The cold wind in your hair. The feeling of tuned engines vibrating through the sheet metal underfoot. The smell of clean air, coloured with just a hint of machine oil.This is life, this is adventure!Gripping the handrail firmly, you feel the Spirit of Helena pressing ever upwards into the skies, her mighty engines powered by the core of refined Pleonite burning within her heart. She's a good ship, one of the best, and you're proud to call yourself her captain. It wasn't an easy road to get here, but that's all in the past. Now, your eyes are well and truly turned towards the future – wealth and glory await if you can pull off this one job. The prize to end all prizes.A laugh bubbles out of you as the Spirit of Helena rises into Zenith and the clouds part to reveal the Mountain of Faith. Highest Zenith, the roof of the world and the holiest of holies. Azimuth, with its great nations and complacent population, retreats out of sight beneath you while barbarous Nadir languishes far beneath that. Three layers that make up this divided world of Inounsys, a world of floating islands and flying ships. Three layers that you can travel between with all the ease of a man walking from one room to another.Oh yes, it was a hard road that brought you here, but now it all seems worth it. You have a ship at your command, a crew ready to follow your instructions to the letter, and an adventure to go on.What more could you need?
>>2113653Some time ago...The smell of stale beer is especially thick in Morey's Pit tonight, but at least it covers up other unlovely scents. Somewhere behind you, two men are arguing over a game of dice. The tone of their voices is an ugly one, and it seems increasingly likely that tonight will see blood spilled. So be it, you decide indifferently, at least it'll make for a decent show. Glum dissatisfaction lies draped across your thoughts like a shroud, darkening your mood. The Festival of Walking Ghosts is soon, but you feel anything but festive.Behind the bar, Morey shoots you an unreadable look. Fat and hideous, with the outline of his face distorted by a mouthful of jagged teeth, Morey looks like any other Nadir degenerate. Looking at him now, you'd hardly think that he was a pillar of the local community – which was to say, the chief of a criminal gang. His mood seems ugly as well, tonight. Word on the street is that one of his boys was killed, beaten to death by some rival thugs. A bad omen, that, a warning that the violence may yet escalate.He's been good to you, Morey, putting work your way whenever you needed it... but you don't think you'll ever like him. People tend not to, probably because of his disfigurements. Whether they're caused by some ancient curse or impurity like the Church of the Rising Light claims or whether they're just the product of a murky and bestial heritage doesn't really matter. All you know is, he's as ugly as sin and his words are illegible. He has a translator, a girl that some say is his lover and some say is his daughter – and some even hint that the two might not be mutually exclusive.“Excuse me,” a hushed voice asked, stirring you out of your idle thoughts, “Captain Vaandemere?”Turning on your barstool, you give the newcomer a harsh look. An old man with a curiously anonymous face, he looks vaguely familiar in a way you struggle to explain. His steel grey hair is cut into a fastidious tonsure while he wears a carefully trimmed beard. Scholarly eyes, the kind that would suit a clerk or some other learned man. Certainly not the kind of eyes that were often seen in Morey's Pit.“I'm not a captain any more,” you tell him bluntly, turning away again, “Haven't been one for five damn years. Whatever you want, I can't help you.”“My my,” the old man murmurs, boldly sitting down next to you, “How unfortunate...”Unfortunate. That's certainly the word for it. You've had nothing but misfortune ever since you lost your ship five years ago. The memories, hot and still bitter, well up within you. Your ship...>Was downed in combat, in defence of your homeland.>Was lost in a game of cards, a game that was almost certainly rigged.>Was confiscated by the authorities, as punishment for a smuggling charge.Voting will remain open for 15-20 minutes
>>2113654>Was downed in combat, in defence of your homeland.
>>2113654>>Was confiscated by the authorities, as punishment for a smuggling charge.
>>2113654>Was confiscated by the authorities, as punishment for a smuggling charge."Never should of taken that cargo."
>>2113654>>Was downed in combat, in defence of your homeland.
>>2113654>Was confiscated by the authorities, as punishment for a smuggling charge.
>Going to close the vote here. Downed in combat wins by a narrow margin. Writing the next post now!
Your ship had never been the greatest vessel that Inounsys had ever seen, and you never deluded yourself into thinking it was, but it meant something to you. It was yours. Good engines to make it swift, good size to keep plenty of cargo, and enough armaments to see away any pirates who fancied you an easy meal. The Manticore was a good ship... but she hadn't been built with war in mind. In a face to face fight with an Iraklin dreadnought, she was always going to come off badly.But that's exactly what happened. When the Annexation War started, and Iraklin forces moved to claim the Pastona Union – your homeland – for their own, you leapt to join the defence. The Pastonne Volunteer Militia... brave men and women, one and all, but sadly doomed. Just as you had no delusions about how powerful the Manticore had been, you had no expectations of success – yet still, you fought.The war had been a short one, just one single battle in the skies above the capital, and that's where you lost the Manticore. Shot down in active service, an airship couldn't ask for a more noble death. Your ship might have died, but you survived to see the Iraklin forces raise their flag above your homeland's capital. You survived to see the occupation. You survived to see your countrymen... accept it. They bent the knee before their new masters and sullenly accepted their new identities as citizens of Iraklis.With your ship destroyed, along with damn near everything you had left, you were faced with a choice – swallow your pride and live under Iraklin rule, or flee to Nadir where you could live as a free man. You chose Nadir... and often came to regret that decision.“Most unfortunate...” the old man murmurs again, his voice stirring you out of your bitter recollections. Scowling hard, you turn and give him a piercing glare.“Like I said, I can't help you,” you snap, “Now how about you tell me who you are?”“The worst thing that can happen to an old man is being forgotten,” he laments, slowly stroking his beard, “Do you really not remember me, Milos?”The way he says your first name, with tired familiarity, stirs something within you. Not quite recognition, but something close to it. “Uncle Sal?” you murmur, “It IS you, isn't it?”“So you do remember!” the old man laughs softly, “But you're a man now, Milos, and I should introduce myself properly. Salazar Sierzac, at your service.”“Milos Vaandemere,” you reply, shaking the hand he offers, “I didn't recognise you with that beard. It's been a long time. Last time I saw you...”“We were both waving goodbye to your father,” Salazar sighs, “I don't think either of expected that we would never see him again.”[1/2]
>>2113683Salazar Sierzac – Uncle Sal, as you knew him as you were growing up – had been your father's closest ally. Ragnar Vaandemere had been a Free Captain as well, and so he was often away for long periods of time. You had been left in the care of two men – a looming manservant you only ever knew as “Edgar” and Uncle Sal, who often acted as your teacher. Then your father lost his life on a lunatic expedition and... and things started to fall apart. You never saw Salazar again, not until now.“I guess it doesn't really matter now,” you grunt, dismissing the old wound that is your father. Draining the last of your beer, you gesture to Morey for another. The old mutant seems to be watching you with unusual curiosity, although you can't read much more than that from his eyes. You never could. “Anyway, this doesn't change anything,” you add in a darker tone, “Whatever you want from me, I don't think I can help you with it.”“Actually, it's more what I can do for you,” Salazar corrects you gently, “Miriam Hawthorn. You recognise the name, do you not?”It would be hard not to. Pausing with your beer halfway to your lips, you consider the familiar name for a while. One of the more successful Free Captains out there, Miriam Hawthorn had just the right balance of caution and daring. Too much caution, and you'll never set foot on an airship. Too much daring, and you end up vanishing without a trace... much like your father. With both virtues in equal measure, though, a man could end up very wealthy indeed.So, it's little wonder that you recognise the name – any Free Captain would. You, however, recognise her for more personal reasons. You've got history, you and Miriam Hawthorn.>She was your mentor, teaching you everything you know about airships>She owed you a favour. A big favour>She was something of a rival, and you often found yourself working against herSame voting time as before, 15-20 minutes
>>2113696>She was something of a rival, and you often found yourself working against her
>>2113696>>She owed you a favour. A big favourI entered a court NAKED for her! AND TESTIFIED!
>>2113696>She was something of a rival, and you often found yourself working against herRivals turned into begrudging allies is a trope I can get behind.
>>2113696>>She was something of a rival, and you often found yourself working against her
>>2113696>She was something of a rival, and you often found yourself working against herRival dynamic best dynamic
Bitter history, as it happens. She was something of a rival, and your often found yourself butting heads with her over your short-lived career as a Free Captain. She had a nasty habit of snatching work out from under your nose, often in the most infuriating way possible. Just thinking about it still gets your blood boiling – especially the farce that was Bastard Hoggins.A pirate, one with more brutality than sense, Bastard Hoggins had made his living by kidnapping pilgrims on their way to the Mountain of Faith and then ransoming them back to their families – sometimes killing them even after the ransom had been paid. The situation was bad enough for the Church of Rising Light to put a bounty on his head, and that had driven him into hiding. Tracking him down had been a painstaking, frustrating process, and just as you were moving in to capture him... Miriam bloody Hawthorn had swept in to snatch him out of your grasp.“Work faster next time.”That had been her only message to you, her smug words crackling over the radio. It was both a taunt and an encouragement, as if she was urging you on to new heights. True enough, from that day forwards you had worked even harder – and it was a few months later that you repaid the favour, snatching one of her marks out from under her. She had just laughed gaily, telling you to spend the bounty wisely.So, you were never exactly friends with the woman, but you had a certain... barbed respect for one another.“Yeah, I knew her,” you tell Salazar, “That woman never failed to confound me. Let me guess, she sent you to tell me how badly I messed up, and now-”“She's dead,” Salazar tells you softly, “At least, we're fairly certain that she's dead. Her airship crashed in the middle of a great storm, and there was little chance of recovering any remains at all. Certain... pieces of her ship were recovered from the ocean, but that was it. Her family were searching for six months, but they just recently called off the search. I'm surprised that you hadn't heard already.”“You don't get much gossip down here,” you murmur, feeling a cold shock descend over your thoughts. Then, you force yourself to laugh aloud. “Tough luck for her!” you announce, raising your tankard, “Here's to Miriam Hawthorn. Her luck finally ran out!”A few of your fellow drinkers mutter the toast, half-heartedly lifting their tankards, but most of them just glare darkly at you. Salazar watches your feigned celebrations with a perfectly neutral expression, waiting for you to finish before mildly clearing his throat to get your attention.“Well,” he continues, “This brings me to my reason for coming here today...”[1/2]
>>2113717“You see, after your father passed away, I had to find alternative employment. I won't bore you with the details, but I ended up working for a small legal office. We... handled the affairs of more than one Free Captain, moving money about in, shall we say, creative ways,” Salazar allows himself a tiny smile at this, “In either case, that was how I came to know Miriam Hawthorn. She organised her will with us, and recent events gave me cause to read it over. Her worldly possessions will be shared out to her family, and a few select friends.”“Select friends,” you repeat with a sigh, “My name wasn't on that list, was it?”“Unfortunately not,” Salazar confirms, leaning a little closer to you and lowering his voice to a whisper, “But wills can be changed.”A sly smile crosses your face as you consider his words. It's entirely illegal, of course, and you'd be making enemies of her entire family if you got caught... but this is the chance that you've been waiting for. The chance to haul yourself up from the gutter and restart your career as a Free Captain. You've spent five years waiting for this, and you're not about to let this chance slip through your fingers. Seeing the hunger in your eyes, Salazar shakes his head slightly.“Softly, my boy, softly. This will be a delicate operation,” he murmurs, “We ought to speak more later, in private. I'm going to be in Monotia for a few days yet, on business, so we'll have plenty of time to make the proper arrangements. In fact...” Frowning, he slips a ticking watch out of his pocket and studies it for a moment. “I'm already late for another appointment,” he continues, pocketing the watch again and passing across a folded sheet of paper, “These are the details of where you can find me. Please, think this matter over carefully and then get back to me.”There's not much thinking to do, but you don't argue with him. Best to keep quiet and follow your orders for now, lest you spoil the opportunity. As you're tucking the sheet of paper into your pocket, you hear the bar door bang open and the background murmur of conversation fades. Heavy footsteps stomp closer as the new patron approaches the bar.“Vaandemere!” a curt, growling voice calls out, “I've got a message for you.”Bracing yourself for the worst, you turn to meet the “messenger” - only to see a massive fist streaking towards your face.>Dice! Calling for a 2D6 roll, aiming to beat 8-9 for a partial success and 10+ for a full success. I'll take the best of the first three rolls, and I won't be using critical fails/successesThis is sort of a provisional system, so things might change later as I tinker with it.
Rolled 1, 2 = 3 (2d6)>>2113736Careful! We need this face!
Rolled 6, 2 = 8 (2d6)>>2113736
Rolled 5, 6 = 11 (2d6)>>2113736Here's the fun
>>2113741That's the stuff, anon.
