Decending Wood 8 -The Voyage Begins
We arrived early in the morning to the dock where Broken Walls waited next to the ship he had purpose built for our journey to Volivat. The quality of the workmanship is what I have come to expect from the man which is to say excellent. How does his power to craft these structures so quickly actually work? Does he channel his essence through inert matter as I do when I assess the lethal potential of an object or is his energy channeled through his body which he then used to shape wood and metal to his whim? There is so much I do not know about the powers we possess. Do they come about as a matter of our needs or are they a reflection of something deeper about us that we cannot control? Broken Walls seems driven to impose his will over his surroundings including the people around him. Did living without a level of agency over his life for so long cultivate his power that way or did he set out to learn it? Aster’s power is somewhat more subtle. She is an excellent healer which given her compassion for every creature she encounters makes sense but I am not sure how much of those abilities are supernatural. Her voice seems to have some strange power but is that simply because she enjoys singing so much or is there something more to it? Saiten hasn’t exhibited any particularly strange abilities aside from being exceedingly adept at hand to hand combat. I suppose all he requires is sheer martial prowess to achieve his aims.
After some exceedingly brief farewells Saiten, Aster and Myself along with the Kahii house crew and a few of the Rising Sun employees left on the newly christened ship the “Saiten’s Revenge”. Thankfully Broken Walls hasn’t written that on the hull! The ship itself seems to have some artistic flourishes inspired by Saiten himself including an iron fist on the bowsprit in place of a figurehead. The accommodations were sparse and sadly communal. Broken Walls did include one bunk I believe intended for me with curtains for privacy. It was surprisingly thoughtful of him. Mind you I am still rather sore regarding his treatment of me as of late. A curtain is not a perfect guarantee for privacy but it is at least something. My newest disguise was chosen to have similar hair and skin tone to my morning form. If someone does attempt to wake me when I sleep then a cursory inspection in the poor lighting conditions of the hold might not reveal that anything is amiss. I have dubbed this newest alias “Obi” and I have made him a purposely shady looking character. I am hoping that it will encourage the upright citizens crewing the boat to keep their distance.
,p>I scaled the shrouds and found a place to observe Champoor as we left the harbour. The sailors cursed me for getting in their way and we traded a few insults but I felt strangely lighthearted. Once we were a short ways from land the odd quality of the sunlight around Champoor lifted and the actual sunlight beat down on my skin making me feel pleasantly warm and the brisk breeze off the Dreaming Sea smelt of clean saltwater instead of rotting fish and garbage.
My time was my own and I had nothing particular to do. I dozed in the sun on the cross spar for a time, careful not to actually fall asleep but enjoying the feeling of the sun and wind. Aster started singing some kind of sailing shanty that the other sailors were familiar with and they sang with her. Saiten trained a bit on the deck and then joined me in the rigging for some exercise in climbing and balance. He is quite athletic. Seventh Dawn also joined us. She managed, albeit clumsily. That evening I finished reading my book on spirits and went back to the first chapter to try and make sense of the first few principles it outlined. I feel I have barely scratched to surface. There are some techniques it outlines in the second chapter about opening one’s mind to the unseen world. A lot of the methods it describes seem somehow counter intuitive. It will require practice and I feel the skills behind the techniques will not come naturally to me. At least I have time to master them.
Descending Wood 10 – At Sea
This morning Aster approached me and gleefully informed me that it was her Birthday. I am not sure what she was expecting of me. My experience with birthday celebrations were mostly of lavish parties for patrons or members of the court. The simpler affairs my family celebrated are distant memories. I remember they had some things in common: one- Special foods and two – gifts. With no preparation to procure a supplies before setting sail and no skill in making things I could not deliver on either of those two expectations. When I asked what Aster if she would like me to do anything for her she assured me that she didn’t expect us to do anything on her behalf. She was simply happy that it was her birthday regardless of there being no celebration expected or planned.
She is perplexing sometimes.
