Ah, but the past few days have been a blur. Again, I find myself confronted with what seems an infinite shortage of hours in the day. I will endeavor, however, to touch upon some of the highlights of our recent journey, one that has, it seems, turned into more than we had originally bargained for. Yet for all that has changed, our current task remains constant: to care for these mysterious children until such time as we can turn them over into safe hands.
It is a challenging task indeed, and I find myself absolutely filled with dread when I begin to contemplate what this journey must be doing to the once-tender and innocent hearts of our young charges. Modin worries me in particular. After our heated battle against the Fists of Arminar, we discovered that his own brother lay among those we had slain in the heat of battle.
It was a blow to him, to be sure, and for some time after the battle he was inconsolable, pointing over at the fallen figure so familiar to him and sobbing. Renbar tried to cheer him up some, but was unable to provide much comfort. It did nothing to help our situation that we were in a fundamentally compromised position, and Meg, ever the pragmatist, was keen to move on. Still, I wanted to help the boy through what was clearly a traumatic experience for him, and proposed something in the way of a funeral ceremony.
After all, I have made a brief study of funeral rites in various cultures, and it is often remarked they are performed at least as much for healing the hearts of the living as they are for tending to the soul of the deceased. Fortunately, we had some time to spare while Durg, with his great strength, Lillabelle, with her knowledge of engineering, and Meg, with her sharp eyes, went ahead to clear the rubble that had fallen down in front of us. In that time I was able to perform a basic ceremony for Modin’s brother, Arvin of Aldergotham, and though Modin himself remained visibly shaken by what had transpired, I continue to hope that what little I was able to do provided some comfort to him.
Thankfully, there was little else of note that transpired during our overland journey to Artificer Seaport. Renbar was able to get a tip off of a small band of travelers we passed by that allowed us to save time and avoid detection, which proved to be invaluable, for there were no more run-ins with the Fists, the Albertans, or any other mercenaries. Instead we were able to focus on teaching and caring for the children. Modin seemed to improve with time, though he remains noticeably sullen and withdrawn, and not all of the other children’s efforts to engage with him were particularly helpful.
Nevertheless, we soon found ourselves at the port itself, and we set about the task of gathering information on the Sea Dragon, the ship where we had agreed to take the children. Zahra elected to stay back with the cart and the children on the outskirts of town while Meg decided to go ahead and search the docks. Meanwhile, the rest of us established ourselves at the Belching Badger public house, hoping to learn what we could. Once there, Renbar decided to put his ability to consume prodigious quantities of ale to good use, and set about questioning a man in the distinctive garb of the Albertan order.
This particular man, it seems, had his disagreements with the current direction of his order. Indeed, it was not long at all before he began to wax nostalgic for the days when Bolonia concerned itself more with internal affairs than the hunting of elves and the conquest of neighboring lands instigated by Prince Bishop Ziegfried. Fortunately, Renbar then slyly steered the conversation back around to the topic of the local harbormaster, who he promptly learned would soon be visiting the tavern in person.
Sure enough, it was only a short time thereafter that a man stepped inside who seemed the very image of a harbormaster. At this point, since Renbar now seemed bent on drinking the man he’d been talking with under the table, Vi stepped forward to ask about the Sea Dragon. Unfortunately, she was unable to ascertain much beyond the fact that the ship was expected, but seemed to be running late.
This was not very promising news for us to hear, and fueled a certain degree of skepticism about this venture that I had been entertaining for some time. These children could very well be a part of something vital to the nature of the world itself. I was not about to simply hand them off to a crew of strangers and trust that all would be well. Now that we’d learned of the ship’s unexpected tardiness, I resolved to share my suspicions with the others at my table.
They probably had entertained similar thoughts of their own, for they all seemed amenable to my suggestion that we be wary of the members of this crew. Then, just as we were finishing our discussion, Meg made her entrance and told us she’d found the ship. It was captained by a dwarf named Jonas, it seemed, and he and his crew had seemed reasonably trustworthy to her.
In light of this information, we decided to wait until sunset and then all travel as a group down to the docks with the cart. From there we would do our best to determine whether the children would be truly safe in the company of these sailors. So, armed with our new plan of action, we headed back to get Zahra and begin making all the necessary preparations.
