The next morning, the crew woke up and started moving about. Rysarian came out of his trance and worked on sharpening his daggers in his room. Phoenix sat groggily at the table, eating meat for breakfast in the kitchen. Quinn walked in and grabbed some toast before sitting next to Phoenix, who grunted at him.
“So, uh, the iron bracer is pretty cool. I think you’ll like it,” Quinn said. Phoenix looked at him, her eyes not exactly focused on him.
“What’s it do?” She asked.
“It’s an iron armband of power. It infuses the wearer with extra strength with their attacks. And since you’re a person who likes smashing things, I figured it would suit you best.”
“Sounds good. I like smash,” Phoenix said with a large yawn.
Quinn also passed over a small pouch. “This is a pretty close equivalent of gold for you. It contains 100 gold pieces. I’m not sure where we’ll be heading next, so it might be some time before we get to the next checkpoint.” Phoenix simply nodded and left the armband and bag of gold on the table. Quinn finished his toast in silence and headed off to find Meadowlark.
“This is a healer’s brooch, it should help you in battles,” Quinn said as he handed the small red heart crystal to her. She accepted it happily. “This is a bag of 300 gold. You can buy anything else you feel like you need when we find place to stop next.”
“Okay, thanks,” Meadowlark said, accepting the bag as well.
“No problem,” Quinn said before heading back to his room to study the journal again. He was just barely starting to understand what the next checkpoint might be, so it would probably take a couple days study before he could give the captain hard directions.
Phoenix, once she had woken up enough, left the kitchen and found Corbin surveying the work of the crew.
“How are they settling in?” Phoenix asked.
“Pretty well, surprisingly. New people, new jobs. Not a whole lot of issues so far. Of course, we haven’t been flying much.”
“Are we going to head back through the stone rocks?” Rysarian asked, appearing beside Phoenix.
“Quinn’s going to need a bit of time to figure out the next checkpoint,” Phoenix said.
“There’s a place that we can go get supplies. Good landing area. Called the Spire. It’s a port for airships. Lots of supplies there,” Corbin said.
“Sounds good,” Phoenix said.
“Navigator,” Rysarian called out, “plot a course to get us out of this strange place.”
“We’re headed to the Spire,” Corbin added. The ship started moving through the air slowly, then picked up momentum as they headed back through the rocks. Wind cocooned around them like before to bring them there, blocking the outside world from view. When it stopped, their ship sat motionless, facing two large air ships. One was the same size as their own, one was much bigger. Both had the lengths of their boats facing the Isis Maru, cannons visible with forms beside them ready to fire.
“They found us,” Meadowlark said from the top of the stairs. She had come up when the boat had started to move, Quinn following behind, the journal still in his hand.
“Captain! What’s the plan?” Phoenix called.
“Evasive maneuvers!” Captain Charlotte replied, spinning the wheel and the ship starts to turn. A darkly clad figure with a large had appears beside her, grabbing hold of the wheel and stopping the movement of the ship. Captain Charlotte struggled to fight him off the hold of her ship, but he easily knocked her to the side. Corbin rushed up to stand beside his captain.
“So, my dear friends, it seems like you’ve found the first checkpoint.” the man said, casually leaning on the wheel. His very large hat cast a shadow across his face, so they couldn’t see what he looked like, but by the dark purple of his coat, the oversized and overly fancy folds of his cravat at his neck, and his exceptionally tight pants, most of them could tell they weren’t going to like him. “As you can see, we have all our cannons aimed on you. I say you should surrender now. We may,” he waved dramatically with his gloved hand, “spare your lives.”
“Can I smash him?” Phoenix muttered.
“That’s probably not a good idea,” Meadowlark said. “It looks like his crew is loyal to him on the other ships.”
“Captain, it seems like you’ve lost some of your men,” the man said in fake concern. Captain Charlotte bristled at his tone. Corbin kept a hand on her arm. “Ah, but look, there’s some new little adventurers here. What say you lot?
“Who are you?” Phoenix asked when no one else spoke. If he was expecting them to surrender, he was going to have to think again, but they didn’t know what to do yet.
“I am Admiral Vincent D’Mire,” he said, stepping to the side of the wheel and taking off his hat to give them a sweeping bow, the long white feather on his hat brushing across the wood of the deck.
“That’s a dumb name,” Meadowlark said. Phoenix stiffles a chuckle. Admiral D’Mire straightens up and looks at Meadowlark.
“Well, you appear familiar, now that I look at you. Meadowlark, wasn’t it? I’ll take that as your answer. Men! Send a warning shot!” He called back to his crew.
