his" ship. Josef jumps down, and with his weapon laced with an unguent, he tries to strike the Admiral before the duel starts. The group calls out encouraging words to each other as they engage in the fight, helping each other out. As Josef swings down, Favier motions with his clawed hand. A tentacle grabs hold of Gunthere who has swung to the other ship. Biting into it, Gunthere growls as he clamps his teeth down on it to break free! Another tentacle attempts to stab where Catarina stands! She parries the incoming tentacle with a parry and then she leaps away before the tentacle hits her. The area where she stood splinters from impact. Catarina uses the Aldana Ruse at the Admiral, prepping him for the next strike. Gunthere lops off a large part of the tentacle and gunks sprays out. He stabs his blade deep to keep from falling into the water. As Argyle sees a tentacle withdraw, he calls out to St. Pierre to fire at the tentacle sinking into the water. They hoist the cannons and fire at it!  Something howls in the depths. Josef swings at the Admiral and stabs his blade into the Villain, dealing grievous injury thanks to the unguent he has laced his blade with. Favier's eyes widen in panic as he realizes these Heroes have caused him pain! The Heroes notice all the other Gray soldiers for that moment go inert! Argyle calls for Griffin to steer the boat away, so there's enough space for St. Pierre to fire at the tentacles again.  Cannons roars once more, and the tentacles withdraw from the cannon fire. Favier grabs Josef by the face, then breathes into his face, with gray dust filling their nostrils as the particles fly in.  "You win this battle, for now," he growls and closes his eyes. Josef's indomitable will holds strong, resisting the sorcerous power as his body slowly begins to turn gray.  He maintains control and resists the compel to pull the blade free. Catarina slashes at the Admiral, striking him at the gut while he was distracted by Josef's impressive resolve! The stomach area tears open, releasing more ashes into the air. Josef falls back, resisting the compel as the Admiral staggers towards his own ship once more, the laced weapon still stabbed in his back.

Catarina draws out one of her concoctions and drinks one to enhance her Finesse. Argyle continues to guide the crew on what strategies to do. Seeing the gray men converge back to Favier, Gunthere grabs the closest rope, hoping to land where Favier is headed.  The gray begin firing at them, forcing the Heroes to take cover. A number of them strike at Josef, forcing him back to duck among his allies. Catarina rushes at the Admiral, bashing him with the pommel of her blade. Josef then rushes at the Admiral, striking at the gray brutes along the way that try to stop him. Gunthere smashes at the other gray soldiers as he swings back from the tentacle.

"I am Peter Favier, and I have given the Devil Jonah my heart and my hand and I shall not be defeated at sea!" He holds his bony hooked hand towards the water, and a tentacle emerges to pick him up from the sea. Argyle hurls himself forward at the other gray soldiers, he breaks the riot with a single charge, clearing the path for the others. Catarina finds the clearing she needs to lunge at the Admiral with her blade. More black ichor explodes as she strikes him. Josef closes in, reaches for the blade that's still in the Admiral, and with the blade back in his hands, he rips it free. The Admiral howls in pain. The other Heroes realize Josef is being carried up the tentacle with the Admiral.  Veronica has run below the deck of the other ship! Seeing that, Catarina opts to chase after her. Gunthere follow suit.

At the other ship, Gunthere and Catarina go below to find Veronica barreling through another set of gray guards. Deeper they go into the lower decks, and they hear Veronica calling out for the Captain, "Favier!" Catarina asks what Veronica hopes to accomplish. Veronica claims he's down here, and that the Gray ship works in that way, holding its captives down below, using their forms while they are imprisoned. "We have to find and free him."

Searching the lower deck, Catarina and Gunthere start helping Veronica search - all the while being wary of the gray soldiers that are still about. Veronica admits when the Gray was closing in, she didn't call out a warning to everyone because she wanted to get close enough to try to rescue the Captain. Gunthere asks how she knows about this and Veronica admits the Captain saved her from the Gray before. More gray crew men, emerge, and they strike at Gunhere during his search. They fight on, searching through chambers for any sign of the other prisoners.  Catarina soon finds a chamber filled with people standing as if they were mannequins.  They all were unmoving and sleeping asleep. Gunthere is slammed against the wall by other gray crewmen while Catarina approaches the bodies. By the time Gunthere disables the crewmen, he joins Catarina at the room only to have Veronica train a pistol at them. She explains that the only way to leave the Gray is to trade the prisoner with another. "One of you has to stay. So the Captain can return home."  Catarina always wanted adventure and now she is deep in it. Gunthere admits he is willing to be the trade. "I've faced death before. Of course, I am." He walks up to the bodies and touches the Captain. The Gray shifts from the ground and begins to wrap around him.  Catarina sees her chance and rushes to disarm Veronica. She tackles the woman to the ground, forcing the gun away.   Favier's eyes open. He looks at Gunthere and asks who he is. Gunthere explains he's here to help. Favier admits it is bliss. Joy. He does not want to be free. The tears in his eyes suggest otherwise, however. Veronica howls she has to save the Captain. Gunthere explains he's saving him. The Captain promises, "He is crew. He is family. We will save him in time." Catarina calls out, asking if the Captain is okay. Favier admits he is himself now. He admits he can see Catarina is attacking one of his crew. Gunthere closes his eyes. He feels the Gray overwhelming him.  He feels nothing now but bliss.

