Airships Over Aranor Chapter One: Of Dragons and Pireights
A young man stands in the center of an airship bridge: Wooden planks beneath his feet, vast windows with sky and cloud outside of them, the crew all in their positions around the room. I should probably clarify that when I say "young man" I mean it literally, not as in "teenager", but as in "mid twenties". This particular young man is a human, with bright red eyes and equally bright red hair. Obviously a human from earth could not naturally possess such traits, but these are perfectly normal, healthy genetic possibilities for a human from the planet this airship is currently flying over: Aranor.
Aranor is a little smaller in diameter and surface area than Earth, and no less covered by a majority of ocean. Its two major continents are almost as far away as possible. Oh, and it's a place full of magic, as might be seen by the fire burning around the hands of the young man in question that isn't even effecting him enough to make him sweat. He notices this and quickly shakes his hands to put them out.
Anyway, I was describing that man, and hadn't even gotten below his neck yet. He is wearing a dark long coat with buttons all the way down it, long sleeves with two tassel-decorated shoulder pads at their tops, and matching pants. In short, he is wearing something of a captain's garb. He is wearing it because he is a captain. He is also now standing straight with his arms crossed gently behind his back because he is a captain. He is being completely calm in light of the present, very serious crisis he and his crew face, because that's what a captain does.
Just to prove how composed he is in the face of danger, this captain will allow some time for you to guess his name. You might as well guess the name of his airship while you're at it.
(Stuff after this line was edited in after the fact.)
Quick Note: This interactive story takes place on a fairly traditional fantasy world of my own design, with a few unique races, concepts, etc. There are a lot of established things like the various races and what magical powers they have and what countries exist that I will be revealing as we go along. Suffice to say, this is based on an unpublished canon from my head and has nothing to do with any of AH's works, so if anything confuses you feel free to ask for clarification. That is all.
LATER EDIT: The world and original characters have nothing to do with any of AH's works, but some characters have been exported with my own unique twists from them. This remains a completely non-Hussnasty adventure, however, so never fear if you don't like those. Also, Charlotte is the original property of Crumplepunch and the Undercity, used here with permission.
I have fanart?!
Official Canon Conall (my nickname) by Crumplepunch:
Möbius Fandom (Conall and Charlotte) by Crumplepunch:
Conall M. Reynolds is indeed his name, and his to charge is the good ship Farran. It is a small ship, built by the efforts of its original crew, and it takes the kind of sensitive, expensive, private, and often dangerous charters that a larger, company-owned ship would not be suitable for. But at the moment the ship is not carrying anything or anyone important; the threat is for an entirely unique reason all its own. It seems you are good at guessing, and not a moment too soon. One of his crew members needs to relay some important information, after all.
"Conall, I fear that the Farran's maneuverability is far outstripped by our pursuer, much less her breath. Furthermore, if something important catches I shall have to leave this post to someone less able than I in order to prevent it from spreading." He manages to spit all of this out in hardly any time at all, and without looking away from the complicated apparatus of levers and switches and wheels that he is sitting in front of. The interlocutor looks short because he is sitting down, but don't be fooled--he actually is kind of short. The helmsman (or pilot, if you would prefer) is not a human like Conall, but a Blue Tail Neshobe.
I'm going to pause a moment to explain what those three words mean. First of all, "Neshobe" is the Neshoban word for "wolf", and at one time a very, very long time ago they were large, humanoid, sentient wolves. In the present they more resemble humans of a more canine skeletal structure with the tail and ears of a wolf; and are capable of shifting to a human-wolf hybrid form that is informally referred to as a "werewolf" form. The Neshoba are unique among Aranor's kinds in that their kind counts within itself six further hereditary separations, each of which has its own unique traits and magic. Neshoba in general use magic in the form of discrete spells, each of which does a particular thing and nothing else; often this is more dynamic, powerful or complex than another race's magic would be able to directly do. The six divisions are most easily distinguished by a color and an element; the Blue Tail usually have a blue fur and eye coloration, and always have spells of the water element. I won't go into too much detail until it is important, but suffice to say that of the six kinds of Neshoba, Blue Tail are the ones that look and act the most "human" and least "animal"; they also have a reputation for the best education systems, least violent conflicts among themselves, and being smart in general.
This particular Blue Tail has slightly darker spots against lighter blue fur; the hair on his head is short and of the former color, his eyes are of the latter. He doesn't look much older than Conall, but that is deceptive: Neshoba are among the elves and a few other races of Aranor which do not have a particular life expectancy based upon age. They are known as the "immortal races": While they are just as easy to kill as anyone else, they live a very long time when not killed, and after reaching adulthood their bodies rarely show signs of further aging. But all these detailed descriptions are really belying the momentum of the crisis at hand; who do I think I am, Tolkien?
The matter at hand is fairly simple. The Farran is being chased by a dragon. A fire-breathing dragon is chasing an airship whose frame is mostly wood. And as far as anyone can tell, it is angry. However, Conall has a reliable source to discover the source of that anger. He turns to what looks like a big black panther curled up in one corner of the bridge, head turned up to watch everyone else. "Do you have anything?"
The cat, in fact a Fylenis, turns its head up toward the captain, and a masculine voice enters his head directly, without passing through the air as sound. Lots. What do you want to know?
"The obvious. Who it is, what he wants with us, why."