A loud boom is heard as a cannon blows past the ship, knocking into the right fin of the ship, making it list to the side slightly. His crew didn’t seem to be concerned that their Admiral could be hurt.
“Let’s talk about this for a minute,” Phoenix spoke up quickly. “Admiral was it?”
“What would you like to discuss? I am here for the cypher and all information you have, as simple as that.”
“How did you find us?” Meadowlark asked.
“We followed you,” Admiral D’Mire said casually, almost bored as he ran his hand over the wheel.
“We’ve been in there for a while. Why didn’t you follow us in?” Phoenix asked.
“We decided to ambush you instead of going into the unknown. We assumed that you would get the treasure. We would like it now.”
“Why should we do that? You didn’t do anything,” Meadowlark said. “You didn’t have to face a giant spider!”
“It seems like you don’t want to discuss,” Admiral D’Mire said.
“Wait, no, let’s keep talking. We’re all civil here,” she said, looking around, hoping someone else was trying to figure something out. Meadowlark was annoyed, hands on hips as she frowned at the Admiral. Rysarian had backed up out of the direct line of sight of the Admiral.
Quinn was still standing by the top of the stairs, looking around dreamily. “The sky is gorgeously blue outside and we’re going to die,” he said quietly as he looked up.
“Um, will you have enough understanding to find the next checkpoint?” Phoenix asked, looking at the journal as she addressed Admiral D’Mire.
“We have many resources. More than your little boat could possibly have,” Admiral D’Mire said dismissively.
“You’d still have to deal with giant spiders and lots of things that want to kill you,” Meadowlark said.
“It seems like you need a show of my power,” Admiral D’Mire said, adjusting his hat before he transported beside Meadowlark. “You have been an annoyance with this discussion,” he said darkly as he knocked her unconscious with the hilt of his sword. Suddenly, he was back by the wheel. “Anyone else have problems with my power?” He looked around the deck, but no one spoke up. “Now, will you comply with my demands, or will I have to find what I want in the rubble of your ship?”
“Wait, what was it that you wanted?” Rysarian asked, leaning against the ship’s mast. Quinn had moved to stand beside him. Phoenix looked at them hopefully as they whispered with each other.
“I want the cyphers and codes of the first checkpoint,” Admiral D’Mire said.
“How about we just give you the treasure?” Rysarian asked. Obviously, there was a plan they were working on. Rysarian wouldn’t willingly give up what he rightfully stole.
“I want all the treasure from all the checkpoints!’ Admiral D’Mire proclaimed.
“And we can’t just work together on this?” Phoenix asked. Quinn was nodding and Rysarian shrugged.
“That would appear to be us working as equals, rather than you working for me,” Admiral D’Mire said.
“So we would have to be a part of your fleet with you in charge?” Phoenix asked.
“Of course! I am Admiral Vincent D’Mire! I am above all! So what is your answer?”
“Captain!” Quinn called out while Rysarian stood completely still with his eyes closed. “Get ready to leave!”
“I will take that as your answer!” Admiral D’Mire said. “Ready the cannons! On my mark!”
Both Admiral D’Mire and Quinn yelled “Go!” At the same time. The explosion of cannons was quickly muffled by the roaring of wind. The Admiral disappears from the boat as the colors of the world around them become vibrant and unrealistic. Rysarian recognizes it as the feywild. After a moment, things return to normal, but the position of the boat is several hundred feet away from the other ships. The engines of the ship get started and Captain Charlotte took control of the wheel again, getting them out of the area quickly. Phoenix leaned against the cannon beside her, dizzy and nauseous. Corbin clapped her on the back.
“Motion sickness. You’ll get used to it. We have a couple days before we get to the Spire. The engines are working great, might be earlier. They shouldn’t catch up to us,” he told her. The group head down to the kitchens to get something to eat for lunch, Quinn helping Phoenix carry the still unconscious Meadowlark down. Phoenix still feeling ill and Rysarian exhausted from teleporting the entire ship.
“How’d you get the entire ship to teleport, anyway?” Phoenix asked Quinn as they settled Meadowlark on a bench.
“I was working with the engine crew to engrain parts of the crystal into the engines. It’s why we’re traveling faster than normal. Rysarian just connected to the magic of the crystal and was able to do a mass teleportation.”
“I have no idea what that means, but okay,” Phoenix said. “I’m glad it worked.”
About three hours later, Meadowlark woke up. She sat up groggily and looked around at the other people. “I regret nothing,” she said, holding a hand to her head and barely staying upright.
“Yes, despite all your attempts to convince the guy to kill us, we are still alive. Thank you,” Phoenix said.
