Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book of Moons - Chapter 2

Chapter 2: Wooden Beams and Human Dreams
“...Wooden beams and human dreams are all that makes her go
And the magic of the wind upon her sails
She'd rather fight the weather than the fishes down below
God help us if the rigging ever fails
As the timber creaks, the captain speaks above the vessel's groan
'Til every soul on board can hear the call
It's nothing but the singing of the ship inside her bones
And this is when she like it best of all...”
        - Old sea shanty from the land of Quetzal

Greetings, heroes of the Realms,

Project Bookwalker is now fully operational. Agents manning the Oracular Engine have found the endpoint of the Bedlam incursion that reaches across Oblivion - a plane named Quetzal. Chances of a Bedlam seed being present are estimated at over ninety percent. If we do not act, we are looking at another loss like World Horizon. The Quetzal infection is younger, however, and we stand a real chance of saving that plane from annihilation.

Things may not be quite so simple, however.

All three metaphysical waveform analyzers I have sent through the Book of Moons have returned no data. This suggests, and agent reports confirm, that we are looking at visiting a world where the physical laws are very different from our own.

We have only been able to lock the Oracular Engine's causality interpretation matrix onto one point in Quetzal, a city named Ropa del Tajo on the coast of the nation of Esperanza. This city is at least a thousand leagues from the site of the expected incursion, and an ocean lies in between.

You will need to sail across the ocean and try to find evidence of the Bedlam incursion. I will provide you with a Causal Absolute, a sort of homing beacon for the Oracular Engine to lock onto for future expeditions to Quetzal. I will have a few tools, as well as some last-minute training to give you in my lab before you cross through the Book of Moons.

I have enclosed several documents detailing the differences between our world and Quetzal. You will want to familiarize yourself with these before I bring you to my lab.

Light shine upon us,
Samuel Cowperthwaite

        The Wellman knew there were those who would answer his call again.  Some were bound by duty while others were lured by the prospect of adventure and excitement.  No matter what the reason, there was a job to be done...and they would always answer.

       The heavyset man had traded in his signature hat for a red bandana, a more fitting accessory for what might lie ahead.  He had gathered those who had answered his letter in a small section of his laboratory far away from anything breakable or irreplaceable.  

         A far flung Bedlam seed had been detected in a plane of existence on the far side of Oblivion in a plane called Quetzal. The now fully-operational Book of Moons could transport them to the plane, but not to the exact location of the seed.  All devices sent to gain any information had failed. It appeared this world was far less advanced than their own.  Samuel explained that it shouldn’t be a problem.  The heroes needed only to catch a ship, gather some supplies, and sail across a vast ocean closer to where the seed was.  Once a beacon could be placed there, the Book of Moons could send them back to it and make the journey far easier.  He also told them they would inhabit the bodies of other denizens while still being themselves.  Many were confused by this simple and yet very complex statement, but Samuel brushed it off saying the “casual absolute” would take care of the paradox.  A little daunted, the adventurers planned the roles they would assume and prepared to step through the Book of Moons to their destination in Quetzal.

           Zula Darkwillow was chosen to be the captain of the ship New Horizon, with Laurante D’Rhian as his first mate and the ever skilled pirate Kahlenar Swingline at the helm.  The pie-maker-turned-wizard Atticus, along with Caleal of Ashemark, would see to the cooking. Khol of Mythguard would act as the quartermaster handing out rations.
The city of Ropa del Tajo was a bustling sea port with merchants hawking their wares to every passerby that walked the pier and charmed those foolish enough to haggle over the price of fishing poles or take lessons of how to turn fish into medicines.  With the eyes of a seasoned haggler, Khol, along with Captain Zula paid for plenty of rations and supplies to keep the food dry should the weather turn most foul.

           The time came to leave the city as Kahlenar walked those manning the rigging through their job. The two eager cartographers made some quick calculations about the upcoming weather.  Once the walkthrough was complete, Captain Zula gave the command to set sail.  The people of Ropa del Tajo waved as the New Horizon set a course for the land across the great ocean.

Starting off the first day of their voyage on the right foot, Gryfinn Darkwillow headed to the bow of the ship and lamented to the roaring ocean.  “Day One...still not captain....”

           The roar of the ocean was not a thing to be casually ignored. When Kahlenar called out his commands for the rigging those manning the ropes faltered, or had to be reminded that “he’s tell you to put the sail up.”  Confusion over “port” and “starboard” became a huge concern until someone asked Orion Mars, the last of the Star People, to stand on the right side of the ship.  Confusion was averted at last!  Conversation on the ship was hard to hear but that didn’t stop others from laughing and making the most of the grand adventure.  
Gryfinn continued his ritual at the bow of the New Horizon every day, as reliable as the rising of the sun.