Her name is Arizan. She wants to kill us because she thinks we've been hired to kill her.
"We are couriers, not assassins! Why would anyone even think that?"
It seems that Choneiji Raoclem told her something ambiguous. An audible groan can be heard from almost everyone in the room, except the large cat and the pilot. "Choneiji" is a title, not a name, and translates very roughly to "prophet". There are only seven in the world, and there have never been more than seven. Raoclem has a reputation for using his knowledge to cause trouble for everyone he meets, and then laughing at the results. The exact wording could just as easily make us responsible for saving her, or involve a complete accident.
Conall can choose one of two routes here. The giant cat in the room, Fylenis as their kind is called, is capable of telepathy and able to negotiate with the dragon outside. If he can talk her down, the problem will be solved. However, if her first reaction to the possibility of someone's involvement in her death is to try to burn their ship down, she might not actually be all that reasonable. Other than that, there is a woman with wings on the bridge who would be able to fly out and fight the dragon. Killing is unlikely--dragons are much larger than other people--but you might be able to deter or delay or injure her enough to escape. Doing both at the same time is impossible; and doing either one first will make the other less effective. The Fylenis can create an illusory ship and mask the fighter's presence, but if Arizan is tipped off to a Fylenis' presence on the ship (a very rare advantage for any airship crew) she can simply make a gigantic cone of fire instead of trying to be precise. And trying to talk to someone who you just got through fighting is far from likely to succeed.
(Of course, we could just completely ignore this crisis by being someone else entirely. Aranor probably has thousands of other interesting people on it at the moment. The result would of course be a woefully sporadic narrative, but it wouldn't be on me.)
I have to be honest, my plan is to have suggestions name all of this airship's crew. But I think that a series of updates or a single update that just dumps everyone out and asks for names for them without anything else happening is really boring. Too much narration without names is also kind of awkward.
So, how about we start looking for names for people as they are properly revealed? In this case, for example, you could suggest in addition to the decision given the name of the pilot/helmsman and the Fylenis.
Really hope information dumps aren't too boring, I'm gonna need more to establish important things.
"Well, try to talk her out of it. Don't let on you've been reading her mind if you can manage." Conall turns to the aforementioned woman with wings. "Get your axe and head to the exit, just in case. Don't leave without orders."
"Yep." She does exactly that without another word.
If the Fylenis are not the generally least populous sentient race on all of Aranor, they are a very close second. They all have the exact same magical power, power over the minds of others, and of the other races the Ekim are the only ones generally resistant against this ability. This power amounts to the ability to read and edit another's mind, including memory, knowledge, and sensory input, as they see fit, and in a vacuum it would be limited only by one's own skill. On Aranor they are limited by something far more restrictive: The Fylenis, including part-Fylens who have enough of a Fylenis' power to be dangerous, are all considered subjects of the same kingdom, and the kingdom is ruled by an absolute despot. The being known only as the Cat King employs a very simple, very arbitrary eye-for-an-eye rule on assaults of others' minds. He considers certain actions, such as reading surface thoughts and telepathic communication, necessary to survival if not outright involuntary, and holds none responsible for this. Furthermore, certain things such as casting of illusions by false sensory input and even causing some fake physical pain are considered acceptable as acts of self-defense. The most important law is not to break another person's mind. To have one's mind broken is the most agonizingly horrific pain one can imagine; it usually results in death, but it is even worse to live through it. Any Fylenis found to have done so will be subjected to this exact same pain, but in a manner which does not kill them. More minor offenses also carry the punishment of having the offensive act committed upon the offender. And, because the Cat King is the most ancient (among two or three other legendary figures who have supposedly been around for thousands of millenia) and powerful of all of the Fylenis, he is perfectly capable of discovering by another Fylenis' memory whether they have commited any crimes--even if they try to stop him or fool him with their own powers. Each individual Fylenis is also responsible for upholding the same laws toward those less powerful than he or she, and failing to punish another for a crime one knows about entitles one to the exact same punishment; the only bit of leeway is that ignorance of another's crime is an excuse for not punishing it. Fylenis do not usually go around probing one anothers' minds for offenses, after all. (Ignorance of the laws is also not an excuse for breaking any of them.) This despotic and arbitrary law system is generally respected by all other races, for the simple reason that it protects them from the fear of some Fylenis being able to tear their mind apart at any time; anyway, the Cat King is reputed to be one of the most just and incorruptible rulers of all time.
But I'm getting off track. The real reason for my beginning to describe the Fylenis as a race and society is to say that they are a very rare and mysteroius people, they do not meet with one another often and they reproduce far less often than they meet. Therefore, the birth of a newborn Fylenis is an occurence sufficiently uncommon that a given couple of the race would never waste the opportunity to create and use a beautiful new word for their new son's or daughter's name. It is therefore unlikely that any Fylenis would ever have a name that is simply a word or phrase of any Aranoran language, or any name commonly used by one of the other races. Ultimately, my point is that a Fylenis' name could not possibly Whiskers.
The name of the particular Fylenis on The Farran at the present time being described is, in fact, Whyskars, often shortened to Whys.
What? Don't look at me like that. Aranoran Common language (also known as the human language) is not English, it's just being translated extremely well for the sake of this narrative. There is therefore absolutely no pun to be had in a name like "Whyskars". None whatsoever.