Outside, Josef and Argyle prepare to fight the Admiral. But as he raises his head, the two see his face change.  His face is now Gunthere's!

Captain Favier grabs Gunthere's gun and trains it at Catarina, telling her to stand down.  She relents.  Veronica and Favier bring Catarina with them, swinging back to the other ship while the Heroes deal with the Gray Admiral. Favier throws Catarina in the brig, telling her to stay there until he understands better who she is. Catarina kicks at the bars, angry at the sudden turn of events.

Argyle grabs a weapon on the ground and hurls the spear at the Admiral that now has Gunthere's face! The weapon flies but one of the Gray crew members, unfortunately, ends up along the path of the spear, getting impaled in the process. Josef slices the laced blade at the Admiral a third time, hoping to deal as much damage as possible. The Admiral screams in pain, his form now shifting between different visages.  Josef loses his balance as the tentacle holding the Admiral swings in a wild way, he falls into the water. A voice booms from the ship. "Retreat! Full sails, we are pulling back!" Josef and Argyle sees Favier, but full colored and alive, commanding the crew to pull back and retreat. Josef sees a dark form leaping into the water beside him. St. George grabs hold of Josef and tells him to hold on, but Josef is distracted by the massive squid beneath the water that is repositioning in the depths.  As the two ships disengage, Argyle hurls a role to St. George to help pull them back onboard.  The ships are now moving in separate directions.  An old wizened man now stands on the deck and stares at them as it pulls away.

The crew cheer, their happiness of surviving the attack is evident. St. George tells Josef he did well. And that they did the right choice of having them on the ship. "Theus alone knows what could have happened if you were not onboard when this attack happened," he adds. Josef wishes he could have done more. St. George admits he could have if Veronica gave a warning when she first noticed the Gray in the horizon.


Hours Later

Ever since the Captain's return, the mood on the ship has changed. The crew is much more jovial at the success of the rescue. Captain Favier's joy is even more evident, seeing him reunited with his dog.  Josef finds himself worrying over Gunthere.  Argyle ends up wondering where Catarina is and opts to ask Lumiere where her namesake has gone. Katarina admits Veronica threw Catarina in the brig and insists only Veronica can explain that.   Argyle looks for her.

Josef sees the remains of the dead still being cleaned off the deck and decides to gather some bone and dust which may prove useful for his Hexe studies. As he holds the bone, he realizes there's something wrong about the material. He looks at it, curious to why is feels odd. It hits him. The bone looks like a bone, but the material is more shell-like than bone. A difference in its texture and feel. "Shells. Those things may not have been actually undead," he muses, "And yet the unguents worked."

Argyle confronts Veronica, asking for Catarina's freedom. Veronica explains Catarina tried to stop her from saving the Captain. Argyle asks where the Captain was. Veronica, instead of answering, reminds him it is not his place to question the crew. Argyle demands an explanation however as they are paying for their journey anyway. Veronica tries to misdirect, claiming he must talk to the Captain instead. The coldness in her tone is evident. Argyle decides that's fair enough and leaves her, going to St. George instead. St. George tells him that he is not certain either but confesses Veronica is very protective of the Captain. He admits he can make arrangements to have Argyle bring Catarina's food so long as he promises not to try anything that can endanger the crew. Argyle confesses he merely wants an answer. St. George reminds him to be prepared in case the answer is not what he is willing to hear. He might need to be ready to make a choice.  St. George promises to make arrangements.

Josef searches the ship for a bit more of the black bile blood from the Gray. He finds some on the deck and he gathers it with his tools. The black turns out to be red so thick it looks black. Very old blood. Einar shows up on deck, noticing him there by the black mark on the floor, and he asks what he's doing. Josef explains its Monster Hunter business and that it would take a very long time to teach it. Einar swipes a thumb against the black stuff and tastes it!  He exclaims its salty and potent. Josef decides to taste it as well and finds Einar's description is accurate. He wonders what it is though as it definitely isn't seawater. Einar notices the eyeballs in the jars and asks if people can do that for him too... pay people to give him their eyeballs. Josef takes them back, insisting he needs them. Einar wishes he could make people pull out their eyeballs. Josef lies and claims these were donated to him.  Josef realizes Einar reminds him of a child, despite being a fully grown man. Einar mentions he heard there was a fight and asks if it was awesome. Josef affirms it was. Einar states he doesn't like fights as people normally get hurt in fights. He felt the boat shaking but he decided to sleep through it instead. Einar confesses he's gone to Ifri and Fort Freedom at the Atabean Sea, but he insists he does not really travel. He only goes around for work given the business he owns desires to buy a city from the Crescent Empire. Josef asks if he owns cities. He admits he doesn't but the company does.  His company: The Atabean Trading Company. He claims he got a few friends to co-own the company and that he's not supposed to talk about this and asks Josef to forget they discussed it. Josef excuses himself as he has to study the gathered things. Einar gives him some space.