>Full successJolting back until you feel the wooden bar digging into your back, you sway aside as the punch lurches towards you – and as you do, you see the real attack coming up from beneath. A knife, curved and cruel, flies up in a gutting strike. Breath hisses out of your lungs as you grab the attacker's empty fist and pull him forwards, slipping aside as he tips off his balance and slams into the bar. He's stunned for a moment, and you seize your chance. Ripping the knife from his hand, you spin the larger man around and shove him back to that you can look into his eyes. Raising his own knife, you-You feel a deceptively firm grip closing around your hand as Salazar stops your blow from landing. “Now now, my boy,” he tells you lightly, “There's no need for that, now is there?”Your flare of anger dampens slightly as he scolds you, just as always did when you were a child under his tutelage. Scowling hard, you turn back to your assailant and study his leathery face. Patches of his skin are as gnarled as the bark of a tree – another telltale sign of tainted Nadir blood – but you recognise his face nonetheless. Corran, you think his name might be, a thug from your part of town. His eyes are wide with fear, constantly flicking back to the knife, but he tries to keep his lips from quivering.Dropping the blade, you kick it away to a distant corner of the bar. “You got lucky this time,” you tell Corran, or whatever his name is, as you jab a finger at his face, “But the next time you pull a stunt like that, I might not be in such a good mood.”Leaving him to tremble, you turn and lead Salazar out of the bar.-“Thanks for stopping me from doing anything stupid,” you tell the old man, “I don't need that kind of trouble right now.”“No, you don't,” Salazar agrees mildly, “But if you don't mind me asking, just who was that ruffian and why did he have quarrel with you?”“I, uh, I broke his brother's arm. Both arms, actually,” you admit, shrugging to yourself, “He owed Morey money and he didn't feel like paying up, so... I had to send him a message. It's not as decent as legal work, but I gotta make a living somehow.” Wincing a little, you force yourself to continue. “Plus, I... owe Morey a little money as well,” you concede, “So I don't exactly have much choice in the matter.”“Oh dear,” the old man sighs, shaking his head slowly, “Owing money to these underworld sorts... you've quite taken after your father, haven't you?” That's a low blow, and your scowl reveals just how low. “Forgive me, I shouldn't have said that,” Salazar corrects himself, shaking his head with tired dignity, “But now, I must be off. Please, Milos, take some time and do some serious thinking.”Turning away, he walks – creeps – off into the night before you can say anything else.[1/2]
>>2113754Walking alone through the streets of Monotia – the “capital of all Nadir”, or so it has been farcically named – you think about Salazar's offer... and a lot of other things. Maybe your family is cursed, because you've never had much luck with money. Growing up, you had lived a life of luxury – only the finest things, and your father held frequent parties whenever he was at home. As far as you had been aware, you were wealthy beyond all measure.Then your father had died, and the debt collectors had descended like vultures. The old fool had been flat broke for years, launching ever more desperate attempts at making money that only ever dug him deeper into the hole. The only thing that the debt collectors didn't take had been the rusting husk of an old airship – the ship that would eventually become the Manticore. You had built yourself back up from nothing... only to be sent right back down to nothing again.Still frowning to yourself, you walk past a vandalised chapel, one belonging to the Church of Rising Light. The new faith has never been popular with the locals – and you've never been much of a believer either – but you still don't like to see the chapel in such a sorry state. It's not... right.Turning your back to it, you continue your slow walk home across the rough cobbles. You've got a small house in the slums, courtesy of Morey, and that's your destination. You'll treat yourself to a little nightcap, then get some sleep.-Home sweet home.Your slum has little in the way of comforts, but you've done your best to make it habitable, whether by salvaging furnishings or scraping a few spare coins together. Slumping down into a creaking chair, a chair that has seen a great deal of repairing in your time, you pull across a bottle of strong, cheap wine and take a swig. Feeling a little more relaxed, you unlock your strongbox and take out one of the few valuable items you still possess – a faded imago, so old that it might fall apart at the first hint of rough handling.When the debt collectors moved in, you managed to hide this from them. Your father held this picture in high regard, more for its rarity than any sentimental value. He was one of the very first people in Inounsys to own an imago device, and he was certain that he could make a fortune by selling scenic imagoes. Then, of course, he dropped the stupid box over the side of his airship on his first voyage out. Idiot.The imago shows your family. Ragnar stands next to a woman – her face roughly scratched out – who holds an infant in her arms, swaddled in a shawl. You still have that shawl, as well, although it's about as worn as the imago itself.A hard knock at the door. Remembering Corran, you grab a heavy knife before moving to answer it.[2/3]
>>2113779Slowly cracking the door open, you see... nothing. Nothing at eye level, at least. When you look lower, you lock eyes with a familiar face. Morey's young assistant looks back up at you with her flat, lifeless eyes before glancing lazily down at your knife and smiling ever so slightly. Looking at that smile, you feel the usual twinge of irritation. She has a way of doing that, inspiring baseless dislike.“The Morey sent me,” she says, her voice quiet and careful. If she wasn't careful, her words would devolve into the same meaningless slush that her employer speaks. Even with her deliberate pace, the misshapen teeth that crowded her mouth lent her an abnormal accent. Mara, her name was, or something like that.This isn't the first time that Morey has sent her to speak to you like this, but it always feels like an imposition. She stares up at you, waiting for you to open the door a little wider.>Allow her inside, but grudgingly>Roll out the hospitality and treat her as a guest>Close the door in her face>Other
>>2113782>Allow her inside, but grudgingly
>>2113782>Allow her inside, but grudginglyWe'll be out of this town soon enough anyway
>>2113782>>Allow her inside, but grudgingly
>>2113782>>Roll out the hospitality and treat her as a guestUhhhh... what's important is that she's beautiful on the inside?
Sighing inwardly, you open the door a fraction wider and step back, allowing her to squirm inside. “Don't sit down,” you warn her as she approaches your favourite chair, “You're not going to be staying long.”She freezes in her tracks for a moment before changing direction and approaching a table instead. There, she sets down the backpack she had been wearing and turns to look at you. She really does look like Morey, albeit in a more diminished form. Her teeth are jagged and off-kilter, but not enough to look like a horror show. She isn't bloated and obese, but there is a hint of a pot belly forming around her midsection. Her eyes, though, are the exact same – murky things that look like painted stones, cold and calculating. The shadow of a bruise has settled over one of her eyes, but she doesn't seem troubled by it.“The Morey wants to wipe away your debt,” Mara begins, “In exchange-”“Of course he does,” you laugh, “Out of the goodness of his heart, I bet!”“In exchange for one last job,” she continues, undeterred by your interruption, “Are you listening?” You don't reply to this, just sloshing a measure of wine into a battered tin cup and sitting down, gesturing indifferently for her to continue. Mara opens the backpack and carefully lays out two objects – a clay mask, complete with a shroud of black cloth, and a heavy wooden cudgel. “Gutter Sut,” Mara announces, “You know him?”“Not personally,” you reply, eyeing up the mask carefully. You've seen those before – revellers wear them during the Festival of Walking Ghosts, often specially making them to resembled departed friends or ancestors. This mask looks vaguely familiar, but it takes you a moment more to recognise the face of Morey's murdered henchman. Now things are starting to make sense – during the festival, people often wear these masks while settling scores or seeking revenge. To a superstitious observer, it seems as though the dead have risen to avenge themselves. “So what?” you guess, “You want me to kill-”“No,” Mara corrects you sharply, and you feel another twinge of disgust, “No killing. Not Sut, not any of Sut's men. That would only escalate matters further.” She pushes the cudgel across the table. “The Morey wants you to sent Sut a warning. Break something, remind him not to push his boundaries, but do not kill him,” she stresses this carefully, her voice hissing coldly, “Do this, and the Morey will happily clear away your debt.”Leaving her hanging, you take a thoughtful sip of wine. Morey has friends, you know that, and he's not a man that you want to owe money to. On the other hand, you're going to be quitting this town soon, and the last thing you need is getting caught up in a vendetta before you can leave.>Fine. Tell Morey that I'll do it>I'm out. Tell Morey that he'll get his money... eventually>Other
>>2113816>>Fine. Tell Morey that I'll do it
>>2113816>Fine. Tell Morey that I'll do itRather just have a clean break (no pun intended).
>>2113816knee cap a guy, got it.
>>2113816>Fine. Tell Morey that I'll do itAs long as we can pull it off without our face being seen we can make a clean break.
>>2113816>Fine. Tell Morey that I'll do it
>>2113816>Fine. Tell Morey that I'll do itwhat could possibly go wrong
This isn't such an uncommon job, actually. From what you know of Nadir customs, it's something of a tradition. These days, only a few of the oldest and most superstitious actually believe that the spirits of the dead are righting wrongs, but nobody openly questions it. It allows a grudge between families, tribes or gangs to be settled without further violence – quite civilised, really. At least, most of the time. When things go wrong, they go very wrong.“Fine,” you decide, setting down your empty cup with more force than is strictly necessary, “Tell Morey that I'll do it.”Mara smiles – which really does her looks no favours – and nods. “I will tell him that,” she states, “Remember. Do not kill, do not steal, do not even talk – you're a ghost, and you should play your part accordingly.”“Yeah yeah. Just kneecap the guy,” waving the empty cup at her, you pick up the mask and examine it closely. It's an ugly thing, made to look like the luckless thug right at the moment of his death – one eye is swollen shut, the nose is flattened across the rest of the face, and the lips flare back to reveal broken teeth. Shuddering a little, you set the mask down and reluctantly give Mara a questioning look. “When?” you ask, “When is the festival taking place?”“Tomorrow,” she answers bluntly, picking up her empty backpack and making for the door.“Tomorrow...” you repeat, murmuring the word to yourself. You were sure that it was further away than that. Then again, the past few days are something of a blur, so...The sound of the door closing stirs you out of your dark thoughts. Grunting sullenly to yourself, you start to pick up the bottle of wine before shoving it away from you. You've had enough for one night.-That night, for the first time in a long time, you dream of home. The Vaandemere estate... you had practically the entire island to yourself, lush greenery stretching out as far as the eye could see. There was a great tree there, a huge thing, and you'd often sit under it with a book and daydream the hours away. Your dream, though, takes you much further back than that. You dream of sitting in someone's lap and listening to her sing a song in a language that you don't understand. You try hard, but you just can't will yourself to turn around and look at her face. You...You wake up, feeling the sickly feeling of your tongue sticking to the roof of your mouth. Sitting up in bed, you feel the memories crawling slowly back to you. Staggering across the room, you pull Salazar's note out of your jacket pocket and skim it over with bleary eyes. He plans to stay in a local hotel – a good hotel – for the next week, as long as his schedule allows. A week... more than enough time to settle your affairs.Starting with Gutter Sut.[1/2]
>>2113853With your clay mask and cheap woollen cloak, you blend in perfectly with the festive crowd. Just like always, you've seen enough kings to fill a thousand thrones before you've walked far, with the image of Old King Hakone glaring out at you from what seems like every second man you pass. You've heard that he was a good man, King Hakone, and he was certainly well-regarded. Died too young, most say, only to be replaced by Roegar, his idiot of a second born son.An easily manipulated idiot. It was under Roegar that the two great powers began to take hold of Nadir, reaching down and moulding it in their image – starting with Monotia, the new “capital city”. Meanwhile, Old King Hakone's firstborn son, Eishin, was exiled into the Deep Forest amidst rumours of treason and assassination.But there are always rumours, you muse, especially when matters of succession are involved. Putting all thoughts of dusty monarchs and scheming politicians out of your mind, you walk on and think more on your target. Gutter Sut would have been nothing more than a petty thug, you've heard, if not for his family in the Deep Forest – family who supply him with a constant flow of drugs and dubious substances. That monopoly allowed him to make himself into a gang leader. Still a scumbag, but a wealthy one.-The streets are getting crowded now, and you find yourself pushing against a constant stream of people. Above you, tall buildings loom and leer like unstable piles of books, while dark alleyways promise both useful shortcuts and callous violence. You count three... no, four sources of music blaring away from different directions, and your head pounds with a dull, rhythmic pain. Reaching into your cloak, you touch the wooden cudgel and then the grip of a dagger – just in case – before finding a flask of strong wine. Ducking down an alleyway, you lift the mask and wipe sweat away from your brow before downing a swallow of wine.Grunting with satisfaction, you pull your mask back down again and stalk down the alleyway. It's quiet, which makes a nice change from the crowded streets, and you finally start making some decent progress towards the waterways. Gutter Sut has his “manor” down there, mired in filth and sewage. It's an image thing, apparently, part of his “reputation”.“Whatever,” you mutter to yourself, touching a hand to the cudgel in your belt as you skulk around the next corner. As you're passing under a wild tangle of wooden beams that criss-cross the alleyway, something flies down towards you. A clay jug explodes by your feet, splattering you with a few last drops of wine. As you rip the cudgel out, three masked figures drop down from their high perches – two behind you, one in front of you.[2/3]
>>2113880“What queer phantom is this?” the man in front of you, the leader of this little gang, asks with a titter of laughter, “The gods are cruel, if they've cursed you to walk the land looking like THAT, friend!”His companions shriek with laughter. Their shrill giggles are all you need to place them as addicts, probably hooked on Rhyming Leaf. Just one of Gutter Sut's products, the leaf is well-known for provoking wild exuberance and fevered mood swings. Men like these are mostly harmless, so long as nothing causes their jubilation to spill over into rage. Unfortunately, it doesn't take much to tip them from one extreme to the other.There's one thing in your favour – the leader wears a dirk on his belt, but he's so busy gesticulating that he might as well be unarmed. All three of them wear masks in the shape of Old King Hakone, although they've all painted wild moustaches onto the king's solemn visage. Not exactly a serious gang of killers, these men, more like a motley collection of pranksters and jesters.“Who do you hail, phantom?” the leader asks, his reedy voice snapping you back to reality, “Flabby Roegar, in the palace up yonder? Or filthy Eishin, out shitting in the woods with the beasts? What does the spirit say?”“What does he say?” the other two men chant, eagerly awaiting your answer, “What does he say?”>Hail Roegar, king of all Nadir!>Hail Eishin, the king in exile!>I say nothing, so stand aside!>Other
>>2113891>I am a spirit from ancient times, hailing the Old King himself!
>>2113891>OtherNothing. We've got a part to play here
>>2113891>OtherShrug. Pantomime a ghost.
>>2113894This is good.
>>2113891Seconding >>2113894Don't want our voice to be recognized
The situation, you sense, just got delicate. Maybe these youths are looking for a fight after all, and whatever answer you give them would lead them to fall upon you like a pack of wild beasts. It would be their mistake if they did – the numbers might be on their side, but they're nothing more than boys. You could likely thrash them into a stupor without the help of your cudgel. Still, it would be an unnecessary hindrance, and you're not here to get in any scrapes. You're here to play a part.So, acting every inch the lifeless phantom, you remain silent. This seems to deflate their mood a little, causing the chanting pair behind you to lapse into a confused silence. This wasn't in the script, you imagine them thinking to themselves, wasn't there supposed to be a line here?The leader draws his dirk, but with the slow confusion of a sleepwalker. “Phantom!” he cries out, feigning courage, “I command you to speak!”Still, you hold your tongue. With a half-hearted gesture, the chief jester pokes you lightly in the chest with the point of his dirk, but when you offer no reaction he simply slumps his shoulders. All life and animation seems to leave his body for a moment, and then he jolts up. “Truly, friends, we have found a truly ancient spirit today!” he crows, “So old that our words are lost on it!”“An ancestor!” the other two yell, eagerly seizing the moment, “One of the eldest ones!” Laughing and cheering amongst themselves, they turn away from you and rush down the alleyway. Their leader shoves past you and races to join them, your encounter already fading into delirious memory. If he remembers this at all tomorrow morning, he'll probably have deluded himself into believing his own story.But that suits you just fine.-Walking on, you are soon greeted by the stink of sewage and the knowledge that Gutter Sut's manor is nearby. Leaning over a parapet and fighting against the urge to vomit at the stench, you look out and spy a glow of lantern light. The manor looks preposterous, as if someone had taken one of the larger houses from a richer district and carried it down into the waterway, only modifying it so that the sewage can flow beneath it without hindrance. Once again, you find yourself wondering just why Gutter Sut would want to live here, or why anyone would want to work for him.Money, probably. There will always be stupid people willing to do degrading things for money – yourself included.From your vantage point, you can see two guards at the front door – one smoking a pipe, while the other clutches a crude rifle. Somehow, you get the feeling that they won't be as easy to bypass as the jesters were. Frowning a little, you start your approach.[1/2]
>>2113925As you slip behind a cracked stone pillar, you peer around and survey the manor from above. There, you spot a crudely patched over hole in the roof – just a few loose boards nailed in place to keep the frequent rains from soaking through. The fact that Gutter Sut is worried about a little bit of rain, of all things, almost brings a loud laugh to your lips. Settling for a smirk instead, you take a closer look at the roof. You couldn't reach it from this side of the waterway, but you might be able to get a good place to jump down onto the roof from the other side. You'd need to drop down, cross over and then climb back up again. That, in itself, isn't a problem – there are ladders everywhere around here – but you'd make for an easy target on the ladders.Pondering on it for a while longer, though, you feel like Morey would appreciate the more direct approach. Sneaking about is all well and good, but it doesn't quite send a message like strolling in through the front door. Getting shot like a dog on their doorstep, though?Slowly taking a sip of wine, you gaze down upon the scene before you. There's probably a refuse chute that leads into the sewage, and a person could hypothetically climb up that, but...But nope. You've still got some standards left.>Go in through the front door>Cross over and go in through the roof>Other
>>2113945>>Cross over and go in through the roof
>>2113945>Cross over and go in through the roofShowing up unannounced is a good and ghostly thing to do
>>2113945>Cross over and go in through the roofMorey might appreciate it more but he isn't paying the medical bills if shit goes bad. Also I think it's scarier to get beat in your own manor even with all your guards outside. Sends a message that you can get hit anytime, anywhere.