Anyway, Whys contacts the dragon, and the conversation goes like this: Excuse me. A Fylenis?! Where are you? I'm on the ship you're trying to torch. Why are you doing that, by the way? They were being sent to Draconis to kill me, that's why! This is a courier ship. We don't do illegal jobs, and killing people is illegal in most countries. Do you have any evidence? Yes! The prophet made it very clear this ship would be involved in my death. I will burn it down to save myself! She spits a bolt of fire at one side of the ship as if to prove this point. Easy, easy, easy! Nobody wants to drown on here, and nobody wants to kill you. Look, you came from Draconis to get here, and there's only one prophet there. I know that because we took him across. Raoclem loves keeping out really important details of the truth, and I can't even begin tell you how much trouble he cost us with that habit. What exactly did he tell you?
While she answers, Whys hears helmsman Edward Leonard asking whether something is on fire and requires extinguishment. Through the benefit of seeing through her eyes, he can see that nothing is on fire. He answers quickly to everyone on the bridge that the damage will need to be repaired later, but it is not on fire. A skillful Fylenis like Whys can keep up with five or six separate conversations at the same time, so two is a piece of cake. (Fylenis are carnivores and don't eat cake, so I guess it's really more like a piece of raw cow flesh? Whatever.)
Her answer takes the shape of the memory of Raoclem's voice reciting the prophetic poem in question: Today a vessel leaves port on the other side of the world;
Far it has run and far it shall, for running is its nature and its name.
Your life or death, dragon of fire, hold its crew in their hands,
Though ignorant of the task set before them, they would do it all the same. Okay. So you worked out that he meant the Farran, but completely ignored the 'life' part? Threatening me with death is much more important! Did it cross your mind that he might have meant meant our 'task' was saving you from some other threat? I'm a dragon. Yeah, and I'm a giant meat-eating cat that can screw with memories and make convincing illusions. Either of us could still be killed by someone stubborn enough. Or, you know, a giant monster. ....I hadn't thought of that. So could you please leave us alone? No. If you're supposed to save my life from something then I should obviously stay with you until it happens. So you're planning to follow us the other halfway across the ocean back to Draconis, then? No, I am going to board your ship to speak with your captain.
The Fylenis turns his attention back to Conall. I talked her down, and now she wants on board the ship. He relays the whole memory of the conversation to Conall's mind for reference.
"Well, that's better than trying to kill us. Is our flyer at the doors yet?" Yep.
"Ask her to open the doors and not attack." He is assuming that Arizan has the common sense to shift to a smaller form before attempting to enter an airship (Aranoran dragons can take on two or three smaller forms, usually including a humanoid one, in addition to their natural 'giant dragon' form). And, fortunately for everyone, she does. Changing form in mid-flight is a feat of some coordination, but as the winged woman observes, Arizan is well-practiced in doing so. She takes on the shape of a large humanoid with separate wings and arms, still entirely covered in red scales. She looks like some kind of winged Ekim, but bigger.
"Are you the captain?" demands the dragon. She still looks pretty mad, by all accounts.
The winged woman (whose wings are feathered and off-white in color) is engaged in closing the doors so nobody risks falling out if they come too close to the back end of the ship. "Nope. Look up front." She points a thumb vaguely backwards and doesn't elaborate. She almost never elaborates. But the dragon gets it, and starts walking toward the bridge.
Arizan is angry for entirely different reasons now. She is angry that she was able to be fooled by such a stupid trick of ambiguity. She is still suspicious of Whys' interpretation of said ambiguity. She is angry at whoever or whatever intends to hurt her. She is slightly angry, perhaps unconsciously, at the egalitarian stance the Fylenis took and the general egalitarian attitude toward race. There was a time when dragons were the most respected and feared creatures on all of Aranor, and more recently when they were the most respected and feared creatures on Draconis. Many of them are still raised with the general assumption of superiority, and Arizan is no exception.
However, the prophecy that this ship's crew might be responsible for her death advises caution at least, and perhaps putting up with the attitude of equality. This places her in an awkward position: Ordinarily she would simply command them to protect her and expect them to do so to such a degree of confidence and stubbornness that it is absolutely impossible to refuse the request. That might make them angry enough to kill her or ignore her, especially since she already damaged their ship. Or she could offer some kind of reward, but she doesn't have any currency on her because dragons usually don't do that sort of thing. Aranoran dragons are not even known for hoarding treasure in the first place, and carrying any of it with them does not make sense in their heads. The question boils down to what exactly Arizan could offer as payment in return for protection from whatever threat is on its way.
I have to admit, I was a little stumped as to where to stop and what to make the choice here. So feel free to suggest other random stuff if you come up with it. And the winged woman has been properly introduced, so can be named now.
I have a serious question about this story. While musing on it, some ideas popped into my brain about how certain Homestuck trolls could have expys in this universe--that is, characters with the same basic nature as those but in an entirely different culture and society. If I used them, they would probably be handled as minor characters that show up and do something and then leave. I'm wondering whether whoever's reading this thinks it would be a good idea or would just drag things down. This story is meant to be just an adventurous romp, nothing too profound to it, so I'm not against doing it. I'm just hesitant about it.
>Offer a favor (anything, like a redeemable boon) in exchange for living on the ship as a passenger until the threat seems to be dealt with.