Josef realizes the Gray is definitely Sea-based. He now wonders if the Gray, the ship, and the crew are all just extensions of something deep within the sea. Some kind of intelligence that uses the Gray to hunt humans.

Argyle introduces himself to Captain Favier, and he interrupts Argyle's attempts to banter and asks to get down to the main focus of the discussion. Argyle asks about Catarina's imprisonment in the brig and he admits she is there for interfering with his rescue, "And I very much like to be rescued." He admits they are honoring the deal to deliver her to the destination but she will remain on the brig for the safety of the rest. Captain Favier however brings up the matter of payment and mentions Einar has paid generously for himself, but neither he nor Fontanelle have paid their share. "Those who do not pay don't get the brig," he stresses. Argyle explains that Fontanelle is a wealthy Castillian and she is her friend. The Captain stresses that makes things worse and doubles the price. Argyle wants answers why the Madam has to remain there given she isn't being a nuisance anymore.  The Captain insists he chooses to have her there.  Argyle sighs and steps out. He sees Josef hoping to talk to the Captain too. He lets Josef talk to him.

Josef asks the Captain to share his findings. But the confusing discussion goes around, annoying Josef and giving him an inkling why Griffin can be such an asshole himself. The Captain soon shares his experience in the Gray, and they discuss the existence of a hole at the bottom of the ship and yet the water not flowing in. The Captain forces Josef to leave, suddenly traumatized and not wanting to discuss things more. Josef sees Argyle outside and the two decide to part ways for now, with Josef tinkering with the blood and Argyle worrying over payment.


Time Passes

The ship continues its journey to the Crescent Empire. Josef is now certain the thing was definitely undead, seeing the powder sizzle against the unguents. He remembers the bodies falling when the Admiral was struck however, he suddenly wonders if they were more like... puppets? Mere extensions of a singular threat? He wonders now if was just an act.  Was the Giant Squid not the summoned monster, but the master behind the scenes? Lacking any formal education, Josef wonders whom he can talk to for more ideas. He opts to talk to St. George.

Argyle is assigned his first shift. St. George allowed him to visit Catarina.  He sees her in the prison and asks what she has done. She admits she tried to save lives and this was how they repaid her. She suspects the guards will come back at any moment, but Argyle tells them Einar only paid for himself. "You are my responsibility," he admits. She counters that she just wanted to leave Castille and he had nothing to do with it. Argyle studies the bars and wonders if he can actually try to pick the key or something from the guard.  Argyle tries to pick the lock but fails. Catarina sends him away before more guards notice. Catarina asks if Josef got back and he confirms he did. She asks about Gunthere, and Argyle admits he hasn't. Catarina is worried they had left him on the Gray.


More Time Passes

The Morning Star approaches the Numinari Approach. The waters grow rougher. Open Sea. The threat of pirate attacks is greater. St. George gives Argyle a stare, wordlessly telling him NOT to try anything - like sneaking down below to break Catarina free.  Captain Favier calls for a "birthday" celebrant, and he asks for Mister Tops.  Josef explains his name is Josef and "Tops" is just a nickname they gave him. They cheer him on for finally officially being part of the crew. Josef forces himself to cheer with them.  He notices, however, Veronica is not among the celebrating crew. Knowing where the officer's quarters would be, Josef slips away to check on her.  Argyle slips away too, hoping to find Veronica. The two bump into each other and Argyle remembers "Tops" to be the Monster hunter. head below deck.  They both admit looking for Veronica and Katarina Lumiere emerges from down below, asking if they've seen Veronica as she is not below the deck. Josef opts to head up to check for her at the deck. Argyle heads to the brig to check if she's there.

Josef looks up at the crow's nest and sees a hand slightly visible against the basket. He climbs up.

At the brig, Argyle finds no sign of Veronica but finds Catarina mixing stuff in a glass vial. She asks him if they've decided what will happen to her. "I didn't run away from long to spend a month in the brig." Argyle admits they plan to have they stay in there until they reach Iskander. She won't have any of it and she uses the acid she concocted to burn the lock.  She steps out of the cage and tells Argyle she can afford paying for them both. She asks about Gunthere again and when he admits he hasn't, she realizes they did leave him on the other ship.  Argyle heads back to the deck while Catarina searches for her things. Joining the crowd, Argyle hears the crowd and feels the infectious laughter and happiness of the crew. Captain Favier asks him to play music and he does so, wondering what Catarina has in mind.  He asks if he's enjoying his time on his ship and he confesses he is. No one else seems to have noticed the missing people.