>>2113945>Cross over and go in through the roof
>>2113945>Cross over and go in through the roofBreaking a man's legs inside his house in the middle of his guards always sends a message, even if done stealthily.
>>2113945>Cross over and go in through the roofoh shit, Moloch is baaaack
The front door is all well and good, but Morey isn't the one risking his ass on this. What kind of message would it send if you got sent running home with a bullet in your gut? The fat bastard wouldn't even pay a single silver towards getting your insides stitched back together. No, you'll do it your way – appearing right in their midst like the phantom that you're pretending to be, and delivering your “message” right to Gutter Sut.The more you think about it, the more you find yourself liking the idea. Nodding to yourself, you take one last swig of wine before pulling the mask back down over your face and climbing down the closest ladder. The reek of decay only gets worse as you descend and your mask only gets it worse, trapping the smells of shit and rot along with the scent of your own sweat. You can't even wipe your watering eyes like this. Not for the first time, you find yourself wishing that you were back in Pastona.Maybe not. Things might smell better there, but you'd have to deal with people staring at you as if you were an unexploded bomb. Veterans like you are seen as an embarrassment now, or so you've heard, an unwelcome reminder of the all-too brief flirtation with defiance that the Annexation War had stirred up. Shaking off the unexpected thoughts – too much wine, you belatedly realise – you focus your mind on the task at hand. Crossing over to the opposite side of the waterway will be the easy part, especially with this visible miasma of foulness clouding the air around you.With your dark cloak blending in with the shadows, you slip over a low bridge of crumbling stone – beneath you, something that might be a corpse floats along on a tide of sewage – and crouch down behind the broken remains of another pillar. This all used to be a much nicer structure once, you assume, before it broke apart and was left to decay. Maybe you'll get a few history books once you're moving up in the world, see what this all looked like before...Or maybe, you remind yourself harshly, you'll actually do the job that you came here to do.-You pick your moment carefully. Listening carefully from your hiding place, you catch the occasional snippets of conversation from the door guards and smile as they grow more and more heated. The stench here is getting to them as well, fraying their nerves and leaving their tempers raw and heated. When you hear an argument breaking out – an argument about a woman, of course – you make a dash for the ladder and hasten up it. Beneath you, the voices grow a little bit louder as you reach the top and then-“Hey!” one of the guards shouts, “Who's up there?”Flattening yourself down against the upper walkway, you feel the breath catch in your throat.[1/2]
>>2113993Lying flat, as hidden as you can possibly make yourself, you freeze in place for a long moment. The guards down below remain silent, and you can only imagine one of them climbing up the ladder as you hide. They catch you up here, and...“C'mon,” the other guard groans from far below, “You ain't changing the subject that easily. You think I'm just gonna drop this?”“No, I saw something!” the first guard protests, “I'm... almost sure of it! Like a shape or something, I don't know. It could be-”“Go fuck yourself,” his companion snorts, “You want a shape? How about I tell you just what kind of shape that mole your girl has. You know, the one right above her...”With that, any thoughts of invading phantoms are banished from their minds and you're free to raise into a low crouch and creep further along. The sound of their bickering continues as you cross over to the manor and cautiously lower yourself down onto the roof. You've had a stroke of luck, and the last thing you need right now would be to spoil it all by dislodging a tile or something like that. Carefully testing your footing as you go, you approach the hastily patched hole and give one of the planks an experimental tug. The wood is so rotten that it almost falls apart in your hands. It doesn't take you long at all to peel open a hole big enough to drop through.The smell is almost tolerable in the manor. Almost.-Like the ghost that you're supposed to be, you slip quietly through the manor hallways with your cudgel at the ready, soft shoes – worn in place of your usual heavy boots – whispering against the ragged carpet underfoot. The place seems deserted, no staff or guards beyond the ineffectual pair at the front door, but you can hear the sound of a typewriter banging away from a room ahead of you.Prowling closer, you follow the sound of typing until you reach an ajar door. The smell of sewage is a little worse here – or rather, it's mixed with some other vile odour – and you take that as a sign that you've found your mark. Slowly pushing the door open with the tip of your cudgel, you step inside and look out at your target.Gutter Sut is a smaller man than you expected, and the spectacles perched on his nose give him an absurdly erudite air. He is bent over a brass typewriter, frozen in the action of typing. Various ledgers are scattered across his desk, while a safe of valuables lies open nearby. Looking at him now, he seems more like an overworked banker than a drug dealing gang leader.“I wondered if this might happen,” he says suddenly, without looking up from the typewriter, “Maybe this was inevitable. Maybe not.”You say nothing. You're playing a part here, after all.[2/3]
>>2114030With a strangely prissy gesture, Sut takes off his spectacles and folds them up, tucking them into the front pocket of his dirty shirt. You can smell him now, a stink like rotting meat radiating from his body, and that stench causes your temper to surge once again. Heedless of the reaction that he provokes in you – or perhaps just feigning ignorance – he continues to talk. “I never ordered anything, you know. It was a mistake. Your man was never supposed to die,” he explains, his voice thin and taut with suppressed fear, “But that doesn't matter now - an example has to be made. Go ahead, then, I won't-”His oddly whining voice is cut short as you punch him in the face, causing him to sway back with a gasp. As he reels, you grab one arm – his right arm – and drag it out until it lies straight across the desk. Like a skilled butcher swinging his cleaver, you bring the cudgel down upon his arm and feel the shudder of bone breaking as it runs up through your own arm. Not just breaking, you correct yourself, but shattering. Sut bites back a scream as he pulls away from you, collapsing out of his seat and curling up with his shattered arm clutched to his chest.Grimacing behind your mask, you start to turn away from him. You've done your job, you've sent your message, and now it's time to...The dull lustre of gold catches your eye as you turn to leave. Gutter Sut's personal safe lies open, spilling bags of coin out onto the thick carpet. The coins would be too impractical to carry away, too heavy and too loud, but the top shelf gives pride of place to a golden necklace, a large ruby set into it. A small thing, easily slipped into a pocket and carried away, but even a passing glance is enough to speak volumes about its value.With something like that in your possession, you'd be making a good start on your new life – you'd be starting with a good bit of money in your pocket. Even if Salazar's offer falls through, which it very well might, you'll have gained something out of all this.Oh, and it has such an allure to it...>Take the golden necklace>Leave it behind. Take nothing>Other
>>2114050>Leave it behind. Take nothingSeems too important, taking it would NOT be a clean break
>>2114050>Leave it behind. Take nothingWhere we are hopefully headed a golden necklace will be a drop in the bucket.
>>2114050>Leave it behind. Take nothing
>>2114050>Leave it behind. Take nothingToo noticeable to easily fence. Also can be grounds for a vendetta.
>>2114050>Leave it behind. Take nothingToo conspicuous. We'll be found as soon as we try to sell it.
>>2114050>Leave it behind. Take nothingKeep playing the part. Ghosts don't take jewelry
Almost despite yourself, you find your hand slowly reaching out towards the necklace. Blinking rapidly behind your mask, you snatch your hand away and clench it into a tight fist. Just what were you thinking? Something like that would never be easy money, you'd never be able to fence that without drawing some heavy attention down on your head. Besides, taking it would defeat the whole point of being here – you're trying to get out of this crime game, not dig yourself deeper in.Shaking your head, you glance briefly back at Sut – he rocks gently back and forth on the ground, but otherwise makes no noise – before leaving his office. Just as you're descending the main staircase into the rotting parody of a noble atrium, you hear a bell ringing from outside – an alarm bell. Leaping over the balustrade, you dash into the deep pool of shadows beneath the main stairs and wait as the guards rush in and hurry straight past your hiding place. Their footsteps thud above you as they race upstairs, leaving you to wait a moment more before emerging and strolling through the now unguarded front door.“Thanks chief,” you mutter to yourself as you leave, glancing back over your shoulder as Sut rings his alarm bell again. The ineffectual guards, the empty manor, his resigned acceptance... this all feels like a carefully prepared farce. Just as you were playing the part of a phantom, Gutter Sut was playing the part of the regretful villain.Feeling a faint misgiving settle in the pit of your stomach, you walk slowly away from the manor and vanish into the fog.-The festival is starting to die down now, and the wandering dead are starting to go back to their graves. You found a quiet vantage point atop a low roof and stripped off your mask, savouring the rush of cool air that washed across your unshaven cheeks. Allowing yourself another sip of wine, you lean back and stare up at the sky. Not a lot of cloud tonight, and you can clearly see the islands of Azimuth frozen above you. Looking briefly around at the ghastly mask, you point up at the sky.“You never set foot anywhere higher than Nadir, did you friend?” you ask the mask, “Well, that big island there is Carthul. Opposite that is Iraklis, and above that – yes, that cluster of little islands – is the Pastona Union. You can't really see the Mountain from here, but that's way up in Zenith. You don't need to worry about that, friend, I'll explain that some other time. It's pretty simple, isn't it?”The mask, of course, does not answer.[1/2]
>>2114118“Oh hey, this is a treat,” you continue, pointing up at a flare of blue light that slowly sinks through the air, “That's an airship, no doubt about it. Probably coming in to dock at the palace, some kind of official business. Looks like... a cruiser of some kind.” Sighing to yourself, you watch as the airship descends further, cold fire burning as it sinks lower in the sky. “I had a cruiser once,” you ramble, wetting your throat with a mouthful of wine before shrugging, “Bigger than a skiff, smaller than a dreadnought. Just... nice and average. Cruisers are the best, right?”The mask, of course, continues to remain silent.“You're a good listener, friend,” you chuckle, downing the last of your wine in a single swig.>I think I'm going to pause things here. I will continue this tomorrow, same time, and if anyone has any questions I'll answer them if I can>Thanks to everyone who contributed today!
>>2114125Thanks for running! Welcome back!How dark are things going to get?
>>2114125I'm already hooked Moloch. And making money being a major goal is a good change for one of your quests. Looking forward to the next run.
>>2114125Thanks for running!We're drinking booze and momologuing. How long until a mysterious woman shows up needing our help and this quest completes its slide into noir?
>>2114125Thanks for running.
>>2114125Thanks for running, Moloch! Will we find a young stowaway on our new ship named Lize?
>>2114128Well. I'd like to keep things from getting too dark, but we all know how well that usually works out. Let's see how things go!>>2114132You'd need to be pretty desperate to come to Milos for help! Really though, we'll be seeing some more characters soon - mysteriousness not guaranteed, unfortunately>>2114143That's a bit premature, we don't even have a ship yet!
I can tell this is going to be a jolly fun affair already.