           In the first few days of the voyage, pirates attacked the ship.  The crew
, eager for something to do, threw themselves at the task of fighting the pirates.  As one brave pirate swung from his ship to the New Horizon, he was mauled by the battle-hungry adventurers of the Chimeron Militia and the Oaken Guard.  What was left of him was akin to a fine red mist.  Demoralized at the lost of their companion and the ferocity of the young sailors, the pirates bid a hasty retreat.  A resounding “Huzzah!” echoed across the sea from those brave fellows of the New Horizon at the moment of their victory.

The crew of the ship rejoiced, but it was not to be a smooth journey.  The leak struck the bow of the ship and sprayed water at the crew at an alarming rate.  Faelinn and Temorse Sorowind scrambled to plug the hole as Caleal offered some poignant comments of how the condition of the two’s clothes were progressing.  Needless to say, Temorse and Faelinn were the first to be completely soaked, head to toe, aboard the ship.  

Days passed in quiet as the crew fished and Gryfinn continued his daily log at the front of the ship.  Suddenly, Vulpenard and Giselle of the Oaken Guard fell ill.  No one could find the cause, but as Faelinn tried to investigate she too fell sick.  They were quarantined to the back of the ship where the trio sat in a form of “time out” until they could be cured.  Lacking the healing properties of potions made from squid, Temorse tried to brew a concoction that might help them.  Faelinn eyed the brew then drank a majority of it (in case it proved lethal), then shared it with Vulpenard and Giselle.  Temorse didn’t brew a cure, but instead created a very strong aphrodisiac potion.  Vulpenard proved no match for Giselle’s feminine wiles, and Faelinn lamented that she was stuck in small quarters with the two of them constantly kissing. So, the wood elf resorted to flirting with any of the crew that would come by the quarantine, trying to get them to let her out.  An awkward time was had by all until the potion wore off.

Without warning, an intense storm broke over the ships.  Kahlenar bellowed orders to the crew trying to save the sails while Khol made sure the supplies were wrapped tightly in oilcloth.  Wind and rain battered the crew as the ocean churned.  Buckets of rain washed over the New Horizon and the fierce lurching of the ship threatened to lose people over board.  Suddenly, the water whipped angrily  as something beneath the waves flailed against the bottom of the ship. Tentacles of some giant monster: a kraken!  The limbs of the great sea beast pummeled the ship and the huge monster reared its ugly head.

Blind from the driving rain and raging of the sea, the crew of the New Horizon battled the enraged beast.  The militant mariners of the crew faced the brunt of the onslaught as the sawbones worked quickly to patch their wounds.  The Ashemark healers moved like men possessed, trying to keep up with the injuries.  Swords furiously struck at the beast until it lay dead and sank back below the waves from where it came.  The storm cleared and the damage to the ship was assessed.  Miraculously, all of the food was saved along with the precious supply of ale and grog.  

As Gryfinn performed his daily ritual at the bow of the ship, someone shouted that they had spotted an island.  The New Horizon docked to the island and the crew was immediately greeted by a friendly crew of natives.  An away team was assembled but more of the crew left the ship than originally planned.  The friendly natives gave flower leis to the crew and gifted them with local fruit and a pineapple; a symbol of welcome and hospitality.  The crew gleefully ate the fruit and chatted with the locals and regaled them of the epic tale of their battle with the kraken.

First Mate Laurante, on order from Captain Zula, scrambled to get the crew back aboard the ship.  Something was wrong, but no one would speak about it, other than to yell for others to get back to the boat.  Leis were flung aside as the crew piled back on the New Horizon.  As one of the natives blocked the path, preventing stragglers from getting aboard, he was cut down and the last people were ushered back to safety.

Captain Zula gave the order to set sail and Kahlenar set a course as fast as the rigging could be manned.   He shook his fist and decried the adventurers as murderers and thieves and called down a curse upon them as they sailed away.  Not a thought was given back to the islanders or their curse, though those that ate some of the offered fruit were cured of any sickness they were suffering from.  Perhaps that island was really Paradise and the conflict was a great misunderstanding.  All the adventurers knew was that the brief time they spent on the island was in reality days and not minutes.

Time passed as the cartographers plotted a course and Kahlenar called out orders from the helm.  Things were slow.  It was a calm before the storm.  One of the cartographers raced to Kahlenar with a new course.  After minor adjustments were made, something small appeared in front of the ship.  I huge whirlpool loomed on the horizon!  All hands scrambled to their posts.  Kahlenar barked orders and Captain Zula called for the crew to remain diligent.  It was a harrowing time as those not manning the rigging waited helplessly as the ship moved closer and closer to the whirlpool.  Thanks to the expert directions of the helmsman, the New Horizon sailed safely around the whirlpool.  Disaster was averted again.