What's the going rate of dragon-boons these days? Probably a lot.
>Flyer: Be Annie Matte
lol @ troll prophet having yellow text. Suddenly idea: troll prophet is Troll prophet.
As for expy's, it depends on who you'd want to bring in. If you mean characters from your other adventures, I don't think any single character has been developed enough for his/her introduction into another story to cause much of a splash, but maybe later on? As for other characters entirely being brought in, like, say, Andrew Hussie, I'm fully in support of this.
Last edited by deificAnuran; 10-18-2011 at 10:12 PM.
(Not updating quite yet)
I meant specifically that my brain hatched, entirely without my conscious input, a way in which an expy of Vriska Serket could easily exist in this world and even be some kind of antagonist, and then of course the synapses wouldn't let go of the idea and tried to come up with ones for the other canon trolls.
It isn't long before Arizan arrives on the bridge, and has a look around. As may be expected, she is taller than anyone here. It isn't terribly spacious, but the giant windows keep it from feeling cramped. She singles out the human standing in the center of the room. "Are you the captain?"
"Yes." And once again, the leader-human stereotype pays off. There is a very long-standing supposition that humans are usually the best leaders. Something about the wisdom of urgency that supposedly comes with being the shortest-lived sentient beings, and the idea that a person who has less life to live is less likely to be a tyrant since they obviously won't be able to hold on to power forever. It doesn't really make much sense when you get right down to it, but so many people follow it without even thinking about it that, when looking for a leader in a group of varying races, it's generally best to single out the human first. As far as how well it actually works out, well, results are certainly mixed. Rithara's government has worked for millenia on essentially a single dynasty of human kings and queens, but that says more about the success of the dynamic constitutional monarchy system (created largely on the experience and wisdom of said country's namesake) than it does about the individual rulers.
Everyone stands there awkwardly for a few seconds or so. Finally, Arizan speaks. "...Very well. I want your protection until whatever danger the prophet referred to has passed. However, my permanent possessions are few if any. I would offer you some favor or service of similar value."
The captain looks thoughtful. His hands catch fire again (in the same magical manner as before), and he has to pull his right hand away from his face because his thoughtful look involves bringing that hand to his face. He shakes them out again, glad for once his little issue gave him something useful: An idea. "Well, for someone as strong as yourself, and able to fly, I would ordinarily ask you to help protect our vessel should it come under attack. Clearly that won't do, as it is far too plausible a way to fulfill the Choneiji's prediction." (Most people refer to the seven by title rather than occupation) "Perhaps, however, something could be arranged...do you know whether focusing your attention in one direction causes more magic to go that way?"
(This requires another little bit of explanation. Aranoran dragons are special, unique from all other races of the planet in one very important way: While the other peoples use magic, dragons are magic. By internal processes nobody quite understands, dragons radiate magic into the world around them constantly. If there were no dragons, and after enough time for the leftover magic to be used up, nobody would be able to use magic.)
"I have no idea."
The captain looks over his shoulder. "Edward?"
"The hypothesis was first proposed by Lisare, which lends it some credence. However, since there exists no reliable way to measure the magical intensity exuding from a single source, there is no definitive proof. History has proven that proximity is important, however."
He nods. "That's good enough." Then, speaking to the dragon again: "The Farran's engine was designed to use magical energy first, before consuming its other fuel sources. Merely being on the ship is quite helpful to its efficiency, but if you could remain near the engine room whenever possible it would be most appreciated." The truth is, he doesn't want to ask much more than that because it is generally a terrible idea to provoke a fire-breathing dragon on a ship largely built of wood.
"That is acceptable, if someone would show me the way there..." Whyskars appears to stand up and leave the room; she follows the illusory image out, and then the perhaps-real one reappears in the corner where he never moved from.
A few minutes later, the woman with giant eagle-like wings returns. "Might have trouble. Someone's behind us, getting closer."
Meanwhile, or actually about five or six minutes ago, a woman sits in a chair in the center of another airship's bridge. Her features are unusual, to say the least: Her eyes fully yellow, irises catlike, skin the sort of permanent tan that results from living entirely under the sun for decades on end, the ears and tail that typically mark a Neshobe, but with a bizarre sort of mixed shape to them. Her hair and fur is all of a murky brown coloration, except for a couple of lighter blotches on the tail. Unsheathed claws tap the armrest of the hard captain's chair impatiently.
This ship's helmsman is no less a Neshobe than Edward, but not pure Blue Tail. His mixed descent is evident in an unusual manner: His left ear, and the left half of his tail, is blue, while the right half of both is a bright red. His eyes, presently trained on the bank of levers and valves before him, are colored the same way, and his clothes too, though of darker tones likely intended to reduce the garishness of the outfit. It is him who speaks first, with a diastrous lisp, which is here reconstructed in English for your reading pleasure: "No, mithh Krithet, we are not there yet. We are not even halfway acrothh the thea. We have taken thouthanth of journeyth both wayth, and you thhoud know very well by now how long it taketh to get from one thide to another."
The woman in the chair, Verra Kriset, chuckles. "And I thought I was the psychic one! But really, this trip is soooooooo booooooooring. Haven't seen a single ship since leaving Rith-Ard." (She is using the more informal name for the continent that isn't Draconis.)