In the afternoon a peculiar bird flew over the boat and perched on Aster’s finger to her obvious delight. It was a small bird like a finch but it appeared to burn as though it were on fire. Aster assured us it was only warm to the touch and petted it fondly. It made a sound like the high pitched hiss of burning wood resin and then flew away only to repeat the exercise only a few moments later. Aster reasoned that it was trying to get us to follow it. It seemed a logical conclusion as it always went in the same direction though we noted the angle changed rather rapidly indicating a point close by.
I was not perfectly inclined to follow the bird though I was curious what a bird made of fire was doing in the middle of the ocean on a rainy day. It seemed reasonable that it could be a trap to lure the boat into dangerous waters but Aster seemed entranced by it and it was obvious to see that she desired nothing more to follow it. One cannot forget it was her birthday…
I spoke to the captain who asked Saiten what he wanted to do and our plans to follow the bird were established amoungst the crew. It wasn’t long before we found signs of a recent shipwreck. There was only one survivor. Ghostly pale and clinging to a board gripping a pack, barely conscious as he floated adrift amidst the wreckage. We hauled him aboard and he came to quickly. He introduced himself as “Dasadi” . When questioned about how he ended up in the middle of the Sea he claimed to have no memories of the last two weeks prior. Perhaps he is a smuggler or pirate or something and doesn’t want to admit wrongdoing but as lies go it is sub par. I am a little suspicious of him since we didn’t just happen on him by chance but were lead to him by some sort of illusion or spirit. It is possible he has been planted in our midst to soften us up for capture or some other terrible fate. For his part he acted the role of the hapless victim convincingly. He seemed or pretended not to be aware of the bird leading us to him but didn’t seem surprised. He said “Thank Ishul” when we told him of it which I suppose is some sort of patron god or something.
Dasadi told us he was an exorcist and healer and the last thing he remembered doing was combating an outbreak of the puppeteer plague in a village called Zigma’s Tree. I have heard of this disease from the old tales. The bones gain minds of their own and rip free from their hosts to terrify the living. Aster gave him the once over to be sure but if he has symptoms it may be too early to tell. He repeatedly assured us that he could pull his own weight on the ship though in my opinion whether he does or doesn’t is of little consequence. We can’t very well throw him off now and none amongst us will starve because we have one more mouth to feed.
Aster spirited him in front of the fire and fetched him a blanket, dry clothes and food and proceeded, as is her way, to interrogate him thoroughly about personal minutia. Our new guest seemed willing enough to answer most of her questions accept about how he received the rather considerable amount of burn scarring on his arms. Nothing too unusual there. While in most cases people are often proud to show off a scar if it raises odd questions or serves as a reminder for traumatic memories scars can be a terrible nuisance. To be burned so thoroughly must have hurt tremendously.
Eventually our guest, exhausted from his ordeal, tied his pack to his wrist with a length of rope and hanging up his sopping wet clothes went swiftly to sleep. Aster and Saiten went above decks while I took an opportunity to learn a little more about this odd fellow. My companions are too quick to trust and in cases such as this I feel I need be cautious in their stead. I checked to make sure he was soundly asleep before going through his clothes. I found him very well armed, mostly with throwing weapons. There was a large lump of dissolving salt in one of his pockets which would be expected of an exorcist and some halfway decent chain mail which was already beginning to rust. When I went for the pack I must have touched the rope and even that small sensation woke Dasadi. Before I even was aware he was awake he seized me by the wrist. Fast reflexes and out of a dead sleep too. Interesting. He seemed willing enough to let the matter slide and took less offense than I might have were I in his situation. He let me go, moved his pack into a less accessible spot and feigned sleep.
Our new guest has all the hallmark wariness of one used to living dangerously and is well armed to boot. Curious.
Descending Wood 11- New Acquaintances
First thing in the morning Dasadi took me aside and offered up his pack for my inspection. As a move to prove his honesty it is a little lacking. If he had anything incriminating inside beforehand he would have had ample time to find someplace to stash it. At least that is what I would have done. I took the opportunity to look through the pack anyway. The contents certainly seemed to back up his story about being an exorcist. Many of his belongings seemed ruined by exposure to saltwater which was a nice touch. We had a brief chat wherein he told me that all he wants to to get back to what he was doing before he was sent adrift. I almost believe him. The outlandish nature of his memory loss is simply too convenient. If he is covering up some sort of illicit activity that doesn’t effect us then he is welcome to keep his secrets. Otherwise only time will tell.