“I’m going to go take a nap,” Meadowlark said, not paying attention to Phoenix. The others all left to their own rooms, too, now that there wasn’t a reason for them to stay around each other. Over the course of the two day trip, Rysarian practiced his dagger throwing, Quinn worked on translating the journal, Meadowlark helped out with the workings of the ship, and Phoenix stayed in bed most of the day as she still hadn’t gotten used to the increased speed of the ship.
Two days later, around 2 in the afternoon, their ship spotted The Spire, a town built into the side of mountain on the mainland. Other ships were finding port there, with just as many ships taking off. They found a place to dock and the group of adventurers got ready to disembark.
“It’ll take about a day, day and a half to fix the fin,” Corbin told them, walking off the ship with them. “I’m going to go see if I can find some odd jobs for us. They have shops for practically everything here. Take a look around.”
Rysarian is the first to break off from the group, not saying anything to them as he goes to find an enchanter. He wanders the shop districts. Signs for blacksmiths, adventurer gear, clothing shops, jewelers, but nothing that showed any trace of magic. Paths led into the mountain, but the signs said they led to housing districts.
The other three follow lazily down the path, further behind and not having as much a purpose. Meadowlark breaks off, catching site of some interesting boots in one of the shops. Phoenix and Quinn keep going, coming across a small library tucked into the corner of the shop districts and they both go in. There were rows upon rows of dusty shelves packed with books. A girl sat a desk in the middle of the room, her nose in a book of her own. She didn’t notice them as they entered.
“What is with all these bookworms not noticing what’s around them?” Phoenix asks. Quinn doesn’t notice she said anything as he goes to a section of the book and picks one out. Phoenix sighs and looks at the spines of the books closest to her. There were all kinds of topics. She was standing by a section that seemed to focus on histories of different races. She walked past it, reading more titles. She wanted to see if she could find anything about the Path of Fortune.
Rysarian looked around him, seeing that the other three had disappeared into the shops. He circled back to the docks and started looking at the ships. Between two large ships, a small three ship family caravan was docked close together. The one on the far left had someone in it, but Rysarian sneaks onto the one on the right.
Rysarian went into the small cabin in the back, finding a simple looking lockbox on a desk scattered with papers. In a second, he had the lockbox open, finding a bag with 100 gold pieces inside of it.
“What are you doing?” A deep voice asked from behind him. Rysarian looked up to see a guard looking at him knowingly.
“I, uh, I work on this ship,” Rysarian attempted.
“I doubt that,” the guard said. “I’m friends with these people. I also saw you get off a different ship. I suggest you not steal anything. I’ll be keeping an eye on you,” he warned. Rysarian shut the lockbox and left. He wasn’t about to start a fight with a well trained guard who could easily call for help.
Back at the library, the words of the different books were starting to blend together in front of Phoenix’s eyes. She wasn’t retaining anything and she was getting bored. She put the book she had back on the shelf and walked over to where Quinn was, his nose so deep in a dusty book she wondered how he could breathe.
“Find anything?” She asked. He didn’t respond. “Quinn, did you find anything?” She asked, louder. He glanced up at her, as if he was surprised to see her there.
“Oh yeah. This is a book about crystal growth and the environmental requirements it needs to have near-equilibrium growth and how different variations can force a cuboctahedron growth pattern, which is most effective in magical talismans,” he told her, as if telling her something as simple as there were clouds so it was going to rain.
“Fascinating,” Phoenix said, not having understood much more than ‘this is a book’. “I’m going to go wander.”
“Sounds good,” Quinn replied, his nose magnetically pulled back into the book.
Phoenix heads out, keeping her ear out for anything interesting. But mostly the talk around the shops was people haggling or women gossiping. The only mentions of magic were from sellers trying to talk up weapons that were obviously worn and had nothing special about them.
Up ahead, a wooden building stood out against the mostly canvas shops around it. Several paths converged on the building. A sign hung above the door reading The Black Stout. Phoenix went in, seeing that it wasn’t crowded, since it was mid-afternoon, but it was still about half full with different people. The walls were lined with mugs of all kinds of shapes and sizes. Phoenix took a seat in a booth under a white cup smaller than a dwarves hand, but was obviously not a dwarven mug. The mug the size of her head hanging from the wall to her left was more likely to be dwarven made.
A barmaid came up to her table. “Can I get ye somethin’ to drink?” She asked in a lilting accent.
“I’ll have your house special,” Phoenix said.
“Righty, I’ll bring it righ’ out,” the barmaid said, heading back to the bar where a dwarvish manager was barking orders at the workers as he filled four lagers up in a matter of seconds and sliding them down the bar.