"Yeth, I'm thure you'd abtholutely love to meet a Peathkeeper vethhel with barely half our uthual crew." Peacekeepers are a fairly recent development, basically anti-pirate vigilantes of the skies. Most countries tolerate them since they only target pirates. Some are pirates themselves pretending to be helpful, and as a result others of the more scrupulous sort are calling for a more strict organization. In any case, they are all enemies of normal pirates like these two.
"Hey, it eightn't my fault they jumped ship! Not entirely, at least. I mean, a mutiny's a mutiny. They should know better--"
"--than to methh with the Daora-Majou. I know, I know. Be quiet for a minute, we're hitting thome turbulenthe." (A Daora is a variety of monster best described as a gigantic spider, if you're wondering. And 'Majou' means something like 'child' but without the implication of youth.)
Verra gets up and prepares to do something to relieve the boredom. What should she do?
So, these are two of the expies I had ideas for. I'm still trying to come up with a good corruption of Sollux's name to use. Something that sounds sort of like it, but isn't quite there, and maybe fits with a fantasy setting a little better.
I think this is going to be the adventure where my posts are always excessively verbose and long. I don't know if that'll win it any fans or anything, but, well, I can't draw so I gotta describe.
>Verra: Go get some leftover mutineers to feed Daora.
The creature which supposedly "raised" Verra, or rather, the monster which tolerated her for some reason and got fed other people as a result, was long since slain by the merman pirate captain who at least somewhat more properly raised her afterward. It happened some time in her mid-teens or so. I should probably clarify that "monster" on Aranor means something very specific, not quite the same as the English word. Suffice to say there is a variety (or rather, several varieties) of creatures on Aranor that one might describe as bizarre, hideous mutants, which are not sentient but seem to have a collective hatred of anything which is sentient. Because of them, Aranor has always been a dangerous land to travel, and on Aranor weaponry technology has always been indespensible, even before the concept of a 'war' or 'murder' was even thought of. For any monster to not immediately kill a sentient being is extremely strange, and may have been the result of one of the Sins (I'll get into those later) playing some kind of prank or scheme.
In any case, and for whatever reason, the Daora razed a town and left one child alive. That child fed people who came to the ruined village, though eventually a few escaped and rumors of the 'Daora-Majou' got out. The captain I mentioned earlier had a son who he was raising to be just as much an excellent captain as him, and he decided that his son needed a rival for proper motivation. Verra was hand-picked by him for the purpose, and was willing to accept him as a guardian because the Daora had become her guardian by the same manner: killing the previous ones. Suffice to say that this unusual upbringing has given her both reputation and a rather unique outlook on the world and other people in general.
Turbulence is a big deal on Verra's ship, the Gran Daora, because of its unusual design. As its name suggests, it is in the shape of a gigantic spider, and its eight legs are huge, sturdy pipes that provide all the propulsion for the ship. Each 'leg' can be rotated 180 degrees where it connects with the ship, and has two joints along its length, making a total of eight knobs and sixteen levers one must manipulate in order to perform the simplest of navigation. The advantages of the ship are many: Its pipes are strong enough to support the ship's weight, so it can literally walk on land like a spider; the pipe-legs can be wrapped around an enemy ship to keep it captive and can even be used as passageways for boarders in the right circumstances; for someone skilled enough to fully control it, the Gran Daora can pull off the most amazing aerial acrobatic pirouettes that anyone has ever seen an airship do. Naturally the whole thing was drafted by Verra, proof positive that there is quite a remarkable intelligence somewhere in this insane murderous pirate.
For the moment, however, she pulls a few hand-carved eight-sided dice out of her pocket and and tosses them straight at the ground between her feet. 1, 2, 3. The results are registered in her mind in under a second, the dice scooped up, and another toss made. 1, 1, 1. And then the next: 3, 3, 2.
Verra invented the eight-sided die, right down to working out how to make them perfectly regular, and hence fair. Nobody on Aranor has ever really had a use for more than one kind of die--the standard, cubic one has been around for ages. She keeps a trunk full of them, carved of materials from simple wood, to gold; there's a few precious gems among them, and even a few she had enchanted by dwarves to do a little bit of magic. She claims that one is carved for every time her luck gets her out of a bad situation, or into a good one. Verra considers all of life a game and a gamble, and it certainly shows in her disposition. She may be a cruel pirate captain, vindictive, hateful, often insane, controlling, irrational, vain, disloyal, a liar, without a speck of remorse in her body for any of the horrible things she has done, but one thing she is not, is discouraged. Never has anyone seen her frustrated by even the worst of setbacks, and even her most poisonous and vitriolic of moods have a hint of playfulness behind them, though of course this only serves to make them yet more terrifying. Her philosophy is simple: When you win, celebrate; when you lose, make plans to win the next time. Beyond that she has an energizing, indefatigable optimism and absolute confidence in her own 'luck', which does seem strangely warranted given her past accomplishments.
1, 3, 6.
And what of her helmsman? Very few people are able to pilot a ship as complicated as the Gran Daora, and certainly someone as intelligent as he could be doing something else. Why isn't he? Furthermore, the captain's temperament and whims often have her throwing crewmen overboard at random, or firing or killing them for little to no reason, and this environment often causes the less brave or less stupid to leave when they get a chance, and the others to mutiny periodically. Yet the helmsman, Callor Soptix, has remained a permanent fixture since not long after the ship was built. How?
