The Third Moon of Cré

Chapter 27

A pillar of strength

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Heading downriver to Datura, the team were enjoying a litte downtime on the Dragunship, the fresh night air and the sounds of the wind and bugs in the air was revitalising.

As they head around a bend in the river Jalana notices, from the crow’s nest, that there is a fork in the river up ahead. One heads more to the west and seems to be cluttered with overhanging branches and vines, being closer to the bank and the river is narrower.

The other bend, heading slightly more towards Dharma, seemed to meander to an open loch some ways up ahead.

They discussed the theoretical, which way they wanted to go and if they wanted to risk getting the sails caught in the overhanging branches. Whilst they were talking, Vuvu (who was currently at the helm) felt a strong hand on her shoulder moving her to the side. She looked and saw Hemmit, with bloodshot eyes and breathing heavily, his forearms covered in sweat and his neck muscles bulging. “We’ll be going towards the Loch” and he took the helm, moving the wheel to the port side.

VuVu looked at the near hulking Cleric with confusion, then shrugged and moved off to the side and began tuning her loot. As she finished she heard a noise from below and saw Grash come out from the captain’s cabin. He went and got a bucket, slung it over the side and pulled up a pail of river water. He moved to the middle of the boat, got on all fours and began scrubbing the deck.

VuVu looked up, plucking all the while at her lute, and saw Jalana peering intently south towards the Loch ahead, crouched like a cat on the edge of the crow’s-nest, agile and purposeful. VuVu could tell that Jalana was comfortable on a boat. She looked to her side, seeing Hemmit, a mist of sweat coming off his evidently overheating body, his skin flushed and his eyes darting to the sides. He’d obviously taken some potion of his, the large and heavy steering wheel groaning and creaking every time he so casually turned it to avoid some rock or another ahead.

As they make their way they see another boat coming up the river. As it passes they notice that the ship has a beautiful figurehead on it in the shape of a Halfling woman. There are about a dozen people on the deck, all lanterns alight, not fearing any kind of attack. The group is wary, as they should be. The boat got closer, and Jalana leant her mystic stealth to the team, and left VuV at the helm, alone. The others hid as best they could.

As the trading ship was passing them, the apparent leader of the ship saw the state of the Dragunship, with dried bloodlines coming off the side of the ship and a giant, half rotted Dragons head attached to the bow. “Ho the ship!” he called.

“Who you calling a ho?” VuVu called back.

The captain was confused, but then noticed her at the helm, alone on the giant and foreboding ship. VuVu and the Captain exchanged pleasantries whilst Grash moved to the side of the boat and looked at what they were carrying. It seemed to be bags of trade goods such as grain and foodstuffs, with the stamp of Dharma on the bags, they were probably heading to the tradetown they had just departed. The people in the boat tell them that up ahead there is trouble in the water and in the forest but they are the only two ways to go. As the boat goes by Grash lets his phantom hand drift behind them and it floats up to their sails, using his small dagger to cut a large line through their main sail.

The captain yells for all hands to stop, drop the anchor and they begin o assess the damage. Grash wants to board and raid them, VuVu advises, firmly, that that isn’t going to happen. They float on past, and as they are about to go about their business they see a scuffle happening on board, and there is yelling. They all look back, from the stern of their Dragunship and see a lone person standing on the front of the boat holding something in their hand by their side.

“Grash!’ yells the voice, harsh and spikey holding up the thing in their hand.

Grash doesn’t reply. Just stands there looking at the figure.

“Your mother is sick, you’re to return home immediately.” And he holds up the severed head and throws it towards the Dragunship missing it by a considerable margin. The figure then kicks over a lantern and dives into the water, heading towards the shore.

Nobody says anything. They all know that Grash has his secrets, and there is no point trying to get him to reveal them.

They keep sailing and make their way to a large inlet, a loch so to speak, and when they are in the middle of it, a giant water beast, lizard like and made of teeth appears in the water below. Grash ties a line about his waist and, as the bait, leaps into the water behind the boat and is dragged along behind. He sees the beast coming for him, and breaches the surface “Pull me back in! It’s hyuge!” Vuvu begins to reel him in whilst Jalana starts to summon a water elemental. Grash eventually gets up and the beast rears up behind them gnashing its huge mouth and trying to eat them.

The battle rages, with valance and courage, Grash and Vuvu atop the railing fighting with dazzling shows of swordplay just like in the old days! They strike the beast hard and it’s skin burns them with every hit, just before it died it grabs Vuvu in its giant maws and tried to drag her down to the depths, but the help of the elemental and Hemmits holy flames destroyed the beast. Vuvu was rescued by Grash.

They saw a smaller fishermans hut some way off in the distance and decided to dock there to make repairs of the ship and their bodies. They undocked, with the flickering shapes of beings like an after-image fading almost immediately, whilst unsettling to them as they had the feeling that whatever those things that were on the boat for a brief second did not have their best interest at heart.

Grash had lugged the beast behind them on a rope, and dragged it to shore, and began skinning it.

After eating they decided to get some rest in the hut. Grash went for a walk, after feeling unsettled and Jalana telling him that she felt an unnatural presence about the place. He got into a tree and looked around, seeing some funny looking trees, like they were looking at him. He got down, accidentally stepping on the face of the tree “ouch” it said. “What the fuck” said Grash, and went back to the cabin.

“Let’s get out of here, guys” said Grash and they all agreed. On their way back to the boat they found a tree there, it explained that there was a terrible evil perverting the nature around the area, and that there was a powerful being in the south in a cathedral that was causing it. They decided to go there and check it out themselves.

Getting in the boat and heading north they saw an ominous building, full of darkness and an apparently clear way to the front doors. As they got closer they felt a pressure building in their minds, a feeling of being pushed back, mentally.

They hesitantly made their way and knocked, with no answer. They opened the doors themselves and saw a room of madness, writhing supplicants and blood, arcane and evil runes adorned the blood covered walls. A beautiful woman in pristine white robes stood atop a dais, with her arms covered in blood to the elbows.

“Please, come in.” she said, and with her magic pulled them in and shut the doors. “Why have you come here? Jalana, Grash, Hemmit and Madame Vavuzel”. They were not surprised that she knew their names. As she moved her arms away from a bowl in front of her, filled with blood, they felt a lessening of the pressure in their minds. This bowl was obviously an artefact of some power.

She explained that she was making “a pillar of her own”, and that they would not be able to stop her. The group thought otherwise and attacked. At first she was standing on the altar smiling at them, the next second she was in front of them, glowing and surrounded by arcane runes and swirling currents of magic, hideous and beautiful at the same time, drops of blood flowing around her along with motes of fire and power.

They began to try to assail her, but spells bounced off her magical shields and daggers were turned aside. They thought it best to leave, so they retreated and gathered about Hemmit, who used his helmet of teleportation to get them outside, it just worked and they appeared on the trail to the cathedral and began to run back to the boat. They looked behind, seeing dozens of the zealots chasing them, being spurned on by the sorceress, who was apparently not willing to leave her fortress.

The got to the boat and made a hasty getaway, sailing back to the middle of the loch, to rethink their plan.

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