I was content to let the matter drop for the moment and resumed passing my time by doing some training. I have finished my study of the book and continue to attempt to see past the veil of the physical world but since I am not sure there are spirits around to begin with I have no idea whether I have been successful or not. I also spent some time with Saiten excising in the ship’s rigging. It is an ideal space for keeping my skills sharp and I enjoy the feeling of being up so high with nothing to obscure my view of the sparkling horizon.
It is almost like flying.
I must say that there is something refreshing about his trip that I had not expected. For years I have always been preoccupied with a long list of tasks to do requiring careful planning. On the road I slept lightly, focusing on survival. Here there is nothing to do but rest and train. Perhaps I should seek to spend some time to rest at some point. I may have spent too much time in the company of my enemies. If my life is really going to be as long as Broken Walls says perhaps I can take time to reflect and relax.
Descending Wood 12- Smoke on the Water
I suppose all travel has it’s dangers. Our journey by sea had been pleasant so far with mild weather and a crew kept in good spirits by Aster’s enthusiasm and song. I have until this point enjoyed my first time sailing but today I realized just how vulnerable we are out here.
It was a slow beginning to the day. For a change from our regular exercise I decided to play a game of chase with Saiten. I had expected us to be fairly matched but to my shame after he caught me I could not tag him back. I suppose if I had gone all out I might have had a chance but even then it would have been no easy task. Dasadi had been keeping too sharp an eye on me for me to do anything that eclipses the ability of a mortal but perhaps one day we may have the opportunity for a rematch.
We had been at it for nearly an hour when a fog bank appeared on the horrizon and Dasadi grew agitated. He spoke to the captain about a ship in the fog and of impending attack. It wasn’t long before the aggressors hove into veiw. There were not one but two boats, the first seemingly made of condensed fog and crewed by strange bronze creatures and the other made of water in which strange beasts covered in kelp floated. Fair Folk. Splendid.
Our captain piled on the sail and tried to outrun the beasts but they were dogged in their chase. Aster whispered what sounded like encouragement in our captain’s ear and continued to do so as hour after hour the boats raced across the calm waters of the Dreaming Sea. I began to understand that there was something else at work than just Aster cheering him on. Her voice’s strange power was working on the man making him somehow more adept. I tried to encourage the men similarly by playing my repertoire of naval songs, most of which I have learned from Aster but I know I cannot inspire them in the same way she can. After eight grueling hours at the chase Aster collapsed, her face almost as ashen as Dasadi’s. I begged her to rest and save her strength for the battle but she would not be deterred. As soon as she was able she was back on her feet and at it again.
It was hopeless.
These uncanny boats were simply too fast and maneuverable compared to our mortal craft of timber and rope. One of the crafts rammed us and the force of the blow knocked my feet out from me and knocked the wind from me as I crashed into a wooden capstan. I was dazed, trying to get my feet under me as I coughed and wheezed when a brilliant red flash drew my eye. Dasadi stood amidships his hand splayed as light gathered into a gleaming birdlike shape and shot like an arrow into the ship of fog igniting in a explosive roar which shook the timbers of our ship. This is sorcery beyond anything I have ever seen. I suspect he is more than mortal, perhaps some sort of fire aspect Dragon blood. I was glad he was on our side as the blast sunk the ship and threw the metal men aboard into the water where they swiftly sank halving the number of foes which lept aboard our vessel.
Kelp covered savages flooded on board from the remaining ship striking us hard and fast. A number of them scrabbled at me where I lay, their sharp claws piercing the essence infused clothing I wore to rake my flesh as I struggled under the onslaught. I grabbed a rope on the deck, whipping the waterlogged length back and forth and lashing out with my feet to clear some room to leap to my feet. Saiten, with a single powerful strike sent the kelp creatures that harried us flying over the side. Looking about in the sudden calm I saw the others were about as well off as I. Minor scratches that looked deep enough to be painful could be seen on Dasadi, Aster and the crew. We had earned a moment of respite but not for long as the Water ship bore down on us…