Things proceeded fairly smoothly, though just before it was time for us to leave, Meg pulled me aside. She explained that she wished to consult with me about my opinion on something she had found. Then she produced the box that had fallen into her possession when we defeated Nesnar, the black spider. Needless to say, this piqued my interest at once.
We had for many days now been dealing with such a continuous rush of events that even I had quite forgotten about this mysterious box and the many questions I had about it. Sadly, given the circumstances, I was only able to give it a cursory examination, and so could determine but little. The box itself, it turned out, contained what seemed like instructions inscribed in Elvish on the reverse side of the lid, and its contents proved to be a deck of cards emanating a distinctly magical aura.
This, it seems, was something to be used in the direst of circumstances. According to the instructions, up to three cards could be drawn in a time of need. Their unique magical essence would then take effect. As to what those effects might be, I must confess I have no idea. As always, I urged Meg to exert the greatest of caution with a magical artifact of unknown origin. That the black spider had this in his possession and chose not to use it in what for him had been dark circumstances indeed gives me great pause. Hopefully, though, it will not be long before I can learn more about all of this with the benefit of continuous study and perhaps collaboration.
With that little matter out of the way, then, and the children all prepared for travel, it wasn’t long before the sun began to set, and the time for action was upon us once more. We made our way back through town out to the docks by the ship, and questioned this dwarf captain Jonas. He said all the right things, that he was expecting the children, that he would take them to the County of Miltonia, to be entrusted to the care of the Daughters of Bastiluna, and that he and his crew would take good care of them, yet Lillabelle seemed doubtful of him all the same.
I don’t know what it was she saw in him or his crew, what insight she had that made her question his story, but she then openly declared that she did not want the children to go alone. Picking up on Lillabelle’s reservations, Meg then asked to board and see the quarters the children would be staying in, and with a little help from Durgash, looming behind her in an intimidating fashion, the sailors soon allowed all of us to board the ship.
Still not sure what to expect, though, we also made it very clear that we would be accompanying the children on this voyage. It was then that the first mate at last made a slip, and gave orders to “Take the prisoners North”. The captain promptly shoved the man overboard, but knew that things were bound to come to a violent confrontation now. He and his men thus abandoned all pretense as he gave the order to attack the lot of us.
What followed was an exercise in organized chaos. Several of the crew began to take hold of the children to force them belowdecks, which Meg and I did our best to prevent. Meanwhile, Vi and Zahra yelled for whichever of our young charges were still free to make their way together down into a separate part of the ship. They were met with mixed success in this, as some of the eldest began to follow while others seemed paralyzed with fear.
At the same time, the roar of muskets filled the air as several of the “crew” towards the back of the ship proved to be a small squadron of arquebusiers. Renbar wasted no time charging forward towards this line of soldiers while Durgash threw himself straight at the enemy captain. With everything seemingly happening at once, then, I soon found myself focused exclusively on my own task of moving to protect the children.
It was difficult work, and though I was able to make good use of a water wall to help control the space at first, the strength of the soldiers we were up against eventually proved equal to the task of overcoming every obstacle I tried to throw in their way. I was forced to give chase down inside the ship itself, where my disadvantage at close quarters combat proved to be a real liability. While I did manage to down one of the two soldiers who had slipped through holding two children, the other struck me a blow of such force I was thrown backwards onto the deck of the ship.
Fortunately, Meg had followed stealthily behind the man and was able to catch him off guard; quickly finishing him off and then freeing the other two children he had been planning to tie up down here. From there, we each carefully made our way back to the upper deck, prepared to put up more of a fight, but found instead that the battle had already shifted heavily in our favor.
Renbar, it seems, had successfully thrown most of the enemy firing line clear off the ship and into the ocean below. Durgash had triumphed in what must have been a mighty struggle indeed against the enemy captain, for I could see his powerful frame heaving with every breath and a look of triumph in his eyes. Lillabelle was standing nearby, apparently drained after what must have been a good deal of healing, and all around the two of them was a swarm of men who apparently made up the ship’s actual crew. Later I learned that Vi had discovered and set these men free while Zahra remained belowdecks with the other group of children.
The remaining enemy soldiers who had posed as the sailors of the Sea Dragon had at this point wisely chosen to surrender, and they were now ours to deal with as we saw fit. It had been a stirring battle, but we had emerged victorious once again. And with that, I’m afraid I must put down my pen once more for the time being. There is, after all, only so much time in a day. I do hope it won’t be too long before I get another opportunity to continue with my chronicle.