All you can smell is smoke and lightning, that unique scent of a dying airship. Lines of tracer fire burn through the air ahead of you, occasionally sparking off the alchemically toughened glass of the observation window. Something, somewhere, explodes and you feel the Manticore buck, controls jumping as you struggle to keep it flying straight. Ahead of you, looming large in the skies above, you see the Iraklin dreadnought crawling through the sky. Grabbing your radio, you start to yell orders to the engine room.No response. That's not right, you realise with a jolt of fear, that wasn't how things happened. You gave the order to evacuate, and that order had been answered – now, though, you get nothing but a deathly silence. Were you too late, this time?Then you look back through the observation window and curse as a blinding blue light gathers at the tip of the dreadnought's prow cannon. The ball of caged lightning hangs in the air for a moment more before streaking out and--And you are launched back into the waking world, so suddenly that your cry of panic carries over from dream to reality. Thrashing, you tear at the blankets clinging to your sweaty limbs for a moment before you realise that you're not actually burning to death. You're hungover and your body aches with the memory of recent violence, but you're definitely not burning to death. That's always a plus in your book. Rubbing your brow, you let out a low groan.You dream about the war a lot, sometimes every night. When the Manticore went down, you managed to save most of the crew but your dreams always miss that part out. In your dreams, you all go down in flames.Rising from the bed, you lurch through the slum until you find a broken mirror and then stare into it for a long time, studying yourself for what seems like the first time since you came to live here. Long hair, dirty brown, and a thick stubble to match. A body that still has a good bit of muscle to it, despite the years of negligence and abuse you've inflicted upon it. The posture of a man prouder than he ought to be. Overall, a pretty good look – good enough to get the occasional appreciative look from women.Grunting, you turn away from the mirror and tug on a loose shirt and some breeches, leaving the boots for later – when you can face the ordeal of lacing them up. The nightmare still lingers at the edge of your thoughts, haunting you with what could have been.After the war, you lost contact with most of your surviving crew. Most of them had walked away once you stopped being able to pay them, but a few of them – precisely two people, your longest serving crewmen – had remained with you. One of them has vanished since then, but the final one...Keziah, now. She's an interesting one.[1/2]
>>2115946Keziah – no surname given or needed – had been your engineer, although she didn't have a hint of formal training when you first met her. Your longest serving crewman, she had joined the Manticore's crew on your very first job, a dreary mercantile mission. You took her along with you as a travelling companion – and, to be perfectly honest, because you were young and she was pretty – only for her to identify a problem with the Manticore's engines on her second day aboard. They didn't sound right, apparently.She lives in Monotia as well, close enough that you can visit each other every so often. She's been pretty distant of late, though, and you've not seen her for a few months. You made plans to visit her several times, but... they always fell through at the last minute. Fell right into the bottom of a bottle, usually.Roaming your slum for a while, you find the battered old radio and click it on, scrolling through the roar of static until you hear a tinny voice. King Roegar himself, falteringly addressing “the nation” and congratulating you all on a successful festival. You can only listen to his faintly whining voice for a few moments before snapping the radio off.“Good going, you guys,” you sneer, mimicking the king's thin voice, “You didn't burn my palace to the ground this year. Thanks!”Hearing your own voice like that, you just feel more irritated. You sounded really, really stupid.-There's no food in the cupboards, which is a disturbingly regular occurrence for you. It's not a big problem – you can get something from the morning market, and the fresh air might do you some good. Your slum, you realise suddenly, still smells like Gutter Sut. Either that, or something died in a hidden corner and you never noticed it until now. Probably Sut, though.Leaving your slum, you thrust your hands into your pockets and feel paper crunching. Salazar's invitation, you recall suddenly, that had really happened. All other thoughts are banished from your head as you get the urge to race over to his hotel and hit him with a thousand questions – most of them variations on “How quickly can you get me out of this hole?”Breakfast first, you tell yourself, then...>Then you'll visit Keziah, to make sure that she's okay>You'll head straight to Salazar's hotel to talk business>You'll report your success to Morey in person... although he probably knows already>Other
>>2115948>You'll head straight to Salazar's hotel to talk business
>>2115948>Then you'll visit Keziah, to make sure that she's okay
>>2115948>>Then you'll visit Keziah, to make sure that she's okay
Rolled 2 (1d2)>Just going to close the vote and roll to break the tie.>1 for Keziah first, 2 for Salazar
Breakfast first, you decide, and then you'll head straight to Salazar's hotel to talk business. There's no point in making any other plans until you know just what you're dealing with, after all. Knowing your luck, the old man might have had a change of heart since extending his offer to you. The thought brings a wan smile to your face – it would be so typical, for fate to kick you while you're already down.As you stroll through the streets of Monotia, you keep your eyes and ears open for anything that might be of value to you. The entire city seems just as hungover as you are, and the streets are fairly empty. There isn't much gossip to be heard as a result, although you do catch a rumour about ghosts haunting the waterways. People smile whenever they mention the hauntings, as if sharing a private joke amongst themselves.Gnawing on a fried sausage, relishing the feel of crispy skin crackling beneath your teeth, you ponder on how good it feels to be out of Morey's debt. It wasn't something you were aware of before, but living like that had been like living with a sword hanging above your head. Whatever you did, you had done it because Morey had allowed you to do it whether you were aware of it or not. Now, though, you're finally a free man. Pretty much broke – for now, at least – but free.The broke part should change soon enough, you hope. Wiping sausage grease off your lips, you take a moment to straighten out your clothes – which is really more like damage control than an actual improvement – and head towards the district where Salazar's hotel lies. It's not territory that you visit often, but you've got a good head for directions and the old man was careful with his details. It isn't long before you're strolling up at the stately hotel, feeling the doorman's suspicious glare burning into you.“The Golden Orb,” you mutter aloud, reading the sign above the door. Definitely a Carth establishment with a name like that. The Iraklins would go for something more dour and serious – The Iron Bars, or something equally solemn. Shrugging off the matter, you approach the hotel and match the doorman's glare with one of your own, a hard look that dares him to bar your passage. He backs down, and you allow yourself a wolfish grin of satisfaction. That was one of the few useful things your father taught you, to glare like that.Stepping inside the hotel feels like setting foot into another world. The people, the accents, even the various smells are different here. There's a smell like incense and money in the air, a smell that you savour for a moment before striding upstairs. When you find Salazar's room you knock twice, pushing the door open as soon as you hear his muffled hail.[1/2]
>>2115984Sitting at a plain writing desk, Salazar seems like a lonely island amidst an ocean of luxury. A thick carpet with the colour of red wine covers the floor, while the ceiling is set with gold leaf in the traditional Carth style. The remains of a light breakfast have been set neatly to one side so that the old man can properly spread out his papers. Without looking up from them, he calls out to you.“It's good to see you again, my boy,” he says, “Come, sit. We have a lot to discuss.”“Yes we do,” you manage to reply, shaking off your paralysis and sitting opposite him. Shuffling his papers away into a neat folder, Salazar finally looks up to meet your gaze. “So how is this going to work?” you press, faintly unnerved by his persistent silence, “You think you can fix Hawthorn's will so that I-”“Softly, my boy, softly,” Salazar chides, using the same words as he always did when he was teaching you, “Allow me to explain the matter carefully. Miriam Hawthorn's will divides her possessions up between her family and a small group of friends. As she died childless, her manor will go to her sister while her airship – the... Spirit of Helena, I believe – will go to a nephew, one Blessings Hawthorn. Does the name mean anything to you?”“Not a thing,” you reply, “Or... wait, maybe. It sounds familiar, somehow.”“Blessings Hawthorn is a significant donor to the Church of Rising Light. His contributions have built two chapels in Monotia already,” the old man lectures, rhythmically tapping one finger against the desk as he talks, “I have little doubt that he would sell the Spirit of Helena, donating the proceeds to the church as well. I suspect that-”“That's bullshit!” you interrupt, “He can't do that, it's... it's bad luck, for one thing! You can't just sell a ship like that once she's been given a name!”“I'm aware of that,” Salazar agrees drily, “And I thought that you might object. Hence, my proposal – I could alter Hawthorn's will so that the Spirit of Helena goes to you instead. You would make a far more deserving owner, as I'm sure that you'd agree.”“Right. There's just one problem,” you point out, “We weren't exactly close friends. Why would Miriam give me her pride and joy?”“To Milos Vaandemere I give my airship, the Spirit of Helena – on the condition that he doesn't get this one destroyed,” the old man quotes, gesturing faintly as he thinks, “That would be read out aloud in front of quite a large number of notable people – exactly the sort of thing that Hawthorn would find amusing, correct?”He's certainly not wrong. Her sense of humour could be... eccentric, to say the least.[2/3]
>>2115997“Okay... okay, I think that might work,” you muse, “What about her money? Who is set to inherit that?”“Her will dictates that her fortune be equally divided up amongst her family members,” Salazar tells you after briefly checking his notes, “With one share to be further divided up amongst a number of business associates. There's nothing especially unusual there, so-”“Could you get me on that list?” you ask suddenly, “How much do you think you could get? The Spirit of Helena, sure, but what else?”Slowly, Salazar sets down his notes and gives you a calm, serious look. “First of all,” he begins, “I want you to understand that we're taking a risk. I'm reasonably confident that I can arrange this without being caught, but if out fraud does get discovered... I will tell them that you forced me to do it, under pain of death.” Coughing delicately, Salazar leans back in his seat and studies your expression for a moment before continuing. “Please understand, this is nothing personal. I have a family to take care of, and I can't afford to be arrested on charges of fraud,” he pauses, “Do you understand?”You never knew that he had a family, but that's not the pressing issue right now. “You've got to look after your own,” you agree, “Sure, I get that.”“Very well,” nodding, Salazar leans back in, “And to answer your original question... yes, I could rewrite her will so that you inherited everything. To do so, however, would look far more suspicious than inheriting a simple airship. It would be a great risk. Even if we were not formally accused of anything, we would likely make enemies of Hawthorn's entire family. With that in mind, how do you want me to proceed?”It all comes down to the same old thing, you muse, risk versus reward.>I'm happy with the Spirit of Helena. Once I've got an airship, I can make my own fortune>Get me on her list of business associates, I'll take even a small share of her money>I want it all, no matter the risks>Other
>>2116004>>I'm happy with the Spirit of Helena. Once I've got an airship, I can make my own fortune
>>2116004>I'm happy with the Spirit of Helena. Once I've got an airship, I can make my own fortune
>>2116004>Get me on her list of business associates, I'll take even a small share of her money"Couldn't we spin it that she knows how broke I am after I lost the Manticore and she is leaving me some money to at least get a crew together for the Spirit of Helena?"
>>2116004>I'm happy with the Spirit of Helena. Once I've got an airship, I can make my own fortuneThis is already a pretty big risk.
Somewhere deep in the guts of the hotel, you can hear a clock ticking away the seconds as you think. There's a small, petty part of you that would dearly love to stick it to Miriam Hawthorn's family – to snatch everything out of their grasp and claim it as your own. She must have died with a pretty considerable fortune hidden away, and it could all be yours.That's the reward. The risk is another factor. Salazar has it right, there's no way that her family would believe that Miriam left everything to a man like you – a man that she had every right to consider an enemy. She was a Free Captain, though, she would understand the value of passing a proud airship onto a fellow captain.“I'm happy with the Spirit of Helena,” you decide, “Once I've got an airship, I can make my own fortune.” The words have a nice feel to them, reminding you of a more idealistic time – a time when you were just starting your career, certain that you would do better than your father ever did. There's just one problem with that, you can only go so far on idealism alone. Even with an airship under your command, it won't be easy to get started. You'll need work, contacts, and a crew that you can trust. When you mention as much, Salazar laughs.“If this work was easy, everyone would do it,” he points out, “As it is, you should appreciate the chance that you've been given. You stand to inherit a very potent craft. Isn't that good enough?”“It's great,” you sigh, slumping a little in your seat, “Is there any way of doing this that doesn't involve Miriam bloody Hawthorn taunting me from beyond the grave?”“Now now, my boy,” the old man tells you, with a tiny hint of a smile on his lips, “We want it to look authentic, don't we?”-With that, Salazar pours two cups of wine – a soft wine, weak and diluted – and gets to work on scratching out some notes, methodically making his plane before moving on. Taking one glass, you prowl impatiently back and forth as he works. “So,” you ask at last, “When is her will due to be read?”“Early next week,” the old man tells you, without looking up, “It's my next appointment, you see. Sit down, my boy, you'll wear out the carpet.” Grunting, you lean back against the wall and empty your cup in a single swallow. As you do, Salazar caps his fountain pen and sets it down, looking back up to you. “I think we're finished here,” he decides, “Unless you had questions that needed answering?”>Nope. We're finished here>You handled Miriam's money, didn't you? What kind of work was she doing before she died?>What do you stand to gain from this little scam?>I didn't realise that you had a family>I had a question... (Write in)>Other
>>2116038>You handled Miriam's money, didn't you? What kind of work was she doing before she died?
>>2116038>You handled Miriam's money, didn't you? What kind of work was she doing before she died?>What do you stand to gain from this little scam?>Will you work for me?
>>2116038>You handled Miriam's money, didn't you? What kind of work was she doing before she died?>I didn't realise that you had a family
>>2116038>You handled Miriam's money, didn't you? What kind of work was she doing before she died?>What do you stand to gain from this little scam?
>>2116038>You handled Miriam's money, didn't you? What kind of work was she doing before she died?>What do you stand to gain from this little scam?Don't be too much of a dick about it but yeah this reeks of a hidden agenda
“You handled Miriam's money, didn't you?” you ask, helping yourself to another cup of the woefully diluted wine, “What kind of work was she doing before she died?”“Hoping to pick up where she left off, or just looking for opportunities?” Salazar replied, his tone one of mild curiosity, “Normally, I would mention the confidentiality between a lawyer and his client, but... we're already breaking several rules, so I don't see the harm in breaking any more. Well then – Miriam Hawthorn's fortune.” Pausing for thought, Salazar wets his lips with a tiny sip of wine. “Did you know that she was a Carth? She was granted privileged citizenship just after the Annexation War. It would appear that she abused her citizenship horribly, using her status to smuggle contraband into the country. Drugs, mostly, along with other materials deemed corrupting to body and soul. Does that interest you?”“Smuggling? No way,” you reply with a shudder, “Not after last time.” Moving cargo into Carthul can be profitable, but there's always a high risk of being caught and thrown into the dungeons. You took one smuggling job back when you had the Manticore, and that had a close call. No, smuggling is a desperate man's game. “Anything else?” you ask instead.“It's strange, actually. She wasn't working much towards the end,” Salazar muses, “She was doing a lot of research – on matters that I wasn't privy to – and working on a second airship. Her other ship, and this is the one that killed her, was intended to be lighter and faster than any other cruiser. She had a goal in mind, and it wasn't just showing off.”There's always competition among captains, about who can make the fastest ship or any number of things. By nature, Free Captains tend towards vulgar displays of wealth or prowess. “So if she wasn't showing off,” you press, “What WAS she doing?”“She wanted to fly higher than anyone else has ever gone before,” Salazar answers simply, “She wanted to fly right to the peak of the Mountain of Faith.”His words send a thrill of instinctive fear running down your spine. Past a certain altitude, all engines simply lose power and fail. The Mountain of Faith, the highest point in all Inounsys, stands right at the edge of that threshold. As far as you're aware, no man has ever reached its summit and returned. That would certainly be goal worth boasting about, but you can't help but wonder. Was Miriam trying to reach those heights just to claim that she was the first to manage it?Maybe. Or maybe not.“In either case, I'm afraid that there's not much I can help you with,” the old man concludes, “I was really just moving her money about, trying to hide it from the proper authorities.”[1/2]
>>2116073“I could use someone like that,” you admit after a thoughtful pause, “Once I've got some money coming in, I mean. How about it? Will you work for me?”“I was going to,” Salazar replies, holding your gaze and allowing himself a tiny smile, “Whether you asked me to or not. We're in this together, after all.”The way he says that sends a chill running down your spine. Maybe it's just your recent dealings with Morey weighing on your mind, but there seems to be something very transactional about all of this – as if you're quietly getting yourself back into debt. “Listen,” you begin, picking your next words carefully, “Maybe I'm just getting cautious in my old age, but I've got to ask...”“Oh, I know exactly what you're wondering,” the old man chuckles, waving an indifferent hand through the air, “But go ahead – ask your question. Don't honey your words, either, just ask me straight out so we can get this all out in the open.”“Fine then,” calmly refilling your cup, you give Salazar a firm look, “Just what do you stand to gain from this little scam?”“First of all, I feel a certain responsibility towards you – almost as if you were my own blood. I've been shamefully distant these past few years, and now I feel a certain duty towards you. For your father's sake, if nothing else. Secondly, and more selfishly, I think that this might be... exciting,” pausing, Salazar drinks again before talking on, “Legal work is often boring. More and more, I find myself missing the times I spent flying with your father. This way, working with you, I hope to recapture some of that old excitement. It all sounds rather pathetic when I say it like that, doesn't it?”“Not at all,” you tell him, shaking your head. You know how it feels to have your wings clipped, you know all too well.“Finally...” here, Salazar pauses and keeps himself from saying anything more. “No, we'll discuss this later,” he decides, “Don't look at me like that, my boy, I'm not about to demand money from you. I may ask a small favour, but that will be all – it won't harm you at all, let me promise you that much.”You have a certain bitter experience with these “small favours”, and they tend not to be as small or harmless as you'd like. Still, when you consider everything that Salazar is doing for you, everything that he's risking, you DO owe him. Setting the matter aside for now, you carefully bring the conversation back around to safer waters. “So,” you begin, “I didn't know that you had a family...”“Not much of one. I have an imago,” Salazar replies, reaching into his coat for the picture. As he moves, you catch a glimpse of dull metal – the butt of a revolver.Not such a harmless old lawyer after all.[2/3]
>>2116108“My daughter, Grace,” he says, passing across the crisp, new imago. Taking it, you feel your eyes involuntarily widening in surprise. Obviously, a girl just out of her teenage years was never going to look much like an old man, but there's almost no family resemblance whatsoever. Short gold hair, an open face, warm eyes... she has a certain refinement about her features, presumably something she inherited from her mother. “She's a student at Saint Alma's Academy. History, mostly, and dead languages. She's a terribly bright girl!” Salazar laughs, then, in a strangely knowing way, “Maybe I'll introduce the two of you one of these days?”Your father died before he had a chance to embarrass you much, but now Salazar seems keen to make up for the lost opportunities. “She's a bit young for me,” you mutter, handing the imago back, “Anyway, I guess we're finished here. Where is the will going to be read?”“At the Hawthorn Estate, in Carthul,” Salazar answers, studying the imago fondly before tucking it back in his pocket, “I've made arrangements for a skiff. Meet me here, and we can travel up to Azimuth together.”The thought of rising up above the clouds once again sends a sudden tightness running through your chest. Unable to voice your goodbye, you settle for giving Salazar a firm nod before leaving.-Leaving the hotel behind feels jarring, like being dragged back down to reality – with all the dirt and bad smells that that involves. In a few days time, you'll be leaving this all behind. You've waited a few years already, so a few more days won't kill you. Things aren't all bad, though, Salazar gave you a small purse of coin before you left. You're going to the formal reading of a will, he mentioned, so you'll need some appropriate garb. Something that isn't frayed or stained, ideally.You've got money in your pocket, nobody telling you what to do, and a bright future ahead of you – when was the last time that you could say that?>Go looking for Keziah to share your good news>Head to Morey's Pit to report last night's success>Take a trip around the upmarket shops for some new clothes>Other
>>2116159>Other head to an armory to buy some personal armor.