At the Crow's Nest, Josef sees Veronica at the top. She pulls him towards her and he sees beads of blood blossoming on her skin. He asks if she's injured and she explains she feels guilty that they left Gunthere behind. He shares how the Gray seems to be made of coral or something of the sea. He suspects something is using the materials as some kind of lure or something. He's specialized in monsters but has not seen anything like this before.  Veronica's wounded palm seems to have not closed. He asks about it and she asks him if he's heard of the Strega.  She explains to him how in Vodacce there are women who were "born wrong" with the ability to see the strands of Fate. She admits she is one, learned to manipulate the threads of fate on her own, and with effort, she can tug on them. Josef asks if she makes pacts with the devil and she explains there's no such thing. She can see connections between people. She can see also people's Arcana. She can see the bonds between people. She tugs at Josef, to show him how she can literally yank on the connections people have.  The strands "cut" into her skin, however. The lashes leave her bleeding.  She feels they have to go back for him. Josef doesn't know if they can find the ship unless it has been tracking them.  Veronica admits she always has trouble with leaving men behind.  She can see a thin strand leading back.  A strand she suspects leads back to Gunthere. She has to go back and find him, somehow. She admits she sought the Captain, saw the thread leading to him and tugged at it to lure the Gray to them. She lured them to try to save the Captain.

Argyle is happily drinking with the crew. Many start stumbling back to their quarters. Captain Favier asks if he's considering staying as crew and he admits he can be the ship's musician. The Captain admits music is typically frowned upon at sea. Argyle shares he has skill with handling the cannons. Argyle shares with Favier the story of how he met Catarina and how it lead to being on the ship. He admits her adventure sounds romantic. A good story to write into song. He isn't hoping to win her heart but he feels a responsibility towards her. The Captain admits he will retire and that the job should be done soon enough. The Captain thanks them all for taking care of "Dog," which turns out to be the dog's name. The crew is stunned at this revelation.

Josef asks Veronica if she's planning to do the same thing again. She admits she isn't sure. Josef thinks with more people they can take the Gray ship on. Veronica feels, however, she shouldn't have made the others choose. She hands him a small vial and asks him to try it. Josef tastes it and notices it tastes like molasses and nutty. He starts to feel weak, drowsy.  Dropping to one knee, he realizes he shouldn't have just trusted her.  Veronica tells him she has to make up for her actions. "It was supposed to be me." Drugged, Josef hits the floor.  He hates having trusted her. "I need someone willing," she explains.  Josef tries to nod.  "You're buying me time..." Veronica stands on the basket, then throws Josef overboard.    Sliding down with a rope, she hurries to the back of the ship, and grabs a rowboat.

Argyle hears the sound of a crash in the water.  St. George stands up, hearing it too. He looks at Argyle and quickly realizes Josef and Veronica are missing. He asks Argyle where they are and Argyle admits he saw them outside. Heading to the deck, they look for the two.

In the water, Josef realizes he is still sluggish and he's starting to sink. The drug has not dissipated with the shock of the cold water. Argyle spots Josef and points out to St. George where he is. St. George jumps into the water. Not knowing how to swim, Argyle hesitates in jumping in. Instead, he picks up the nearest spear and and tries to find a good vantage point to throw it at the dark figure in the water.   A massive shark swims past Josef.  Josef realizes he needs to try to act, despite the drug. He can hear Argyle calling out to him, hoping to boost his morale.  Josef sees the shark close in again and he gains enough focus to throw a punch into the shark's head! Focus comes clearer as Josef realizes he just punched a shark!  St. George emerges nearer.  He wraps an arm around Josef and hoisting him closer. The shark turns, ready for another attack.  Argyle ties a rope on the spear and then hurls it at the incoming shark, but it misses! Argyle had to maintain his balance and that cost him the strike. The shark closes in for the attack. Josef sees it closing in from behind St. George. He tries to time another punch, fighting desperately against the sluggish poison. He pushes St. George aside and punches the shark a second time! The shark, now cowed, swims away to find easier prey.

With St. George pulling Josef close to him, Argyle hurls them a line to clamber up. Josef tries to explain Veronica has separated from them and St. George asks Griffin to count the boats. He adds that he was drugged and was made to serve as a distraction given her guilt about what happened on the other ship. Griffin confirms they are missing one boat. "She will need our help then," Griffin ask.  Captain Favier asks if their friend would be okay with a detour on the trip.  Argyle admits Einar would probably not even notice. The course is charted. The crew prepares to turn the ship and find Veronica. Lumiere is tasked to ensure the others return to their quarters to rest. Josef is safely brought to him chambers and he strips down to check on his things.  He's lost a few components, but he's relatively okay. The drug is already fading. St. George commends Josef for what he did and admits he has done something that reminded him of his people.  The fearlessness in facing nature.  St. George relates his actions to those of the Rahuri, the wave hunters who live at the Atabean Sea and hunt down these leviathans with spears and their tiny boats. "You would be at home with them. They call you Mister Tops.  You are Josef.  Get into trouble so I can save you next."  Josef thanks him for finally being recognized and finding his place.