Phoenix leaned back in her chair and listened to the conversations around her. Groups of men talking and laughing. Enthusiastic voices telling exaggerated stories. An older group of men sat at a table behind her, complaining about how everything had changed since the Shattering and back when they were young, they couldn’t just fly a ship up here, they had to climb up the side of the mountain with only rope, a pickaxe, and a day’s worth of food.
“Tha’ll be five copper,” the barmaid said, coming out and putting down a large stein of black liquid. Phoenix passed her a coin.
“Have you anything out of the ordinary around here?” Phoenix asked before the barmaid walked off.
“Nay, I don’t hear much more than the sailors braggin’. There’s a quest board there, if tha’s wha’ you’re lookin’ for,” she added, pointing to the wall beside the door.
“Okay, thank you,” Phoenix said. The barmaid nodded.
“Holler if ye need anythin’.”
“Will do,” Phoenix said.
In the shops, Meadowlark was looking through the different pieces of armor. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, no magical items, but she was having fun looking around at the different pieces. There were some beautiful robes and dresses. Shirts that were bright colors and hand beading. There was even a stall that had large feathered hats and another that had hair combs made of stone, jewels, and metals. Meadowlark soon found herself gravitating to a pair of boots, though. Dark leather, extra layers in the soles, and a waterproofing conditioning that promised long use from the shoes. Meadowlark ran her hands across the surface and fell in love. She had plenty of money for a new pair of boots. She’d need them, especially if she had to walk through burned cobwebs ever again, though she’d prefer if she never did that. Never ever.
Rysarian walked through the shops again, making notes of all the guards that were walking through the place. He had to admit they had tight security. He stopped inside a trinket store, pulling out the colored crystals he had gotten, bartering with the shop manager as a guard stood nearby.
“These are chunks of quartz,” the man said. “They’re not that common, true, but I-”
“You can use them in all sorts of jewelry,” Rysarian cut in. “And look at the clarity and cut of these. That’s not even looking at the color. This blue one was very difficult to get. It’s very rare,” Rysarian said. The man eyed him, annoyed, but he had to agree.
“I’ll give you a gold piece each for the green ones. Five for the blue one,” the man said.
“I’ll take it,” Rysarian agreed. The two trade.
“Pleasure doing business with you,” the man said as Rysarian walked out.
Phoenix was feeling a pleasant tingling as she put her empty lagger back down on the table. It was time to look at that quest board and see if anything was interesting. She walked through the tables, a little annoyed that the chairs kept getting in her way as she walked to the board, but she was able to avoid tripping over them. The postings on the board didn’t seem interesting, once they stopped moving. Calls for bodyguards, other people asking for transport to different towns, and a section of people looking for rare things, with others trying to sell rare things. Nothing that would fit a dragonborn.
“E-excuse me, c-could I have a bit of your time, just for a moment?” Phoenix looked down to see a scrawny man with messy dark blonde hair. He had a pair of half spectacles that sat in front of green eyes that blinked repeatedly. His tunic was loose and heavily stained with a variety of colors. “M-my name is Feriday Selence. I’m kind of a- well, I am a researcher. I have an interest in a certain species of creature called slimes.
Phoenix tilted her head and leaned against the wall. “I think I’ve heard of those,” she said, trying to think back to when she could have heard of it. Maybe she read it in a book?
“I, well, I just think that they’re fascinating. Th-they have amorphic forms that can fit in different spaces and their different colors. And they have a society all of their own! They each have different jobs. All directed by the queen.” Phoenix wasn’t really listening. She was still trying to figure out how she was familiar with the term slimes. “I hope you have some adventuring travel friends that c-could help with this, too. I had someone go before to check out the ruins where the slimes live, but they said it was beyond their abilities. A-another couple didn’t even come back! I- I’m almost he-hesitant to ask someone else to go, but I really need s-someone to collect some vials of the slime. It, it needs to be from, from, from a queen. She’s the one who has everything I’d need for my research. I’d be willing to pay quite handsomely for, for acquiring these things. I have a map, a drawing of where you can find them, their location.” He pulled out a piece of paper with a crude, hand drawn map. A large circle was labeled ‘The Spire’ and on the other side there were scribbled circles with a label ‘Forest’ written on it. A large X was marked next to another circle mountain between The Spire and the forest.
“A map? Looks good,” Phoenix said, accepting the paper. “I have some friends who can help out with this.”
“That’s great! Marvelous! Oh, and there’s also some, some slimes that that can form into crys-crystals. If you find any of those, I would, oh, I would definitely pay you for that as well. I’ll be here for about, about a month, yeah, a month, doing research before I head back to the Capital city. Look, just look me up whenever you’re around,” Feriday said.