>>2116159>Go looking for Keziah to share your good newsAnd offer a job.
>>2116159>Take a trip around the upmarket shops for some new clothesDunno if we have the money to afford armor.We'll want to look nice for the will reading though.
>>2116159>>Go looking for Keziah to share your good news
>>2116159>>Head to Morey's Pit to report last night's success
>>2116159>Go looking for Keziah to share your good news
>>2116159>Go looking for Keziah to share your good news.
With the rest of the day ahead of you, there's no need to rush things. You've never enjoyed idle shopping that much, not on your own at least, so you'll see if you can get company for it. Presuming that Keziah is still at her old address, her place isn't much of a detour. Fidgeting slightly with the purse in your pocket – you're not used to carrying this kind of money about with you – you set off down the streets.The journey is a mostly uneventful one, although on one occasion you have to jump hastily aside as the roar of engines fills the street. An armour car rattled past as you lurked in an alleyway, giving you a brief glimpse of the Iraklin national emblem pained across the side. Soldiers, fresh from Azimuth and likely bound for one of the mining stations out in the wilderness. There's always trouble out there, from what you've heard, trouble with raiders and things worse than raiders.But other than that brief interruption, you're free to make your way to Keziah's lodgings. The door, when you arrive, stands ajar. Scowling hard, you slowly nudge the door open and creep inside the darkened home. All is silent within, and you wait for your eyes to adjust to the gloom before you advance further inside. In the dark, you can make out the blocky shapes of various pieces of machinery – Keziah had a scant living by repairing things, you recall – as well as the random curiosities that she must have accumulated over the years.Ever the hoarder, Keziah has a collection of stopped clocks, primitive art pieces and mouldering books. Stepping around a pile of tightly rolled scrolls, you find yourself confronted by a mediocre piece of taxidermy. The bird – you couldn't really say what kind of bird it was, but it's pretty big – looks very dead, with glass eyes and ragged feathers. Smiling a little at its sorry state, you reach out to touch it when-When the bird – the DEAD bird – lets out a tremendous squawk and beats its wings at you for a moment before taking flight and retreating.“Herod!” a voice shrieks, “I've told you before, I dinnae want you yellin' and bawlin' at everyone who comes in! You just about gave me a-” Storming out from the gloom, Keziah – with the maybe-dead bird perched on one shoulder – glances around before her eyes settle upon you. “Oh, boss!” she cries, “I didnae ken it was you, you should've said somethin'!”“Keziah,” you sigh, giving the bird a suspicious look, “You've not changed at all...”[1/2]
>>2116254“Aye, well, I didnae mean to go radio silent on you, boss, but I've been awful busy lately. Been doin' my studyin' for the Guild exams,” nodding briskly, she taps you firmly in the chest, “And I passed, so it'll be “Maiden Keziah” from now on!”Laughing wearily, you shake your head. Now that she mentions it, you do recall her saying something about joining the Guild – GERA, the Guild of Engineers, Ritualists and Alchemists – when you last spoke to her. You... might have been drinking when she told you that. Maybe. “So,” you joke, “You're a respectable woman now, are you?”“Not a chance!” she shoots back, “But I've got a fancy title now, and they gave me that sword when I passed.” Gesturing to one corner of her cluttered workshop, she indicates a heavy, sheathed sword that has been left indifferently leaning against the wall. “It's a piece of shite,” she adds, “Heavy as anythin' and as blunt as a stone, I reckon you'd sooner beat someone to death with it than cut them! These fancy Aziumuth types with their ceremonies... Ah well. I got a clean bill of health and all, got the papers to prove it!”Meaning, you deduce, that her Nadir blood hasn't left her with any visible disfigurements or mutations. For whatever reason – there are plenty of theories, but few confirmed answers – men and women with Nadir heritage are the only ones who suffer from it. Your father was proud of tracing his family line back six generations, never once finding anything lower than an Azimuth birth. You were born with good blood, according to him, although it never did you much good.“Aye, well, boss,” Keziah taps you in the chest again, drawing you back to reality, “What are you lookin' so smug about? Don't reckon I've seen you lookin' so cheerful in years. You've no been takin' Rhyming Leaf again, have you?”“Not a chance,” you assure her, “Not after last time.”“So?” she presses, “You cannae fool me, I ken when you've got some good news. C'mon, you can tell me!”>It's early days yet, but I might be able to get my hands on an airship...>I'm just glad to see you, that's all>Other
>>2116294>>It's early days yet, but I might be able to get my hands on an airship...
>>2116294>It's early days yet, but I might be able to get my hands on an airship...>And if I do, I could use a damn good engineer again.
>>2116294>It's early days yet, but I might be able to get my hands on an airship...Don't mention will tampering.
>>2116294>It's early days yet, but I might be able to get my hands on an airship...
>>2116294>>It's early days yet, but I might be able to get my hands on an airship...>OtherAnd if you've found something good I don't want to drag you away from it. But you know you're always wanted on my ship.
“It's early days yet, so don't get too worked up,” you warn her, all too aware that you're wasting your breath, “But I might just be able to get my hands on an airship. It's not entirely-”You're cut off as Keziah laughs aloud and slams into you, hugging you tightly for a moment. “You mean it? You really mean it?” she asks hurriedly, still tugging slightly at your coat even after you've gently pushed her back, “A proper ship, aye? You're no talkin' about a shitty wee skiff or anythin', are you? A proper big airship?”“Yes, an airship – maybe,” you tell her, stressing that last word, “Like I said, this isn't confirmed yet. I'm waiting for...” You pause, thinking how best to word this next bit. “I'm waiting for a will to be read,” you conclude carefully, “I'm inheriting it, you see. At least, I think I am...”“A will?” this causes Keziah's brows to dip in a slight frown, “Aye, I ken what this is all about. It's her, isn't it? Miriam bloody Hawthorn? I heard that she took the plunge, but I wasnae sure if I believed it or not. You're tellin' me that SHE left you an airship?”“Trust me, I was as surprised as you are when I first heard,” you tell her with a faint shrug. Feigning ignorance, you decide not to mention anything more than that. When the time comes for Salazar to read the will – cleverly written jibes included – you're willing to bet that Keziah will swallow the cover story. “Anyway, assuming that I DO get this ship,” you add, moving the topic along, “I could use a good engineer. What do you say? I won't insist, if you've got something else in the works, but-”“Aye,” she replies simply, nodding, “Aye, I'll do it. Wild horses couldnae keep me away from this, boss!”-With the “official” matters settled, you head out with Keziah for a spot of shopping. She talks as you trek back towards the more upmarket shops, offering you a near-constant account of what she's been up to since you last spoke with her. Everything from the medical tests she had to take – getting leered over by a withered old apothecary – to the exam itself, which turned out to be disappointingly easy. All the while, her pet bird sits on her shoulder and glares at you with an expression of pure hostility fixed in its glassy eyes.“Okay, this is getting creepy now,” you decide at last, “I've got to ask. What's the deal with the bird?”“Herod? Ah, he's nae gonna bite you!” Keziah reaches up to stroke the bird's mangy feathers, “Might peck you a wee bit, but he's just bein' friendly, like. He's a good wee... ah, wait, I ken what you mean. It's the-”“The “dead” thing,” you finish for her, “Yeah.”“Aye, I see now,” frowning, Keziah nods slowly, “You've no seen a witch's familiar before, have you?”[1/2]
>>2116351gotta have magic in a moloch quest
>>2116346UghI hope she doesn't have an upkeep of 1 child per month.
>>2116346Nadir is famous – or perhaps infamous - for a lot of things. Barbarians, at least by the standards of those living up in Azimuth. Mutants and degenerates, along with the beasts that lurk within the dark places. Untapped supplies of valuable resources. All those things are fairly well-known, but the witches, followers of the old ways, are rather more mysterious. With no strict creed or dogma to follow, there are countless individual forms of the faith but most of them share a few constant elements. Old gods of nature, served by enigmatic daemons. Sometimes, a witch can bind a daemon into a recently deceased animal to create a familiar.You've heard all of this, in bits and pieces, but you've never seen any of it in person. Just as Keziah said, you've never seen a familiar before. At least that explains why her dead bird is still capable of glaring hatefully at you.“So,” you offer, pausing cautiously, “I thought you didn't go in for all that “witch” stuff?”“Aye, well...” Keziah hesitates, shifting uncomfortably, “My tutor over at GERA said I should give it a wee shot, see if I had any knack for it. Said I should... uh... div...”“Diversify your portfolio,” you finish for her. You've heard enough of their slogans to know exactly what she meant. Ever since the two great powers started making a serious attempt at claiming Nadir for themselves, the Guild was “encouraged” to start studying the local rites and rituals. They've had little success, so far, with many witches fleeing into the Deep Forest to join Eishin, the king in exile. Most people can live their entire lives without ever meeting a witch – or, at least, anyone who'll openly admit to being one.“That, aye,” shrugging nervously, Keziah strokes Herod's feathers again, “So, I went back home for a bit. Did some studyin' and... I'm no that good at it, I'm better with machines. Had to get help just to get this wee guy bound, and he's no much use for anything. Just grumbles at me, mostly. I never meant to keep it secret, like, but...”She lapses into silence, leaving you to rub a weary hand across your face. She was off studying witchcraft... well, no wonder she didn't come and visit you!“Boss?” she presses, “...Milos?”>Don't worry about it. It just surprised me, that's all>No magic on my ship, you understand? Stick to that, and we're fine>I can't have you on my ship. Your lot are bad luck>Other
>>2116405>>I can't have you on my ship. Your lot are bad luck
>>2116405>Don't worry about it. It just surprised me, that's all"So what can you do?"
>>2116405>>Don't worry about it. It just surprised me, that's all
>>2116405>>Don't worry about it. It just surprised me, that's allWhere does your bird fit in? Did you make him?
>>2116405>Don't worry about it. It just surprised me, that's allTurning our most loyal old crew member away for this? nah
>>2116405>Don't worry about it. It just surprised me, that's all
>>2116405>Don't worry about it. It just surprised me, that's allit doesnt seem like witchcraft is illegal
Some captains have their suspicions about witches, claiming that ships with them tend to crash or suffer other misfortunes. Frankly, you've never thought about it for long enough to decide one way or the other – you've always had far more pressing issues to waste time on worrying about whether you allow witches on your ship or not. You know one thing, though – you're not about to kick out one of your oldest crewmen over something like this.“Don't worry about it,” you tell Keziah with a shake of your head, “It just surprised me, that's all. Like you said, you've always been better with machines, so I didn't...” Letting your words trail off, you give her a shrug of bemused indifference.“Ah, I knew I could trust you, boss!” Keziah says with a massive grin, slapping you on the arm hard enough to send a twinge of pain running through the limb, “You'll no regret this, I promise you! I'll be proper clean and civilised, you'll never have a peep of trouble out of me!”“You were giving me trouble long before any of this...” you grumble, before taking her by the arm and gently steering her into a discrete alleyway so you can talk in relative privacy, “So, uh, what can you do?”“Bloody nothin', is what I can do!” she tells you cheerfully, “I've had nae luck with learning any rites or that, I just dinnae have the memory for all that fancy stuff. Chants and ceremonies and... bah! So, I'll tell you what I CAN do – I can fix the shite out of any engine you stick me in front of!”Somehow, that makes you feel better. Better, perhaps, to have an ineffectual witch on board. Glancing up at Herod, then, you take another look at the bird. Maybe you're imagining it, but the thing looks a little less hostile than before. “So how does the bird fit into all this?” you ask, “Did you make him?”“Aye, but I had a wee bit of help. Lots of help, actually,” Keziah concedes, “And I only managed it because he's a wee thing, no much power at all. See, most familiars carry secrets down from the gods and whisper them to their owners. I ken what he's thinkin', see? Only, he doesnae have much useful stuff to say! More like an awfully clever wee pet than anythin' else, I reckon.”Herod nods slowly, with a terrible dignity. Somehow, you can't help but feel sorry for the bird.-That settles the matter, as far as you're both concerned. With no further talk of witches or witchcraft, you return to the important business of shopping. Murmuring something to her bird, Keziah sends Herod flying back home before you enter any shops.“Might be, he was rottin' a wee bit too long before I found him, and that's why he's no much good,” she whispers to you, “But he can find home easily enough, aye?”[1/2]
>>2116472Touring the shops is much more tolerable with someone else at your side, and it's certainly useful having a feminine opinion on things. At least, that was the theory – in practice, Keziah seems more clueless about clothes than you are. At one point, you catch her studying a long length of red ribbon with sceptical eyes.“It's a necktie,” you explain, “They're getting very popular in Iraklis, I hear.”“Oh, aye?” Keziah replies, crumbling the ribbon up and shoving it back onto the shelf, “I was just thinkin', you wouldnae be able to strangle someone with that!”Noticing the prissy clerk giving you a funny look, you fight back a grin and lead Keziah away to another shop. Taking your time, you pick out a few good items – a clean shirt, well-stitched breeches and a long, flowing coat. A Free Captain should always wear something long and flowing, as if in imitation of a bird's wings. It's considered good luck, as well as being a point of pride. Cloaks, coats, shawls... the specifics don't really matter, so long as it looks good and dramatic.You've still got a few coins left over after buying a new outfit, but you're not sure what to spend them on until you stroll past a blacksmith with Keziah. As she stops to examine a set of tools, you notice a thin metal breastplate hanging from the shop wall. It's a mass-production piece, probably banged out on a Iraklin production line and resold here, but it looks like it could stop a blade. Not a pistol shot, and certainly not a bullet from a military rifle, but it should foil a knife attack. Plus, it fits under your clothes without looking too obvious.“Nice choice, boss,” Keziah jokes as she raps her knuckles against it, “You plannin' on getting stabbed?”“I'd rather not,” you reply, “But it doesn't hurt to go prepared. I'd like a helmet as well, but it would be a real shame to cover up these good looks.” Plus, you think to yourself, you're fresh out of money.-“I was thinkin'” the young witch muses as you're walking back to her workshop, “It doesnae feel right, no havin' Gunny here. He'd be proper happy to see you gettin' your wings again.”Silently, you nod. Gregor “Gunny” Hotchkiss was the third member of your little group, and the crewman who had been with you for the second longest. He was your artilleryman, an expert in both guns and maps... although he was certainly lacking in imagination. After the Annexation War, the three of you went on an apocalyptic drinking session for no reason other than hoping that it might dampen your frustrations. You woke up three days later, with Gunny nowhere to be found. Five years later, he's still missing.“Yeah,” you mutter, “He should be here.”[2/3]
>>2116405>Don't worry about it. It just surprised me, that's allmaybe add a nervous laugh
>>2116553>when you dont refresh and see the story has continued
>>2116538Your world seems a very different place now, compared with what you woke up to. The unknown, which had always been kept well at bay by the crude imitation of civilisation that was Monotia, now seemed to be pressing in around you. Things that you might once have shrugged off as the tales of drunks, children or drunken children are now seeming like an undeniable part of reality. It's not exactly a bad feeling, but it is disorientating. At least your fortunes seem to be improving at long last.“Ah, shite!” Keziah yelps as you're approaching her workshop, “I almost forgot, good thing we didnae just walk right past. Wait there, boss, I got somethin' for you – I clean missed your birthday, but it's better late than never, aye?”“Sure, it's-” you begin, lapsing into silence as the witch turns and rushes back into her workshop. She emerges a moment later with a tightly bound scroll, practically thrusting it into your arms.“It's a map, see?” she tells you, “And I marked down everywhere we've been together. Ah, well, most places. Might be, I forgot about some of the wee crappy places, but who cares about them? I got the bits that mattered. Well... happy belated birthday!”“Thank-” you try to reply, only for her to rap her knuckles against your chest again, causing your breastplate to chime dully, and then rush back to her workshop. Shaking your head in disbelief, you tuck the scroll under your arm and start off towards your slum. You know better than to chase after Keziah now – she's probably packing her things already, preparing for a voyage that might never actually happen. When she gets like this, giddy and excitable, there's no way of talking her down.But you'll be damned if her optimism isn't infectious. For once, you return to your slum with an honest smile on your face.>It's a little early, but I'm going to pause things here. I'll continue this tomorrow, and if anyone has any questions I'll answer them if I can>Thanks to everyone who contributed today!>Also, my twitter link for future updates/changes of plan: https://twitter.com/MolochQM
>>2116636thanks for running
>>2116636Thanks for running!Witches aren't too reviled, right? What kind of hardships are we likely to face for associating with one? We won't need to procure children for her to sacrifice?