The answer is simple: Verra loves a good game of chance, and her contract with the helmsman is exactly that. The agreement made with Callor was simple: The longer he sticks with her, the more money he gets when he retires. If he gets arrested with her, or killed on the ship, he obviously won't get anything. He isn't stupid enough to try and betray a mind-reading captain, and their agreement is ironclad, because in what Verra considers a 'pure' game of chance she will never cheat. Besides, Verra loves to take all of the glory, and Callor prefers to remain unknown so that if and when he finally does retire, he will be anonymous enough to spend his payment. In addition, he acts as a kind of first mate--the only kind Verra likes. He wants to get paid, and doesn't want to get killed, so he exercises no authority unless Verra specifically asks him to or clearly requires him to. And when he does have to order the crew around, he is calculating and efficient. If there is one complaint Verra has against him, it is that he takes everything too seriously and doesn't care much for 'style', as she calls it. All the same, her crooked, insane antics would surely be a little less interesting without a straight man to snark at them.
1, 1, 1.
Since you already know of the Blue Tail I should probably explain the other half of Callor's lineage. The six kinds of Neshoba are sometimes considered to exist in opposing pairs, and the Red Claw are the opposite of Blue Tail. Where the values of the latter culture are centered on calmness, rationality and sometimes kindness, the former are just the opposite. This is not necessarily a fault: The best way to describe the attitude of the Red Claw is that they are passionate. They are extremely emotive, not merely in romance but in most other spheres of life as well. They tend to go with their instinct and feelings a little more, and while this can cause trouble it can just as easily be an advantage. After all, meditative thinking does not lend itself well to tense, swift situations, and some things are simply beyond the grasp of logical reasoning. Callor was raised in a predominately Red Claw society, other than his father. When he was young he was prone to exceptional, violent mood swings, vacillating from a calm, cheerful, reasonable disposition to a raging, antagonistic one. The balance he finally found, however, seems to contain worst traits from both sides: From the blue, a cold, calculating way of thinking of people, like unimportant objects to be manipulated and used with care; from the red, a cynical, caustic anger not unlike that of his childhood friend, but without any passion for justice to make it useful, and without any compassion for others to balance it out.
1, 2, 7.
But how did they meet? That will have to wait. Verra is too busy looking up, out the eyes of the giant flying spider, at a ship quite a ways in front of them. Its shape is just now beginning to become visible as more than a speck. Callor starts, "Captain--
"Hmm? What's my name again?"
"...Mithh Krithet, do you think we thould thlow down tho that we are not recognithed? That lookth like a courier thhip." Small-time courier ships are riskier to fly by than ordinary passenger or shipping vessels because they tend to be proactive and attack pirates they recognize instead of just assuming the pirates aren't interested until they prove otherwise.
"This trip's boring enough without making it any longer. But saaaaaaaay, does that ship look familiar to you?"
"I do not know. Doeth it to you?" He has long since given up any answer that isn't an echo, because she only asks guessing-game questions to make her speeches sound like conversations. He could say it looks like a dragon, not a ship and she would still go on with whatever she was leading into.
"I'm almost certain. It's on the tip of my tongue....Oh, that's Conall's ship, eightn't it? The one that stole Regaris from us?"
"Thtole? I theem to recall him not even being aware thith wath a pirate vethhel."
"Yes, and it's their fault he found out. I think we should attack."
If he wasn't too busy working the console, Callor would turn around and give Verra a long, hard 'you cannot possibly be serious' stare. "...We are at half crew and they have already beaten uth onthe before."
"They didn't win, they just took a valuable asset and got away. We had to think up a new plan B."
"Right. Becauthe they have a counter to our plan A. What'th our current plan B again? Oh right, charge in and hope we get lucky."
"Yeah, but you're talking to the queen of luck here! I've got all of it, you know."
"It'th too bad you're thuch a charitable ruler, or we'd actually get to uthe it when we really need it."
"Aaaaaaaaw, c'mon. It's a gamble!"
"I jutht don't like thethe oddth."
Verra grins. "I see we're speeding up anyway."
"You're the captain, Mithh Krithet. But if I get killed or they wreck the thhip it'th all on you."
Meanwhile, the captain of the Farran looks out the open back hatch. "Oh, this is absolutely the best news I have received all day. As if the statement 'a red dragon is chasing us, trying to set our wooden frame on fire was not wonderful enough."
"Should I not tell you next time?"
"No, but I must vent frustration somehow. Run and tell Whys there's a Daora behind us."
She gives him a look. "That...is what it looks like, but--"
"Just tell him--he'll understand. And Ann. Whatever you do, do not make eye contact with their captain."
"Okay." She leaves, and Conall shuts the doors. Then he picks up a few long pieces of sturdy wood and places them in some supports, locking it so it can't be opened from the outside without quite a show of force. Then he heads back toward the bridge.
I suppose the change of scene was a little premature. Verra still needs to decide what mode of attack to use once the inevitable negotiations inevitably break down. She could try to latch onto the Farran from the top, get beside it, or ram it (the mouth of the spider is designed for this purpose). Based on past experiences and her estimate of the enemy helmsman's skill, these are in descending order of maneuvering difficulty.