“I will do that,” Phoenix replied, now thinking about crystals and wondering where the others had gotten to. She headed out of the tavern and the fresh air helped clear her mind. She remembered that she wanted to sell those iron boots that she had picked up at the tower. Blacksmiths could do something with them, probably. Back through the shops she walks, looking for someplace that looked promising.
A large blacksmith shop with a metal framed wall covered in thick canvas pulled taught sat close to the docks.The sign above the door said Sky Anvil. A woman kept walking back forth behind the building, carrying boxes over to the shipyards. Phoenix headed inside, looking at weapons hanging from the ceiling, armor leaning against the walls or on tables. Even a cannon sat in the corner, a pile of cannonballs sitting on the ground beside it. There was a counter with a young man standing behind it, a scruffy, not entirely beard marking him as a late teenager. A guard stood on the side, holding a spear and looking like he was asleep standing up. The older woman that Phoenix had seen behind the building pops in through a door in the back, carrying an armful of supplies, and begins stocking the shelves.
“Welcome, what can I do for you today?” The boy asked as Phoenix approached the counter.
“I’m looking to sell these boots,” she said, pulling the boots out and setting them on the counter. The loud bang of the metal souls sounding much louder than she had expected. The guard jumped in surprise and tightened his hold on his spear.
“Wow, where’d you find junk like this?” The guy asked, bending to look closer at the shoes.
“I just want to sell these,” Phoenix said.
“Alright, well, how about five silver? The metal’s rusted, but there’s a lot of, so we could scrap some of it.”
“Sound fine to me,” Phoenix agreed easily. Five silver was a lot lighter than hundred pound boots. The door of the shop opened and Rysarian came in. Phoenix ignored him and went to look at the javelins. He responded in kind and winds his way to the counter, picking up a climber’s kit before he makes it to the counter.
“I’m wanting some daggers to be sharpened, can I get that done here?” He asks the boy.
“Yeah, we can do that. Let’s see them.” Rysarian pulls out the rusted daggers and short sword he had gotten from the goblins back at the keep. He also pulls out the rusted chainmail.
“I’m also looking to sell this,” he added. The boy wrinkled his nose at the chainmail.
“And you want the climber’s kit as well?”
“The chainmail isn’t worth that much, but the blades are all the same material and need the same treatment, so it shouldn’t be hard. We’ll go with one gold piece for everything,” the guy said. Rysarian thought about it, but agreed. Phoenix comes up behind him and pays for a couple javelins.
“I wish they had a portable ram,” Rysarian said to himself, looking around at the shop. Phoenix looked at him.
“I’m a dragon. I have a giant hammer,” she told him. He looked her up and down, her heavy armor, muscular frame, and hammer hanging in it’s place on her back.
“Yeah okay, but still.”
“You’d just have to carry it, anyway,” Phoenix said.
“I’d just make you carry it!” Rysarian said, following her out of the shop.
“Like you could make me do anything for you,” Phoenix scoffed. She headed to the library, finding Quinn still reading. He had made it halfway around the library. Phoenix wouldn’t be surprised if he had read every book up to that point.
“It’s getting late,” she started, but Quinn didn’t respond. Phoenix stepped towards him. “Quinn! It’s getting late, let’s head back to the ship.” Quinn looked up, startled to see the sun was starting to set.
“It did seem to be getting more difficult to see,” he agreed serenely, putting the book he had just started into his bag. The three head back to the ship for dinner, finding Meadowlark already there, strutting across deck in her new thigh high boots.
The four of them go down to the kitchens for dinner and Phoenix tells them about Feriday and the slime quest he asked them to do.
“As long as we get paid,” Rysarian said.
“Yeah, we will. I think he said something about crystals, too,” Phoenix replied.
“Interesting,” Quinn said, glancing up from his book as he ate a roll. “I like crystals.”
“Sounds good to me,” Rysarian said. “I’m wanting to check out the auction house, but it was closed today. So we can leave after I go there tomorrow.”
“You mean after they finish fixing the ship,” Meadowlark said. “It’ll still take a couple hours, but we should be able to leave by around noon tomorrow if everything goes smoothly.”
“Perfect,” Phoenix said. “I’ll be going to bed now.”
The group retires to their individual rooms until the next day. In the morning, Rysarian goes to the auction house first thing, having to buy an index of all the auctions for the upcoming year, but nothing that day interested him. He headed back to the ship, finding the others eating breakfast. The boat was almost done and Phoenix had already given the map to the navigator. He made the best guess he could about the map and the ship took off as soon as they had finished the fin.