>>2116636Thanks for running Moloch.How much of this world is unexplored?
>>2116648Generally, witches are more seen as curiosities than as objects of fear or hate. Some people do see them as bad luck, but they're more likely to just shun a witch than burn her. We certainly won't need to find children, although some rites and ritual do involve animal sacrifices.>>2116682There are a few major pieces of uncharted territory. The Deep Forest in Nadir is more or less completely uncharted as a result of how thick it is, and the hostile natives. Up in Zenith, the Drift is a constantly changing mass of tiny islands - people don't even bother to chart it, since there's nothing of real importance there. Pirates like to hide out in it, though. Otherwise, there are a few hidden corners and secret places, but not many.Next session, I'll be posting a full map of the world
Thirty-one. Your last birthday was your thirty-first, and that number seems to have a talismanic property to it. When he was thirty, your father was a wealthy landowner – or, at least, he seemed to be a wealthy landowner – and he never tired of reminding you. When you were growing up, you promised yourself that you would do even better than him. By the time you were thirty, you promised yourself, you'd own land in Iraklis, Carthul and the Pastona Union.Here you are at thirty-one, and you own a slum in Monotia. On the other hand, you don't have any debt, so maybe you ARE doing better than your old man. What you own, you actually own – you've not borrowed it or bought it on credit.Leaning back in your favourite chair, you take a sip of wine and slowly unfurl the map Keziah gave you. You could never call it a formal chart, but it has a crude charm to it. Carthul is painted in a deep red while Iraklis is drawn with dark blue ink. Down on the Nadir layer, the Deep Forest is painted in with a threatening black – as if to emphasis its state as uncharted, hostile territory. Zenith, meanwhile, seems barren and lonesome – Keziah didn't even bother to paint in the Drift, the ever-changing ring of tiny islands that surrounds Inounsys.True to her word, she did paint black crosses over every significant place you've ever visited, even the places that you've just flown past and briefly viewed from your ship. When you see Saint Alma's Academy, you remember Salazar's girl – she was studying history there, which can't be cheap. Just as you're filing that information away for later use – you never know when it might come in handy – you hear a firm knock at your door.Opening the door, you find yourself confronted by Mara's unlovely visage. Her eyes seem to bulge a little as she studies you for an uncomfortably long moment before speaking.“The Morey is pleased,” she announces, “Gutter Sut has been made contrite.”“That's great,” you tell her, “But I don't know what this has to do with me. I heard that Sut fell foul of an angry ghost.”“Hah,” Mara says, not laughing but simply saying the word to herself, “Be that as it may, the Morey wished you to know that your debt has been cleared. Should you ever find yourself in need of more work – or a loan - we believe that something may be arranged. Remember that.”After everything you've done to lift yourself up out of this swamp, she just had to remind you that Morey will be waiting to pull you right back under. Still, you can't deny that Morey was good to you – in his own way – and so you accept the reminder with a carefully neutral nod. If you lose everything for a third time, at least you've still got a safety net.[1/2]
>>2118853After Mara loses interest in any further conversation and wanders off, you close the door firmly behind her and return to your new map. With a twinge of bitterness, you notice that Keziah even marked the location of your old home – the Vaandemere Estate. Built on one of the many islands that made up the Pastona Union – back when the Pastona Union existed separately from Iraklis – the estate had been your entire world when you were a boy. When you took the Manticore flying over it years later, it seemed... small.So, Keziah's map makes for a bittersweet gift. Rolling it up and sliding it back into its case, you cast a wan eye at your meagre belongings. You really ought to pack your things, but...But you decide to have a quick cup of wine first.-When the day of the will reading comes, you wake up with a surprisingly clear head and it takes you a few moments to remember why. You didn't drink anything last night, specifically so you can be at your best for the reading. Thanking yourself for the rare moment of forethought, you start to take out your good clothes... and then you realise that you've still not packed. Sighing, you drag out an old case and start to throw your belongings into it... and that's when you find your rifle.Your father's rifle, actually. It's one of the few things you inherited from him, along with your threadbare shawl, the old imago, and some unresolved emotional issues. More of a hunting piece than a military rifle, the gun is an antique single shot piece, finely made and very potent. You've not had the money to shoot it since... since the Annexation War, frankly. You might not be able to shoot it, but it still looks majestic slung over your shoulder. When you glance in the mirror, you see a respectable man looking back at you.The difference is immediately obvious. Dressed like this, you don't feel the urge to keep your head down and skulk down the streets. Rather, you savour the feeling of your coat flapping in every breeze that tugs at it, relishing the sound of your boots clicking against cobblestones. Whenever someone pauses to glance your way, you take it as jealous admiration rather than sullen threat.Pausing, you take a moment to decide your next move.>Pick Keziah up and offer to bring her to the will reading. She might enjoy the day out>Go to the will reading alone. Keziah isn't really “formal” material>OtherFunds: 0A note on funds. This is an abstract measure of large units of wealth, used for significant purchases like property or airship repairs, rather than day to day things like food or drink.
>>2118855>Go to the will reading alone. Keziah isn't really “formal” materialI don't know what kind of people the Hawthorne's are so it might be best to play it safe. We'll give her the good news after.
>>2118855>Go to the will reading alone. Keziah isn't really “formal” materialI really want the extra hands, but nobles and eccentrics go together like skittles and gravy
>>2118855>Go to the will reading alone. Keziah isn't really “formal” materialthe gun isnt being brought along right?
>>2118855>Go to the will reading alone. Keziah isn't really “formal” materialinb4 they are all eccentrics like Miriam
You consider making a quick detour to Keziah's workshop in order to invite her along, but the thought of her standing in the middle of a formal crowd – with Herod sitting on her shoulder, glaring at everyone who gets close – sends a shiver running down your spine. You're trying to make a good impression here, so perhaps it's best that you go alone. You can share the good news later, once the Spirit of Helena is in your grasp.Besides, you want to catch Salazar on his own and talk things over with him. It wouldn't do for him to mention your little scam to Keziah after you've told her that things are legit. Shouldering your rifle – you'll need to stow that away somewhere, you think dimly to yourself – you march off towards the hotel. This time, the doorman sketches a hasty bow as you pass him by, his face showing nothing but respect and courtesy. It's amazing what a change of clothes can do.-Salazar is still finishing off a leisurely breakfast when you arrive at his room, and he takes his time to dab his lips with a crisp napkin before speaking. “Tell me, my boy,” he asks drily, “Were you planning on murdering someone if this little ploy of ours doesn't work out?”“What? Oh, the gun,” shrugging, you take the weapon down from your shoulder and set it against the wall, “No, I just decided to pack all my things. Chances are, I'll be moving aboard my new ship soon enough, so...”“You certainly are eager,” the old man decides, eyeing up his food before setting the plate aside, “Not that I can blame you. Would you believe that I feel ten years younger for this? I was always told that dishonesty aged a man, but I'm finding the opposite to be true.” Rising from behind his desk, Salazar meanders across to the window and looks out, gently stroking his beard as he thinks to himself. “Everything has been prepared,” he adds, almost as if it was an afterthought, “The will has been amended accordingly, and your name has been added to the list of attendants. Quite an interesting list, it is too...”“Speaking of interesting people,” you tell him, “I got in contact with a member of my old crew, told her that I might be inheriting an airship – legitimately inheriting it. You'll probably meet sooner or later, so don't tell her that-”“That we're committing a serious act of fraud? I try and tell that to as few people as possible,” Salazar remarks, his eyes flashing with a quick glimpse of humour, “But it's good that you're making contact. You're going to need a good crew.”Something about the way he says that, the certainty in his voice, strikes you as somewhat... odd. He's not wrong, of course – you WILL need a good crew for your new airship – so why do you feel a faint misgiving settle in your heart?[1/2]
>>2118925“In either case, you came a lot earlier than I expected,” Salazar adds, gesturing faintly to his half-eaten breakfast, “The skiff isn't due to arrive for a while yet. Perhaps this is for the best – we can go over any last minute concerns you might have had. I must confess, I was given a small piece of unexpected news last night. Not bad, I hope, but not something I had expected.”Here it is, you think with sudden dismay, the catch that you had been waiting for. Setting your pack down next to your rifle, you sit down at the desk and gesture for the old man to continue. He takes a moment to gather his thoughts, then speaks.“Late last night, I was told that a man had added himself to the invite list – an Iraklin, a close servant of the Consul,” Salazar explains, “As far as I'm aware, Miriam never had occasion to deal with the Consul, so I can't quite figure out why our Iraklin friend has decided to force his way into this little party.”Leaning back, you consider the situation. The Consul, Ludwig Hess, was the local leader for the Pastona Union, installed after the Annexation War to take command of the occupation forces. Under his rule, there were no atrocities or excessive arrests, no internment camps or disappearances. He treated your homeland well, and soon he came to be seen as a popular leader. You attended one of his speeches once, before you went into self-imposed exile, and found it distasteful – long on platitudes and short on actual substance. Why he would be sending a man to the reading of Miriam Hawthorn's will, however, remains unclear.“Was that it?” you ask after a long pause, “Was that the only bad news?”“As I said, this isn't “bad” news as such,” Salazar stresses, “But yes, this has been the only irregularity. We'll have to be a little more careful, but this should change nothing.” Clapping his hands together, happily dismissing the matter, Salazar gives you a firm nod. “This hotel has a rather fine dining room,” he decides, “Shall we get a spot of breakfast in order to pass the time? I've eaten, but there's no reason for you to go hungry as well.”As if on cue, your stomach growls lustily.>Breakfast sounds good. Let's go>I had some questions about all of this before we go... (Write in)>Other
>>2118965>>Breakfast sounds good. Let's go
>>2118965>Breakfast sounds good. Let's go
>>2118965>Breakfast sounds good. Let's goNo reason we can't ask questions over beakfast.Ask if he's ready to share what that small favor he might want is. Is it related to having a good crew?