The small victory was not to last for very long.  Without warning, the rigging on one of the masts gave way and crashed to the floor of the deck.  Luckily no one was beneath it when it fell, but without the main rigging, the secondary rigging could not effectively steer the ship.  The New Horizon was dead in the water.  Not willing to give up, many of the crew set to trying to restring the rigging and secure it to the mast.  Meanwhile at the back of the boat, Faelinn and Temorse came up with an idea to make a rudder to create some stability to the disabled ship and help with steering.    A makeshift rudder was constructed out of spare rope, bandages, and shipping crates.  Just as the rudder was finished, there was a cheer at the bow of the ship as the rigging was rehung.  With that crisis taken care of, Captain Zula called for the crew to man the deck and continue sailing on.

The days passed with chance encounters with many types of sea creatures.  From sharks to flying fish, there was plenty to see and plenty to dodge should someone lean too close to the side of the ship.  Gryfinn continued his ritual at the bow of the ship.  How many more days would this journey last?

An island was spotted!  Being more cautious after the last island stop, Captain Zula approached the natives.  Flanked by Avendar and Amergin, no unruly native was going to get the drop on the captain.  The natives came forth offering praise and peace.  Bedlam had been defeated on this plane.  These people were Aurorans from this world and they had come to relay the message that the job was done and everyone could go home.  The Captain listen to their words and he immediately followed them onto the island.  Amergin and Avendar followed swiftly after him as they hung on every word the native man spoke.  One of the younger natives, in her flowing toga approached Faelinn and whispered something to her.  The wood elf seemed torn and after a moment’s hesitation, dashed off the ship towards the young native.  Khol bolted after Faelinn and grabbed her trying to keep her away from the natives.    As Faelinn growled at Khol, he noticed that Faelinn wasn’t standing on an island, she was sinking into the ocean.  There were no land... only the endlessly deep water that he too was being sucked into.  Unwilling to let go of the elf, Khol too sunk with her into the dark waters.

With the Captain gone, First Mate Laurante took over for the crew of the New Horizon.  They had lost six of the crew, for Yipp had wandered onto the “island” when no one was looking.  Six people were lost to the lure of what they now knew to be the call of a Siren.  Some wanted to go back and try to find the lost crew., but no.  The mission needed to continue with or without the lost ones.

One on of the serene natives appeared at the side of the ship.  Clad in a white toga, he spoke softly of what had become of the missing crew.  He directed their attention to a window into the spirit world, where the lost ones were being held.  The crew could not hear them, but they could see they trying to get their attention.  The crew was to be given one chance to reach out to the spirit world by naming one of the lost by a distinguishing trait they possess.

One needed the answer of their greatest fear.
One needed the answer of their greatest love.
One needed the answer of their greatest friend.
One needed the answer of their greatest challenge.
One needed the answer of their greatest loss.
One need the answer of their greatest enemy.

The crew below madly tried to decipher the waving and gesturing of the spirits as they tried to help answer what was asked.  An answer was given to each question and the serene native gave them back all they called correctly called for.

    They rightly answered Khol’s greatest love.
    They rightly answered Zula’s greatest friend.
    They rightly answered Yipp’s greatest challenge.
    They rightly answered Amergin’s greatest loss.
    They rightly answered Avendar’s greatest enemy.
One by one those five were returned to the New Horizon.  As the ship was propelled by the wind onward, they noticed Faelinn following the spirit of the native onward to the unknown.  They had not correctly named her greatest fear.  Though they tried to find a way to get Faelinn back, they had none of their usual resources.  They could do nothing but sail on.

Laurante relinquished command of the ship back to Captain Zula as the ship moved closer and closer to its destination.  The crew had no time to worry about what happened in the past, but concentrated instead on the future.  As the days passed, land was sighted.  Not an island but true land!  Kahlenar called orders to the crewmen on the rigging and their mood lifted.  Suddenly, the water in front of the ship churned and bubbled.  Rising out of the water was a sea dragon, a sea dragon made up of Bedlam. The crew shouted and called for weapons as the dragon rose fully out of the water.  It circled the boat once...twice...and slipped back below the surface of the sea.  Hearts racing, the crew waited for it to make another appearance.  As the ship approached landfall, the dragon was nowhere to be seen.  After days at sea and many trials and tribulations, the crew of the New Horizon reached their goal.  Now a foothold could be gain in Quetzal and the Bedlam seed could be tracked.

Back in the secure Wellmen laboratory, the adventurers passed through the Book of Moons to meet a very worried Samuel Cowperthwaite.  He was able to pull Faelinn out of Quetzal before she could be destroyed but no one was allowed to see her.  After threats by those close to her, some veiled and some not, he assured them she would be fine in a few days.  They just needed to trust him.

Samuel handed Zula a book, one spawned from the great Book of Moons, to record their journey.  Here their adventures through the book would be recorded.  No one knew what it would mean in the long run.  What they did know is that a colony was successfully established across the great ocean of Quetzal  and that they would need to go there to track the seed in the future.  They didn’t know when they would need to go back, but they knew they would be ready when the call for action came.

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