"Latch on from the top. Pour some flame in through the third and fourth legs, but not too much, I seem to recall them using a lot of wood in their design. Don't want 'em crashing before we can loot them, after all! Oh, and would you mind announcing the attack? Their cat's probably going to try and negotiate with me.."
"Fine." Callor turns a device that looks sort of like a hearing horn toward him and, still piloting the ship with both hands, speaks through it dispassionately: "Attention, wothlethh thlugth. We are about to attack a thhip, tho get moving and line up at the fifth or thikthh leg, whichever one ith clothetht, for boarding. Anyone caught being lathy or cowardly will thuffer the thame fate ath a mutineer, and I thhoudn't have to remind you what that ith unlethh you're even thupider than you theem."
Meanwhile, the ca--err, Fylenis, attempts to negotiate with Verra. Attention pirate vessel. This is Whyskar of the Farran. We do not have any valuable cargo. Leave us alone and we will not attack. Shut up and get the captain for me. Why? I know everything he knows. We'll attack if you don't get the captain. Fine.
There is a brief pause, during which Verra takes the opportunity to comment on Callor's announcement. "You're getting better at the pirate insults, but you make 'em sound soooooooo lifeless. They'll never believe you respect them if you talk like the whole thing bores you to death."
"Perhapth it doeth. Thith ith why you're the captain."
"Hahahahahahahaha, you got that right!"
Ah, Captain Morgan. I was hoping you were still the captain of that ship.
It's my ship. I bought it with my own money. And we do not have any valuable cargo at the moment.
You expect me to believe you? Everyone says that!
The last time I said it, it was true. Choneiji do not carry worldly possessions, and the only thing Raoclem ever gives anyone is trouble.
Then why did you protect him?
I don't go back on a deal, even a bad one. My word can be trusted.
So if you were carrying something valuable you would tell me?
Probably not. But I would not tell you a lie in that case. Rather, I would ask you to stand down on other terms, such as 'it is better for us both if you don't attack'. Which, incidentally, is also true here. Since your favorite trick does not work, you would have to come personally and risk injury.
Are you so sure you can best me with a sword, then?
Oh, I have no illusions about that--even a fool would know better than to match blades with you. But it is not of much use from a distance.
Hah, that's only if your fancy metal crossbows don't backfire again!
That was a fluke; you would have a great deal of trouble reaching me anyway. We have been warned about your eyes, and I don't know if you recall, but at least two of my crew have no need for sight. But I am getting off track; the point is you stand to gain nothing from a confrontation.
Oh, but that's where you're wrong, Captain. We can always use a few more crew...
This is a lot of trouble to go through for people who would just be a hassle to keep under control, is it not?
But that's just a bonus. What I'm really after is a little revenge. You took something very important to us last time, after all.
What, the teleporting Neshobe? I was under the impression that he left willingly.
That doesn't make it any less your fault. See you in a few!
The psychic link is cut. Back on the Farran, the captain looks at the giant cat on the ground. "She just wanted to taunt us. I could feel her grinning all the way from here." He shudders briefly, and pulls from a hilt on the side of his hip what you or I might call a 'gun', but no analogous term exists on Aranor for the device. It is a hand-held explosive-propulsion crossbow, more commonly referred to as a 'metal crossbow', even though metallic crossbows which did not employ explosions already existed before the invention of such devices. The idea was first conceived by Lisare, who was mentioned briefly earlier. He invented a lot of things, but was around several centuries before the idea of airships was ever conceived. Anyway, Conall briefly inspects the mechanisms of the device to ensure it is in full working condition.
Another Neshobe, this one with brown fur, wearing a thick black blindfold and thin leather armor, enters the bridge. Anyone expecting a human would be a little put off by his skeletal structure, which is a little more like a canine's, by his size, considerably taller and clearly built stronger than Conall, and of course by the predatory sharp teeth in his mouth. He makes a short, crisp clicking sound with his tongue, and his ears twitch a few times. "You woke me?" He is of the Shadow Fang, the 'wildest' of the Neshoban kinds, and with the strangest magic. Suffice to say that while each of the other kinds of Neshoba has magic based on a specific element, Shadow Fang magic is more abstract in nature. (I should note that Verra traces a fourth of her lineage to the Shadow Fang.) Conall doesn't know what this one's spell is, but it's the kind that is involuntary--always active--and it affects his eyes in some way that makes him unwilling (though not unable) to see. He has long since learned to do everything by his other senses, especially hearing and smell, and he fights better blind and unarmed than most people do seeing and armed. The crew of the Farran doesn't use his true name often (speaking of which, Callor and Edward aren't their respective owners' true names either. It's a Neshoban thing), but they have a nickname for him.
"Glad you're here. Verra's back, and after revenge."
The Neshobe crosses his arms. "Hmph. A worthless pursuit."
"Apparently not to an insane pirate. If they start boarding, I need you to take her on. Whys should be able to find out where she is. It has to be you because of the eye thing."
He nods. "Ekim weapons don't break easy, but I'll do what I can."
"Good, that is all I am asking. Standby in the center of the hallway, please. And be careful, there is going to be some turbulence."