“Breakfast sounds good,” you decide, “Let's go.”“Just so,” Salazar nods firmly, gesturing to your bags, “You can leave those here for now, they'll be perfectly safe – and we wouldn't want to scare the other diners, would we?”“I don't know,” you argue, feeling a faint smile tugging at one corner of your mouth, “It might be pretty amusing.” Still, you follow the old man's advice and leave your luggage in one corner of his room, reassured by the heavy sound of the lock closing as you leave. As he leads you upstairs towards the dining room, though, you find yourself wondering about your ally. Although he's only ever been helpful to you, you can sense a hint of reticence about him – as if he's always holding something back. Natural caution, perhaps.When you arrive in the dining hall, you've got to admit that Salazar had a good point – it really is magnificent. A long window makes up much of the ceiling, allowing the early morning light to pour down onto you. Nadir never gets too bright, not with the other islands floating above, but something the sun can peek through and bathe you in warmth. This is one of those moments, which you're ready to take as a good omen.Salazar contents himself with a small cup of tea while you dig into a heaped plate of hearty food – thick slices of dark bread, salt pork and fried mushrooms. Once you've put away half of the mountain, you gesture towards him with your knife. “So,” you tell him, washing your mouth out with your own tea, “Are you ready to talk about that little favour you mentioned before? Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I have a feeling that it involves that “good crew” of yours.”“In a matter of speaking,” Salazar admits, tilting his head slightly to one side, “I'm told that the Spirit of Helena is a fairly large ship – you'll have plenty of spare rooms aboard, won't you?”“If you want to come along for the ride, you just have to ask,” you laugh, “You've more than earned a place.”“It's not for me,” he replies, “As much as I'd like to, I'm a little too old to be gallivanting around the skies. No, I had someone else in mind.”He says nothing more, leaving you to slowly chew another mouthful of food and think about his strange favour. When the answer comes to you in a jolt, you almost choke on your food. “Grace?” you ask in a tone of sheer incredulity, “You're talking about your girl?”“I am, yes,” Salazar answers you simply, wetting his lips with a sip of tea before continuing, “I fear that she has grown... sheltered. Her education has kept her from seeing much of the world, and I worry that she will suffer for it. I can think of no better way for her to see the world than in an airship, with a captain I trust.”“Shit...” you breathe, sitting back and toying with your food. Suddenly, your appetite seems to have vanished.[1/2]
>>2119062“Consider it,” the old man states, perhaps sensing your reluctance, “I won't make any demands, I merely ask that you consider it. You needn't give me a decision right away either.” Setting down his teacup, Salazar takes out a pocket watch and briefly checks the time before looking up into the sky. Shielding his eyes against the uncommon glare, he watches as a dark speck appears in the sky. “That would be our ship now,” he decides, “There's no rush. Finish your breakfast, my boy, and then we can be off.”-Actually, you do more than just finish your breakfast. You wash thoroughly and shave with a borrowed razor, all the while considering Salazar's “favour”. The idea that Grace herself has no knowledge of this arrangement occurs to you, and you can't say that you like it much. Dragging an unwilling kid about with you doesn't sound like your idea of a good time, to say nothing of the trouble she might cause. On the other hand, she might be eager for the opportunity to see the world... but that might be just as troublesome.Once your preparations are complete, you follow Salazar up to the roof of the hotel and greet the skiff. A sleek model, emblazoned with the Hawthorn family crest, the skiff looks painfully quick. Skiffs have always made you a little nervous – a larger airship has a certain ponderousness to its movements, a certain slow grace that makes them easy to control. Skiffs are nothing like that, their acceleration is sharp and their controls are twitchy. It takes a special kind of madman to fly a skiff, you've always thought, and you're not one of them.A few of the hotel staff – Nadir types, by the looks of them, although more groomed than normal – have gathered around the skiff to gaze at it in awe. One of them is slowly passing his hand through the soft blue glow of the idling thrusters, amazed that the flames don't burn him. Cold fire, it's called, all light and no heat – the source of the curious lifting force that allows airships to function. Generations of scholars and philosophers have debated over the exact mechanics of it, but “divine intervention” remains the most consistent theory.A gift from the gods, some say, handed down so that men can aspire to the heavens.Shrugging softly to nobody in particular, you climb aboard the skiff and hastily strap yourself in. Once Salazar is seated beside you, the skiff takes flight. Most airships move like a boat pushing through the ocean waters, but this skiff takes off like a bullet from a gun. Consoling yourself with the fact that it will be a quick journey, you dig your fingers into the armrests and wait for it to be over.[2/3]
>>2119101Your discomfort soon gives way to wonder as you ascend, Nadir growing distant below you as the skiff rises quickly towards Azimuth and the Hawthorn Estate. The air itself seems to grow brighter as you rise up to the next layer, thin clouds parting before you. You'd laugh, but a tight feeling has settled in your chest and won't let up. There were times, dark times, when you thought you might never see Azimuth again. Now, here you are.Shooting up, the skiff flies straight past the rocky chunk of land – a mountain, uprooted and inverted – that is the Hawthorn Estate before looping around and mercifully slowing as it comes in to land. A large stretch of land has been cleared and flattened for that very purpose, and you see several other ships waiting nearby. A few more of the Hawthorn family skiffs, a pair of small cruisers that you don't recognise, and... and a skiff bearing the DuPont heraldry. Your heart sinks at the sight of that craft – you've got bad history with Alain DuPont. Seriously bad history, not just a petty rivalry.“The will is due to be read in the early afternoon, but the estate has been opened for the entire day. A formal dinner is planned for the evening, and rooms have been prepared for anyone who wishes to stay the night,” Salazar explains, “By all accounts, Miriam wanted to make an event of her... passing. This is set to be quite the gathering.”Nodding silently, you peel your eyes away from the DuPont skiff and glance at the light cruisers. Their captains – one male, and one female - stand nearby, talking amongst themselves. You're not sure how you guessed that they were the captains, but you're certain of it. Something about the way they carry themselves, perhaps, the same thing that you saw in the mirror this morning. They're young, in either case, barely out of their teens. Maybe Miriam was grooming one of them to be an heir?Looking to the manor itself, you feel your heart skip a beat as you see the hanger attached to one side. The Spirit of Helena must be in there, you're certain of it. The urge to sneak in, just to take a little look, feels almost overwhelming...>Head inside to join the gathering>Speak with the two young captains>Take a little look inside the hanger>Other
>>2119135>>Speak with the two young captains
>>2119135>Head inside to join the gatheringI feel like peeking would be suspicious, and I don't think the two captains will be friendly if there's a family grudge against us.
>>2119135>Speak with the two young captains
>>2119135>>Head inside to join the gathering
>>2119148>if there's a family grudge against us.I don't think Milos is on any of these people's radar. He only dealt with Miriam occasionally when they had the same job and she seemed pretty good natured about it.
>>2119167Oh whoops, you're right. I thought the light cruisers were with the skiff.
>>2119135>Speak with the two young captainsHey Moloch quick question. Officially are we here because we know that Miriam left us something/was summoned because she left us something or are we just paying respects and the airship is a 'surprise'?
Sighing heavily, you tear your eyes away from the hanger. Taking a peek inside before you've “officially” inherited anything would look suspicious, and you don't need that kind of trouble this late in the game. So long as you just sit tight and bide your time, you'll get your chance soon enough. Turning around, you start to address Salazar before realising that he's already heading inside – he probably doesn't want to look like he's too close with you, just to keep up appearances.So, you decide to do something a little less suspicious. Approaching the pair of your pilots, you raise your hand and call out a low greeting. They turn and wave back, their faces open and strangely guileless. “Good day to you!” the man – boy – says first, “I don't think I know you. This is Irene Zastava.” Grinning a little, he points to the woman standing next to him.“And this is Tobias Mahdi,” the young woman adds, gesturing back to her friend, “You're here for the will reading, then?”“That's right. I was just heading in now,” you confirm, “Milos Vaandemere. I knew Miriam, way back when.”“Oh!” Tobias snaps his fingers, “She mentioned you, yes. She said...”“She said that you were just about the unluckiest bastard she ever met,” Irene finishes. The pair laugh at that, following at your heel like a pair of hounds as you head for the manor. “Captain Hawthorn, I suppose you could say that she was our patron. She put a bit of money towards our ships, you see, and she was always willing to give us a spot of advice,” the young woman pauses there, frowning slightly, “She never did say what she got out of it, though. The money she gave us, she never asked for any of it back – either in cash or as a favour.”“We were both very lucky,” the boy agrees, shooting Irene a sly smile.Feeling like you might just be getting in the way – you know better than to get between a couple like this – you make your excuses and hurry ahead slightly, leaving the pair of youths to laugh amongst themselves. It's not the first time that you've heard of a captain sponsoring a young up and comer, but it's usually done with the expectation of some profit. Once again, you find yourself wondering just what Miriam was up to in the years that you were out of the scene.-The entrance hall is busy, with more people than you had been expecting bustling back and forth. Some of them are servants, garbed in sombre mourning clothes, while others carry themselves with the air of nobility. Alain DuPont – his tall, skeletal form is unmistakable – is busy examining a portrait on the upper landing, and so you decide to stick to the lower level. There's food here, at least, a long table burdened down with all manner of treats.[1/2]>>2119196>Officially, all we know is that our name was put on the invite list. Publicly, we should have no idea what to expect out of this
>>2119224Taking a glass of wine – just to keep your hands busy, you tell yourself – you allow yourself another long look around the entrance hall. Now that you've seen DuPont, you know why the place seems so busy. He must have brought his entire retinue along, every servant and soldier on his payroll – which is no short list. Back before the Annexation War, Alain DuPont was the only captain in the Pastona Union who owned a dreadnought – and yet, he chose not to fight. He sat the whole war out, claiming that he had no grudge with Iraklis.So you dislike him for that. The fact that you allegedly punched him out during your drinking binge – something you have no memory of – means that he dislikes you in return. It's all very sordid and stupid, like a great deal of your affairs.A framed imago catches your eyes, mercifully banishing all thoughts of DuPont. It's still fresh, the colours relatively crisp, and it shows the household staff gathered outside the Hawthorn Estate. Miriam herself takes pride of place, wearing a scandalously low-cut top, while her family crowds around her. The staff stand to either side of them, while a single figure lurks at the very edge of the group. An old woman, bent double and glaring at the imago device. Her face has a sagging, frog-like quality, while her hair is lank and stringy. The Nadir blood must have flowed thick and dark in her veins, you think to yourself, which makes her unique among the staff. The others are all neat and smart looking, while this crone...“I remember when that imago was taken,” a tired voice says, “I tried so hard to get Miriam to wear something more decent. Well, you know what she was like – as stubborn as a mule...”“That she was,” you agree, looking around at the tall woman. Miriam's sister, you deduce, looking just as uptight as the imago suggests. “Milos Vaandemere,” you tell her, extending your hand, “I'm-”“I know who you are,” she interrupts, “But what I don't know is why you're here.”Your cover story, carefully rehearsed, comes easily to mind. “Then we have that in common,” you tell her smoothly, “All I know is that my name was put on the invite list. For whatever reason, Miriam must have wanted me here.”“Hmm,” the woman locks you with a firm stare for a moment more, “Then the wishes of the deceased are to be respected. You are free to enjoy our hospitality,” Her face softens a little, just a little, and she finally shakes your hand. “Penelope Hawthorn,” she adds, “Make yourself at home.” But not too at home, her eyes seem to suggest.Feeling as though you've passed the first test, you allow yourself a sip of wine.>It was nice to meet you. Excuse me>That old woman in this imago. Who is she?>I assume that Miriam mentioned me, then>Did Miriam say anything about what she doing before she died?>I'd like to ask you something... (Write in)>Other
>>2119317>I assume that Miriam mentioned me, then>Did Miriam say anything about what she doing before she died?
>>2119317>I assume that Miriam mentioned me, then>Did Miriam say anything about what she doing before she died?>That old woman in this imago. Who is she?
>>2119317>That old woman in this imago. Who is she?>Did Miriam say anything about what she doing before she died?
>>2119317>>I assume that Miriam mentioned me, then
“You said that you knew who I was,” you mention, “I assume that Miriam mentioned me, then.”“Once or twice. I have a very good memory for these things,” Penelope narrows her eyes a little as she thinks, “The first time she mentioned you – in my presence, at least – was just after the war. She said that it was a brave thing you did, going off to fight like that, brave and very foolish. I think, in some way, she regretted not doing anything to help.” Pausing a moment, Penelope looks out across the crowded entrance hall before pointing out Salazar. “Him. He worked for your father once, did he not?” the uptight woman adds, “That was the second time Miriam spoke of you, albeit indirectly. She merely mentioned that you might know one another.”This sets alarm bells ringing in the back of your mind. Penelope's words don't have the note of an accusation in them – yet – but there's fertile ground there. If anyone has a problem with the little scam you're pulling here, it'll be her. Sensing danger, you quickly move the subject along. “Did Miriam say anything to you about what she was doing before she died?” you ask, before hastily adding, “I've been fairly out of the loop lately, I must have missed a lot of gossip.”“Sometimes, I'm not sure if Miriam even knew what she was doing. She never sat still long enough for that,” Penelope sniffs, “Always flitting from one thing to another. One moment she was acting like a devout member of the faith, and the next day she would be flying off to Iraklis. If she wasn't talking with Guild engineers about her pet project – that awful ship – she would be down in Nadir, doing...” she shudders at that, clearly unwilling to imagine what Miriam might have been doing amidst the mud and filth of Nadir. “She was clearly busy, though,” she adds, “Driven. Desperate, even.” Frowning to herself, Penelope starts to turn away before you touch her lightly on the arm. That small touch is enough to make her stiffen up, bristling with hostility.“Excuse me,” you apologise hastily, giving her your most charming smile, “I just had one other thing I was curious about. This old woman here, in the imago. Do you know who she is?”“Oh,” Penelope's face shifts into a mask of disdain, “Her. I can't tell you her name. I wouldn't want to associate with someone like her. Allegedly, she was a cook that Miriam picked up on one of her nasty little trips to Nadir – although I never saw her working in the kitchen! They talked some evenings, but that's all I ever saw of her. After Miriam... vanished, the crone disappeared as well. Just walked out one night and never came back.”With that, Penelope turns and walks quickly away from you, eagerly putting the whole matter behind her.[1/2]
>>2119408You linger by the imago for a moment more, wild theories swirling in your mind. Could it be, you wonder, that Miriam was seeking the advice of a witch? The old crone certainly looks the part, but you can't figure out why Miriam might need to consult with someone like her. Something related to whatever Miriam was so feverishly working on, presumably, whatever that was. Feeling vaguely unnerved, you down the last of your wine and slip back out through the double doors.You need some air.-What was meant to be a short break outside stretches out into something far longer as you wander the grounds, savouring the simple feeling of being at a higher altitude. The air down in Nadir doesn't taste as clean as this, and it's easy for your mind to wander. It's only when you hear someone calling your name that you snap back to reality. Turning, you see Tobias rushing towards you. “Vaandemere!” he calls again, “It's time. The will is about to be read!”You really did lose track of time. Shaking your head lightly, you follow him back towards the manor. Without stopping in the entrance hall, he leads you through to a smaller room that is nevertheless packed with bodies. These are the lucky few who stand to gain from Miriam's passing. Tobias hurries to join Irene, speaking to her in a low murmur, while DuPont lazily glances around and gives you a humourless smile – sarcastic and insincere – before looking away. Standing next to Penelope is a young man who you take to be Blessings Hawthorn, the man you're cheating out of an airship.He looks... boyish, but not with the healthy youth of someone like Tobias. No, Blessings is plump and soft, with a pinkish tint to his skin and a golden sheen to his floppy hair. He wears a long prayer shawl, and you feel a stirring of revulsion when you realise that he wears it in imitation of a Free Captain's flowing garb. Before you can think any further on the matter, Salazar steps up behind a small podium and clears his throat.“Are we all in attendance?” he asks mildly, “Then, I shall begin. Let it be known that on the two-hundred and fifty-eight Year of the Sun, Miriam Hawthorn was declared legally dead and her last will and testament was given permission to be opened. As the legal representative of the deceased, I shall be conducting the proceedings. Please, I request that everyone present acts with the dignity and respect that this process demands.”Impatience gnaws at the pit of your stomach, but you force yourself to wait silently. Just as you're wishing that you had picked up a second glass of wine, Salazar begins to read.[2/3]
>>2119485The first item of the will is received without much surprise – the Hawthorn Estate, with all lands and associated properties, are passed to Penelope Hawthorn. A few people murmur both congratulations and consolations, patting Penelope on the back or shaking her hand. Salazar diligently waits for the stirrings to die down before continuing, moving onto the next item. The subject of Miriam's fortune is received with more contention, with a wave of confusion rippling out. Nothing was left for the Church of Rising Light, not a single thing. Considering that Miriam was a member of the church – ostensibly, at least – that comes as a controversial decision.“Well well,” a bulky man murmurs from behind you. You glance around, startled by his silent approach, then scowl as you see the sombre uniform of an Iraklin officer. He has noble features, although a flattened nose and one blind, milky eye ruin what would otherwise be a handsome face. Scowling at his uniform, at what it represents to you, you turn back to Salazar. Although you missed some of his reading, you got the gist of it – Miriam's money was split between Penelope, Blessings, DuPont, her two young apprentices, and a few minor figures. No great surprises there.Finally, your moment comes. You have to struggle to keep a straight face as Salazar straightens his spectacles and continues. “My ship, the Spirit of Helena, I leave to Milos Vaandemere,” Salazar reads, being careful not to put any undue emphasis into those words, “On the condition that he does not rush out and get it destroyed.”A ripple of laughter runs through the crowd at that, but it doesn't quite drown out the whispers of confusion. As you feign surprise, you catch a glimpse of Blessings out of the corner of your eye. He looks as though all the blood has drained from his face, leaving his lips to flap silently as he tries to process what just happened.Finally, when Tobias slaps you on the arm, you allow yourself a victorious smile.-The rest of the will passes by in a flash, talk of individual trinkets and tokens passing you by completely. You don't see the Iraklin officer again, even after you've wandered out into the entrance hall. As you're setting down one empty wine glass and reaching for a full one, you hear a soft voice from behind you. “Sir? Sir, may I have a moment of your time?” the voice calls, “Sir?”Slowly turning, you find yourself looking into Blessings' pink face. He doesn't look angry, or despairing, or... anything. That blankness is, perhaps, worse.>Of course. Would you like to talk outside?>I'm sorry, I can't spare a moment>Other
>>2119589>>I'm sorry, I can't spare a moment
>>2119589>Of course. Would you like to talk outside?