The Morning Star makes it way, cutting through the water as the group searches for the missing crewmate.  In the hours that pass, Josef prepares a few new unguents for the possible coming conflict.  Josef plays back in his mind his fight with the gray man and the monster he saw in the depths.  Argyle weighs in his mind the options they will have to fight at sea. Einar pays Argyle a visit, confusing Argyle's room as his own. Einar admits he's feeling lonely and complains how it has been the least eventful journey so far. Argyle admits Gunthere's gone missing and they're now trying to find him. He even explains how there was a battle earlier and Gunthere was captured by the enemy. Einar pulls out a small notepad and using a wax pencil, he scratches out Gunthere's name from his list. "Guess if he's dead, I won't have to prepare him a present on his birthday." Argyle tries to suggest Josef's birthday is happening and that's why they're celebrating upstairs. Einar feels sad he wasn't invited and mumbles that others might be using him for his money. Argyle just admits they might be, but Einar counters, "Then again, I do have a lot of money." But as they try to leave the room, the find the door barred from the outside. Argyle pushes but it still does not shove open.  Back in Josef's room, he finds his door too barred from the outside! The two start trying to use their brute force, hoping to find a way to get out.  "Why would they lock us inside?" Argyle growls and the door slightly groans as he tries forcing it open.   Einar wonders if it has anything to do with the guys with the wooden planks outside the door earlier. Josef braces himself against the wall to try to kick the door open.  The wood breaks open as Josef frees himself, unaware that in the other room Einar tried to "mentally open the door" by waving his hands towards it.  Josef unbars Einar and Argyle's room, and the three wonder why they were locked in their rooms. Einar wonders if it is some kind of game. Josef decides to head up. The two follow suit.

On the way up, they are halted by some crew mates who explain the Captain has ordered they stay below the deck. Josef insists he's part of the crew, but they are all told to stay down below. Argyle tries to lie, claiming Einar needs to go upstairs as he feels sick.  The guard doesn't let them pass, insisting he's just following the Captain's orders. Einar grabs something from Argyle and whacks it at the guard, knocking him unconscious!  As the guard hits the ground, Argyle realizes Einar used his pipe!  Josef pushes the guard to the side and the two make their way up to the deck.  At the next landing, they see another crew member guarding the stairway. When he blurts out that the Captain insisted they should stay below to make the plan work, however, Argyle is able to convince the man he's probably misunderstood the instructions.  Josef pulls the man from behind to knock him out as well. "Might as well, you guys started it." Einar grins and tells Argyle, "You can knock out the next one."

At the deck, the Captain tells everyone that as soon as they get to the Gray ship, they should try to get Veronica back. No one else. "And the reason for this is we will need to exchange someone for her." The Captain asks the crew who among the three down below is best to be traded for Veronica. Einar looks at Argyle and Josef and mutters how there's only two of them.  Josef explains, "You're included, Einar." Einar beams, excited rather than scared, not really getting it.   Thinking it's some kind of lottery, Einar heads back down to get his money.  Argyle and Josef consider their options, but then realize with Catarina still down below, Josef might be part of the plans.  The votes are discussed. St. George is appalled that Josef is among the candidates given he is part of the crew. Others, however, raise that Einar is the richest and therefore deserves to stay with the ship, or else they don't get paid. St. George reminds them if they start having doubts on each other, they start acting like pirates. The Captain, however, explains the Gray is not a bad thing. The time of imprisonment is like a moment of bliss. A painless moment. "We have to move our ship as close as we can to the Gray. We cannot risk harming Veronica, so until we have her safely on board, no one will use firearms. You will use your swords or your wits. You are the crew of the Morning Star. You are capable."

St. George argues that they only escaped with their lives thanks to the guests, and now they're to return without using their weapons or cannons, but the Captain seems adamant. Argyle and Josef head down to the brig and share with Catarina the bad news. She wonders if they can just grab a rowboat and leave with Josef reminds her this is the open sea. Given he's been chosen as a sacrifice, Josef admits he's no longer thinking of staying with the ship. He shares his sighting of the sea creature beneath the waves and asks if any of them have read about it. Argyle suggests Josef might have gathered something she, as an Alquimista, would recognize. Catarina confirms it's like crushed shells and Josef adds its from the gray bodies they had killed earlier.  Catarina confirms this means the people aren't being possessed. But a material that covers to possess people. Josef shares how it tried to control him when the Gray man breathed the black stuff on him. Catarina thinks the possession is only temporary. And all the crew on the ship are just constructs. Like the shell of a sea creature. "A lure," Catarina muses, "Something to trick people to come closer." Einar shows up, excited to join the lottery. He shows off the money bags with him and asks them when they're to start. In the distance, the yelling of crewmen can be heard. They've been discovered to have escaped. Argyle wishes they could take a cannon for themselves. Josef wonders how to kill a giant octopus, wondering if they have anything they can use as explosives. They begin to hear the banging on the door outside and know any moment the crew will smash through. "Peaceful or fight our way through," Josef asks? Argyle wonders if they can set up a distraction of some sort. Catarina offers to handle that but reminds them the bigger question is where to go next. The door slams open. The crew smashes in. The glass vial Catarina set against the door shatters, and the smoke and flash blind the crew temporarily, giving them a chance to cut through and run out. Josef and Argyle rush outwards through the smoke.


Seconds Later

At the Crow's Nest, Catarina, Josef and Argyle and are all pushed against each other as they hide from the crew. Josef shares that they can wait for the crew to be distracted by the Gray ship. they can sneak down then use the cannons.  Josef really thinks they should kill the octopus. Argyle and Catarina agree, not wanting to leave it out at sea for someone else to encounter. Einar's voice yells out as the crew drag him out onto the deck. The crew begins squeezing Einar's side fats to cause him to yelp in pain, hoping to draw out the rest of the crew. The Captain asks for a knife, thinking it's better if he does it. Einar draws out a knife, telling them he has one. The crew and the captain stare in shock.  Josef and Argyle shake their heads, "He just... did he just ask for it?" Catarina admits she does not know if they should help him. Or let him go through this to help him? The Captain stares at the knife and is in shock, admitting the knife is a crystalline substance normally used in rituals in Vesten. Einar admits he just carries it around and asked for it in the past. The Captain has them hold Einar down, and Josef admits he cannot watch this as it is just so sad. The heroes realize how sad this is, how it is almost like mistreating a kid, and they prepare to jump down and help. The Captain stops, handing the knife to someone else when he realizes he cannot do this, "This reminds me too much like I'm hurting my own dog."

Josef calls out from above, yelling at them to stop. Einar points up at the crow's nest, showing the crew where the voice is coming from. The Captain tells them to head down and surrender, and mistakes the Ungetumjaeger's powers to be behind their escape. Josef insists they're only good against the undead. Argyle tells Einar the people are only friendly to him because of his money. Einar is aghast. He asks if any of them are his friend. Catarina shakes her head, "What are you guys doing? Are we going to save him or not?"  But before they can act, someone calls out - "Gray! Starboard!" Everyone rushes to look and they see the Gray dot on the horizon.  Josef tells them, "Look for the squid. The ship is just made of seashells. It is just a lure." The Captain, however, accuses Josef of trying to convince them that the Admiral is not the threat. Josef reminds them he's the monster hunter on the ship. Einar is confused who to believe in. Argyle tells him they're the ones he can trust. As the Captain and the crew argue over what to do next, Catarina reminds them, "Gray ship. Getting closer."

Josef reminds them their Captain commanded them to prepare to fight without guns, a stupid way to prepare for a fight. Argyle reminds them it would be harder to save Veronica without weapons. Josef reminds them they can't rescue someone when they're dead. Argyle reminds them the Captain got captured too in the past. "We can work together. You get Veronica, we deal with the monster."  The Captain reluctantly agrees and tells the crew to lower their guns. Einar starts clambering to climb up and join the group even as they remind him they will head down.  The Captain offers to shake on the deal and Josef agrees to. Catarina and Argyle question trusting the Captain, but Josef admits if the Captain shows he's a man of less character then he will lose the trust of the crew. He goes down to accept the agreement. They shake hands.  Josef asks to use the cannons, admitting they were effective the last time. The Captain gives them a warning that if Veronica is not rescued successfully, the deal is nullified. Josef promises he will sacrifice himself if it is the only way to rescue her. Argyle is given command of the cannons.   The other ship comes into view.

With the other ship more visible, the crew sees more now how unnatural the Gray is. A massive tentacled creature is wrapped upon its bow, with tentacles reaching behind it. The crew moves in perfect synch. And it's new Captain, a woman, calls out to them with a smile on her face.  It is Veronica. The Captain gives Josef and Argyle a glance and then responds to the Gray Captain, claiming to have agreed to not have any violence. Both realize the Captain is trusting them to handle things. Argyle rubs his elbow, pointing at the deck with his thumb. The Captain notes the signal and tells the Gray Captain he will speak with her on her ship. Josef volunteers to accompany the Captain for his safety. He sees Catarina blow him a kiss, but pats his side pocket as she walks past him. Argyle quietly sneaks to the lower deck, and starts whispering instructions to the gunners. They are nervous, seeing the tentacles at the front of the ship are moving. It looks almost like the ship itself is part of the vessel. Argyle asks them to quickly grab a barrel or two of rum.