You take a moment to reach your decision, dithering between obliging the plump young boy and turning him away. On one hand, you don't like the feel of this, but on the other hand... you can't imagine that he would be asking so tentatively if he had an accusation to make. Maybe... maybe you'll speak to him in private, just to be on the safe side.“Of course,” you tell him carefully, “Would you like to talk outside?”Your answer, perhaps the fact that you're not chasing him away like an annoying fly, takes Blessings by surprise. “Outside?” he repeats dumbly, “Oh, oh! Yes, yes that would be fine. I could use some fresh air.” Nodding slowly, he takes a glass of wine from the table – handling it as though it's a vial of poison – and follows you outside. The afternoon sun shines down on you both, causing a faint sheen of sweat to spring into life on the boy's forehead.“I don't think we've been formally introduced,” you begin, to break the awkward silence, “Milos Vaandemere.” Offering him your hand to shake, Blessings stares at it for a moment before shifting his wine to his other hand and taking it.“Blessings Hawthorn,” he replies, “Uh, I suppose that congratulations are in order. I thought...” Pausing, he takes a long look up at the sky, shielding his eyes against the glare of the sun. “Aunt Miriam always told me stories about being a Free Captain. She made them sound so exciting! I wanted to join her on one of her voyages, but she always said that I was too young,” he pouts at the memory, “I'm a man now. I'm twenty-one!”You say nothing to that. You'd taken him for younger. When Blessings downs his glass of wine in a single gulp and struggles not to cough, you have to try very hard not to smile. “I thought you church types weren't supposed to drink alcohol,” you point out, “All that stuff about polluting the body and whatnot.”“Oh? Oh right. Well, I think it can be forgiven, just this once. It's only traditional to raise a glass to the departed, isn't it?” already slurring his words, Blessings drops his empty glass and shrugs, “Looks like I'll never join Aunt Miriam on her travels. Sir... would you consider taking me on as a member of your new crew?”The question, blurted out, takes you by surprise. “What?” you reply, “I mean... what skills do you have? What training have you taken, what tasks can you perform?” Blessings just answers these questions with a blank stare, and you shake your head in disbelief. He's useless, totally useless. “I'm sorry,” you begin, turning away from him, “But-”“I'll pay!” he cries, “The money that Aunt Miriam left me. You can have it, all of it!”This stops you dead in your tracks.>Blessings, you've got yourself a deal>Sorry, but you'd just be a liability>Other
>>2119661>>Blessings, you've got yourself a dealJewing intensifies
>>2119661>Blessings, you've got yourself a deal"But you'll still have to pull your own weight in some way, money or no. It's going to take some time to learn and involve alot of hard work. You up for it?"Surely nothing will go wrong.
>>2119661>Other"I'm sorry but it'd be irresponsible of both me and yourself for you to come on board.."Let him down easy. Plus, we'd make immediate enemies of the rest off the family if we just took the kids money like that. Seriously. Easy money is tempting but the catch just ain't worth it.
>>2119661>Blessings, you've got yourself a dealI do feel really bad.
>>2119661>>Sorry, but you'd just be a liability
>>2119661>Blessings, you've got yourself a deal"But you'll be expected to pull your weight."No harm in letting the kid learn the ropes.
>>2119661>Blessings, you've got yourself a dealHaving someone who might know people in the church isn't a bad idea and he's paying us.
>>2119661>"Do you have any idea what being a Captain is like? REALLY like, not just the winsome stories and tales of derring-do? The grit of having to pilot through raging storm, the hunger of missing a meal because you have to keep the ship on proper course? The fear when something- even the slightest thing- goes wrong in the engine room and the rush to fix it? Any of that? If you're not prepared for sleepless weeks- not days, WEEKS- a constant watching over your shoulder for a knife in your back, and the strain of chasing down scores for ages only to find yourself high and dry and having to make due with nothing but porridge for yet another day...>...Then I don't feel comfortable bringing you."Kid needs a reality check.
>>2119661>>Blessings, you've got yourself a dealHe's an adult than can make his own decisions, and we did just con him out of a ship. Least we can do is give him the taste of adventure he wants.Should make it clear that he'll be expected to work for his keep. It's part of the "fun" after all
>>2119661>>2119665>>Blessings, you've got yourself a dealtake him as an apprentice, he got to ditch the religious stuff though
>>2119701That's not reality though. That's doom and gloom to the point of parody.
>>2119720You never know when a ship might need a priest for any religious crewman
>>2119661>Sorry, but you'd just be a liabilityHe probably could be trained to usefulness, but his moral character is very unlikely to mesh well with our trade from what I saw.
In terms of running a successful airship, Blessings Hawthorn is likely to be neither use nor ornament. He has no skills to speak of, and he doesn't exactly look like a fast learner. On the other hand, he IS offering to pay, and he's certainly well-regarded by the Church of Rising Light. Having that on your side could come in handy, even if there is the risk of him driving you mad with preaching. Before you're ready to reach a decision, though, you need to make a few things clear to him.“Let me ask you something,” you begin, “Do you have any idea what it takes to really be a Free Captain? That first word means something – it means that you're on your own. You don't have a nation or an army to back you up, you have to survive on your own merits. Do you understand that?” Pausing a moment, you wait for him to shrink back in fear... but he doesn't. “A Free Captain can spend hours, days, without food or sleep in order to keep from straying off course. They have to brave violent electrical storms – yes, the same things that brought your aunt down – without fear, knowing that the slightest failure could spell death. You'll make enemies and you'll alienate your friends, all in the course of chasing a score that might well slip through your fingers – and then it's thin porridge for your next meal, because that's all you can afford. Are you prepared to deal with that?”Blessings is silent for a long time. “Maybe not,” he concedes, flushing slightly, “But I still want this, even though... even though I might be laying my life on the line!”“You'd have to drop the preaching,” you continue, “I don't care what you do in your own time, but I can't have your morals getting in the way of my business, or annoying the rest of the crew. They're not all going to like what you have to say.”“I'm sorry for them,” Blessings insists, “But I won't force the issue. The church teaches us that salvation cannot be forced, it can only be found through willing-”“Okay, great,” you interrupt, “So what you're saying is, after all this... you STILL want to do this?”“Yes,” he decides firmly, nodding with enough force that he sways in place.Sighing heavily, you run a hand through your hair and slump your shoulders. He's really not going to give up easily, this one. Maybe he's got a bit of steel in him after all. “Even if you are paying, I won't go easy on you,” you warn him, “I'll be expecting you to pull your weight along with everyone else. If you don't have any special skills, I'll have you scrubbing the floors or making tea. I'll want you to keep your eyes open, as well, to learn everything you can about working on an airship.”As his eyes light up, you add one last condition. “And first,” you stress, “I'll telling your mother about this.”His smile wilts somewhat.[1/2]
>>2119773Penelope listens with a stony face as you explain the situation to her, while Blessings stands nearby and fidgets like a schoolboy enduring a scolding. You had been laying things on a little thick when you had been trying to scare Blessings off, and you do the same thing now, but your grave threats don't seem to change the stern woman's expression in the slightest. She listens, thinks, and then sighs.“Blessings, you're a grown man now. I can't stop you from doing this,” Penelope decides at last, “But I will ask one thing – I want you to write home, and often. I'll want to hear plenty of good news from you, do you understand me?”“Yes mother,” the young man murmurs, his head bowed, “I understand.” He manages to look solemn for a moment more before looking up and giving you a sickly smile. “Do you want to see her?” he asks you, “She's in the hanger, I can show you the way!”He starts to jog off, but Penelope grabs your arm before you can follow him. She gives you a hard look for a long moment. “Toughen him up a little, if you really must,” she hisses, “But don't get him killed.”With your lips pressed together in a thin line, you nod firmly.Funds: +5-The hanger is dark, and even the gas lantern you find hanging by the door doesn't do much to force back the darkness. In this gloom, the Spirit of Helena looms like the beached corpse of some vast ocean creature. The details might be lost on you, but you can sense an air of... abandonment. She feels as though she's lain untouched for a very long time indeed. That impression only gets stronger as you circle around to find a lowered cargo ramp at the rear, smelling old dust drifting slowly out from within.Blessings already waits inside, and an absurd scenario flashes through your mind – the plump boy hiding in the darkness, waiting to crush your skull with a heavy tool. Snorting a little at your foolishness, you enter the silent ship and take a look around. Most of the cargo bay is occupied by a skiff, lurking within like a stowaway. Approaching it, you wipe away a layer of dust and find a name painted on the hull. “The Eliza,” you read, “Huh...”“Eliza?” Blessings repeats, his voice drifting out from further inside, “I know that name. Um... oh! She would have been my third aunt, but she died young. Right after she was born, may the Light lift her up.” He murmurs that last part like a prayer, the distance turning his voice into a ghostly thing. “Miriam, Penelope and Eliza, all sisters... and Helena was their mother, my grandmother.”“Huh,” you mutter again, “I always wondered about that...”Wiping dust off your hands, you advance further in.[2/3]
>>2119822By the time you reach the bridge of the ship, you feel a heavy weight of dismay settle over your heart. The Spirit of Helena feels as though she's been gutted, stripped for spare parts and left to decay. It pains you to see her like this, and you feel a twinge of anger towards Miriam – it was an insult, to leave her ship in a state like this. Blessings doesn't look much happier, although his expression is tinged with confusion.“Why would Aunt Miriam let her ship get like this?” he asks as you slump down into the captain's seat, “Can she... can she even fly?”“I don't know,” you admit, “You back and find Tobias or Irene – get both of them, if you can, those two are damn near inseparable. Have them check the engines over, get their opinion on things.” When Blessings doesn't react straight away, you clear your throat mildly. “That was an order,” you remind him, causing the boy to yelp in fear and scurry away. Sighing deeply, you flop back in the chair and stare up at the dusty ceiling.As you listen to Blessings' footsteps rattle away to nothing, you feel frustration bubbling up within you. Grimacing, you bring your fist down hard on the armrest... and hear a hollow thunk. A secret compartment, a bit outdated not all that uncommon for airships. Prying open the secret compartment, you find a slim diary tucked away. Drawing it out, you open to the first page and begin to read.I've found it, the first line reads, The big one. The score that will make everything I've done look like a pittance by comparison!With your eyes wide and fascinated, you read on.-“Sir? Captain?” Blessings calls out, snapping you back to reality. He bursts onto the gloomy bridge just as you're hastily tucking the diary into your coat pocket. “Irene had a look at the engines, she said...” he pauses, “Sir?”“Go on,” you press, “What did she find?”“Um...” losing his train of thought for a moment, Blessings hesitates, “Oh! She said that the Spirit of Helena will fly, but she can't go long distance. I think she said it was the... potential coils? It can be fixed, but we can't go much further than, um, Monotia. Maybe Salim, if we push her...”It seems that Nadir isn't finished with you quite yet. Even so, even feeling yourself being dragged back down into the mud, you can't shake the excitement that dances within your heart. Miriam's words still echo within your mind.The big one.>I'm going to close things here for today. I'll continue this next Friday, and if anyone has any questions I will answer them as best I can>Thanks to everyone who contributed today!
>>2119888Thanks for running, Moloch!When do we find out that Miriam isn't actually dead and she planned all this to throw us into more trouble?
>>2119888Thanks for running.>>2119907She probably isn't dead but I doubt she intended for us to get involved. We weren't on the will after all. Hell she probably expected to get that big score and have it back by now.
>>2119888Thanks for running! Looks like things are getting exciting.
>>2119888Thanks for running, Moloch!Does Milos have a healing factor, or do you already have a body part to rip from our unlucky protagonist picked out?
>>2119888thanks for running!
>>2119907>>2119912Sometimes, just sometimes, people really do die and stay dead!>>2119916Well. I'm going to try very hard to keep the mutilations on the down low since there's really not much that can regrow a lost limb in this setting. I've been doing some pretty serious thinking about how to handle failures in combat better, so things should work out okay
>>2119966>Sometimes, just sometimes, people really do die and stay dead!Suuure~
>>2119888Thanks for running!
>>2119966So what you're telling me is that she's turned into an airship.
>>2114143Hey anon you were right. Lize is on the Helena.
>>2120889...Well that’s awful. Sooo, who’s Henryk in this case?
>>2120987Probably some dreadnought called The Wolf or something.
COLD FIRE IS PEOPLE
Engines stop working as you climb mountain of faith?I bet the "field" that powers the engines is steadily decreasing, until only nadir is left. And after that, nothing, all islands fall to... something? Is there even something below nadir?
Out of curiosity, what did you use to make the map?
>>2121869>Is there even something below nadir?Nope. The islands in Nadir are actually regular islands, surrounded by a proper ocean and everything.>>2123698I used Hexographer to make a fairly basic map, just the outlines and such, before tracing over it in GIMP for a more "hand drawn" feel.
>>2123765And is that the entirety of the world? Or just Not-Europe? Are there other continents further around the globe?
>>2124010Other than a few small and largely insignificant islands located further out, whatever there is of the rest of the world is unexplored. As with extreme altitudes, airship engines start to fail after traveling too far out from known territory. A conventionally powered ship might be able to explore further, but neither of the major powers have put in the effort to test that theory.There are a few "in universe" theories as to why things work this way, which I intend on mentioning IC next time.
>>2124187I am definitely interested in exploring out there and trying to find some new lands.
>>2124219That does give me a few ideas, actually, so I'll have to see how things develop. Boldly traveling to uncharted lands is just the thing for an adventurer!
What if there was a whole other set of continents and civilization past the clouds above the Zenith? What if the reason Cold Fire engines stop working past a certain is because these hypothetical civilizations are so advanced and isolationist that they have a barrier to keep us low dwellers from ever reaching them?What if the world as we know it is just a Truman show style box where the rest of the world at large is just watching us for entertainment?
>>2124281thats nice citizen, now take your meal pill and have some soylent greens.
>>2124187How the fuck do people not run out of resources? I see maximum industrialism and logistics but nothing like errant floating rocks of minerals or such to compensate.
>>2124281Whatever exotic matter(magic!!) available in the atmosphere that allows airships to fly is just a toxic waste product of the unknown higher civilizations. As it falls down into the thicker atmosphere it bonds tighter together and all the way down at the world's surface the concentration is so high it causes birth defects. Conversely, the higher you go the less you find until your engines sputter and die, Cold Fire losing its ability to combust and the particles are no longer in a high enough concentration to provide lift.
>>2125584I am going to take a guess that it is either due to alot of meteors that fall or the goddess helps?
>>2125777It's just Zeus spurting his jism all over the place, isn't it?