At the other ship, the Gray Captain leads them down the deck, telling them they were foolish to come back. "The Gray must grow if the seas are to be ours. The best Captains must be ours."  The Captain asks what Nation they serve, but the Gray Captain claims to serve, "The Deep." He tells Josef to find him something to drink, and Josef realizes he's buying him time. Josef goes around to ask the other Gray men in the ship if they have any rum. One grabs him by the arm and forces him to face the stairwell. "Like talking to a wall," Josef sighs. He heads down, noticing more and more coral dust. Josef suddenly remembers how the entire crew reacted when the Captain was hit. They are all him.

The crew stares at the barrels of rum longingly. Argyle tells them they need it to hit the squid with the best shot they can. Einar admits he loves squid if it's nicely stuffed.  Argyle shakes his head and tells him, "Good luck with that." He shares his idea of hitting the squid, causing it to rise out of the water, and once it is out there, use the rum to blow it up. Again, the crew longingly stares at the barrels.  Argyle heads to the deck to calculate the coordinates for the cannons so they can try to set their aim despite the "windows" still being closed.  They set a cannon, and Argyle tells the others to aim in a similar way. He devises a mirror with his sword and uses that as a guide to help everyone else train their cannons as well.  "Once we have the signal to attack," he smiles, "You have to attack the ship. I'll handle the squid."  There's suddenly confusion of there's more than one squid, given there might be another in the water.  Pierre tells everyone to have a last taste of the rum before the fight starts.  "But what is the signal," Pierre asks Argyle.  Argyle realizes there isn't any... but he lies and tells them there will be one.  He hurries back at to the deck.

Noticing how the crew in the Gray are barely moving, Josef's observation supports his theory that the crew are all just puppets of the Captain. As Josef looks around, he sees Gunthere and when he tries to talk to Gunthere, the Gray Gunthere just offers to show him back to the deck. Josef draws his sword out and uses one coating of the unguent to strike at the Gray Gunthere. The strike rips Gunthere in half, and as he collapses into two pieces, Josef realizes he never screams.

Upstairs, the Gray Captain senses something is wrong.

Josef sees more Gray crewmen approaching. Realizing he didn't prep a signal for Argyle, he notices the Gray crew men stopping, and their features shifting.  Josef slashes at the shifting man to cleave off the head.  More coral dust explodes from impact.  The third one, however, transforms back into Gunthere.  "Neat trick," Josef sighs.

Argyle finds Einar on the deck, and he asks the Glamour Knight what the signal should be. Argyle suggests they will make the first move, and once the figures move, they are to fire the cannons! Einar wonders if they didn't really prepare a signal. Argyle admits they didn't. Einar asks if there are eyes on Josef.  Josef notices at the lower deck of the other ship, he sees Josef already in a fight. No one else above however have noticed.  Argyle decides to wait for the signs of those on the deck having noticed. He tells Charles to inform the others to prepare the rum.

Josef fights against the new Gunthere, and after splitting him in half, he shoves open the nearby door and sees the chamber with all the standing figures.  Unlike the Gray, they are still colored.  He looks around and finds an open portal on the ground, one exposing the water below.  Looking down, he sees a dark shape somewhere in the depths, and suddenly a glassy eye is staring back at him as the shape swims up close.  "Oh crap," Josef realizes, and he digs out his unguents. He finds instead a glass vial with pinkish and purplish water in it. "What is this?"

The barrels are brought to the deck. The Gray are watching. Argyle waves at them, hoping they haven't figured anything out. The crew bring the barrels closer to the edge. The ships every now and then nearly bump into each other. Argyle checks down below again and sees Josef enter the room and leave his view. Argyle however notices some of the ship's tentacles have dipped into the water.

Josef tosses the vial into the hole.  A tentacle suddenly reaches for the purplish and pink thing that came from Josef's hands.  Suddenly, an explosion erupts as the impact causes the Grays to shatter into powder as the eruption causes the two ships to smash into each other! The explosion causes the crew to stumble.  Argyle tries to grab Einar from falling. Josef realizes he needs to get out as he bounces onto the floor.  The standing people remain nonresponsive to the chaos. A tentacle reaches from the hole and wraps around one person. Colors shift from the person, and the touched person turns Gray. Seeing Veronica, Josef hurries to grab her and pull her free from the standing group!

The tentacle attempts to swat at Josef, as the creature realizes he may be behind the pain it had felt. Josef braces for the blow, and it flings him across the room. He recovers, quickly rushes to Veronica, then pulls her out of the ground from organic adhesive that reminds him of the inside of a clam. Veronica seems barely conscious as he carries her out of the lower deck. The Grays that have not been shattered begin to turn towards the Morning Star. The Captain stands and draws his pistol, telling the Gray Captain that the meeting is over.  The Gray Captain, now a Vodacce man, asks if they hope to destroy him. "You can't destroy me. You need me. I am the only one who can make you feel this way."  Veronica's eyes pop open as she tells at Josef to take her back!  Josef realizes they are acting as if they are drugged. Addicted.  Josef can't risk any delays and smacks her on the head to knock her out. "Sorry," he muses and hoists her over his shoulder to move. The tenatcle tries to rush after Josef, and when it blocks the door, the skin lingers with colors and light until a figure forms. The colored patterns on its skin appears in the form of a man and motions him to stop. Josef gives the tentacle the finger.

Argyle jumps out and grabs Einar before he falls out of the boat. Einar apologizes, admitting this is all his fault. Argyle asks what he means and Einar admits he only said that cause he felt it was the thing to say that moment.  Argyle hurls him back onto the deck and while hanging on the side, he crawls back up as well. Catarina comes into view and sees the commotion has started.  "That's our signal," Argyle teases.  Catarina looks up and slices one of the ropes to swing over to the other side with Argyle.

Using his free hand, Josef draws his blade and slashes at the tentacle. The tentacle withdraws, not wanting to be injured.  But before Josef can leave, the tentacle motions towards the other prisoners.  Josef grits his teeth, not wanting to leave the others as well.

Argyle and Catarina lands on the deck. Catarina slashes at the Gray crewmen that are closing in and tells Argyle to find the others.  But Argyle swings back to the deck of the Morning Star and declares, "Fire!" The cannons open fire, and the Gray shakes from the impact. Einar emerges with a bucket of water, asking where the fire is.  Argyle tells him to stay below the deck. More coral dust explodes from the cannon fire. The attack on the ship forces the tentacle to withdraw, leaving Josef alone with Veronica. Hurrying up the steps, he sees Catarina and the Captain with their blades against the other Grays.  The Gray Captain turns to Josef and sees him with Veronica.  "I guess we will be taking our leave now," he admits. The Gray Captain asks if they will take only just one. Josef asks why the thing has a desire to collect Theans. Catarina yells out a warning as a tentacle attempts to snag Josef from behind. Josef leaps out of the way, rolling with the impact to keep Veronica in his arms. A second tentacle closes in to try to touch him again, but this time Josef notes a distinct attempt to touch him non-aggressively.  Josef reaches Catarina and hands Veronica to her.

"This is what I get for trying to be more like you," the Gray Captain explains, "It was the only way I could find the means to communicate."

Josef admits there are so many other ways one could have tried to communicate besides kidnapping people.  The tentacled thing plunges back into the depths, and the whole Gray ship and all its gray figures begin to crumble into coral dust. Argyle yells at the crew to belay firing.  Josef calls out for rope.  Einar hurls a loop of rope across to them, without tying it in place first!  The Gray ship sinks and the crew hurriedly throw more ropes across for the Captain, Veronica, Catarina, and Josef to grab hold to.

And soon, there is nothing but bubbles.  And regrets.

"It was just trying to learn.. It just wanted to learn," Veronica sighs.  She seems confused. But when they try asking her to explain what she means, she just sighs.  Josef looks at the Captain, "She's safe." The Captain thanks him and promises they will get to their destination as discussed.

Movement in the water. The crew panic at first thinking the tentacles have returned, only to see bodies rising from the depths!  Bodies!  And Josef realizes they are still alive.  The other bodies from the ship were released and they hurriedly try to rescue the people from the cold waters.

Minutes Later

Einar feels happy to be a hero, having saved so many people. Argyle watches in horror as Einar shows his bag of money and admits, "Now that people love me, I guess I don't need this anymore." He hurls it over into the sea!  Thankfully, Einar admits he has another bag in his room and that still is enough for the rest of the trip.

Across the deck, Josef and St. George watch as the two celebrate their newfound friendship.  "I don't understand how they can be friends," St. George admits.  Josef admits what he does not understand more is why anyone would toss that much money away. St. George grins and tells him that he still remembers where the money was tossed into... and they admit the whole crew probably would remember that too.

They soon learn many of the captives are from years apart, all with faint memories of a dreamless sleep and a happy sense of satisfaction. None of them recall feeling hurt or hunger, but feel a sense that their memories were shifted through.  

Josef sees Gunthere among them, who looks bewildered but thankful for the help. He gives him an Eisen salute in respect for the rescue they did. Catarina admits she likes the freedom on the ship and senses she will enjoy staying on the ship. Even the brig just felt just like home.  Catarina is thankful the bomb she left in his pocket helped. Josef realizes that was her.

As the Morning Star continues on its journey, making its way to Vodacce to port and deposit its new found passengers, a pair of figures rise from the waters observing the ship as it leaves and quietly slide back into the depths.  Their attempts to emulate Thean life can wait.

They can wait for a very long time.






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