"Will do." He stalks off again, and then the aforementioned turbulence starts. Everyone hangs on to something, including the dragon in the engine room (who was not informed of the attack but simply that there would be turbulence and some noise), and Edward pulls out all the stops to get away from the pursuing ship. The chase lasts a good hour or so, but eventually the more complex maneuvers available to the Gran Daora give it enough of an edge to latch onto the top of the Farran. Then the pirates and flames start coming through, and the crew of the charter ship must defend it to the end.
Now everyone's going to be in different places at different times here, and I don't want this to suffer from too fractured a narrative, so I'll just ask--who would you like to follow? The choices are Captain Conall Morgan, The blind Neshobe, Ann, Whyskars, or Edward. Frankly, the pirates who haven't been named yet are mooks, and it wouldn't be proper form to follow the villain here, and Callor's part now that the ships are latched together is to sit around and wait. I suppose we could jump to somewhere completely different, but that would make this an awfully disjointed narrative and lead to a "gee, that sure was a fight" moment, far less entertaining than actually seeing the battle. But I'll do what you want, so go on and decide!
They spell something if each triplet of numbers is handled a certain way, but only in English. I actually didn't calculate the odds of getting those number sets, but I dunno, maybe she was just trying to get eights. In any case it was mostly just me being 'clever' (quotes because I don't actually think I was being terribly clever. Past me is kind of a dork) in a way they're all oblivious to.
It's occurred to me that this story hasn't been taking the best advantage of the MSPA format; the choose-who-to-follow thing is my first effort at a remedy to that problem. Also, the blind one can be named now. I'll go on and admit that I want pretty much every named and soon-to-be-named character at this fight to survive, but I have no idea how it's all going to play out.
Am I right in assuming Callor is trying to gain the respect of the crew by adopting pirate culture?
> Follow Verra's path via the experiences of others (implying that more than one person fights her? Implying that the earlier fighters are dispatched!? WHO KNOWS (certainly not I.).).
> Blind Neshobe: Be named Mewt Doans (rhymes with cute bones)
This may be too specific and infringe on your narrational sovereignty, but I think Verra should make it to Conall's quarters, mostly because he said that would be difficult.
Last edited by deificAnuran; 01-10-2012 at 10:45 PM.
Reason: Narrational sovereignty (trademark pending)
We join Edward briefly. He is still in the bridge; he has locked the controls momentarily so he could get up and arm a number of traps throughout the room. This is what Conall and Whys were up to while the chase was going on, getting them out and setting them up, but the arming would have been unnecessary had the Farran escaped its pursuer. Other than this sort of independently-operated trap to protect a bridge and helmsman, the idea of airship security hasn't made any technological headway. That is to say, the only magic-powered thing on an airship is usually the engine core, which is used to move the ship forward. In other words, the dragon is currently in the one place she will be the most useful and the least trouble: hiding in the engine room.
The Shadow Fang has been sitting in the hallway, awaiting orders. The advantage of having a Fylenis on one's airship when it is under attack is inestimably high, since it provides a private channel of communication to coordinate defenses and relay orders. Once the pirate vessel crashes its legs through the sides of the Farran, Whys is immediately able to pick up the locations of the attackers. Verra, being only one-fourth Fylenis, is not powerful enough to shield more than herself and a few nearby persons from this kind of detection, but the leg she comes through is obviously the one that looks empty. Whys directs the Neshobe to that leg's location, and he is there before the pirates arrive.
The room happens to be a small cargo hold, and therefore completely empty. The Neshobe clicks a couple of times, and when someone comes close enough to 'see' in this manner he says only one word. "Halt."
"Oh, it's you." Predictably, Verra is in front. She draws her weapon, one of many things that anyone who's ever heard of her knows all about. It is the Ekim cutlass Hajran, which can also be a scimitar or a bow. You're probably wondering how that is; well, an Ekim weapon is not a weapon forged by an Ekim, or someone named Ekim. Rather, Ekim is the race from which those weapons originate, and the weapons themselves are literally Ekim souls. Suffice to say they are undoubtedly the most powerful weapons on Aranor, easily outranking the best dwarf-enchanted weapons, but access to one's full powers has the little condition that the person's consciousness, still in the soul, approves of whoever happens to be weilding it at the moment. Hajran was a pirate himself, the first mate of the man who half-raised Verra, so of course she has full access to his soul's powers.
Anyway, Verra readies the sword, which takes its scimitar form. "I have places to be, people to kill..but I guess I can save a little time for you," she says. "After all, you were the one who took a good crewmate from us.."
The Neshobe hasn't moved. "I won't belabor the terms. Just get on with it." Verra opens with a charge and slash, which he sidesteps, turning in towards her and kicking her left side. The attack misses by a hair or two, but the kick ends in planting his foot on the ground and pivoting, his right fist arcing with him, to face her new position while she's busy turning around. She blocks with the flat end of the blade, and he reflexively pulls his hand back. The sounds and smells did not make it immediately evident that the entire sword is sparking with magically-generated electricity. He recovers quickly enough to duck under a side-swipe with the blade, his ears just barely avoiding electrocution by flattening against his head, and kick straight up at her, forcing her to hop backwards.
He tries to press the advantage and charge at her, but the blade's reach is farther than that of fists, requiring him to dodge a vertical slice with a spinning motion. He doesn't stop spinning as he gets a little closer, and throws one leg out at the last second, channeling the momentum into a kick. He is just fast enough to catch Verra in the side, and the force behind the blow is enough to knock her over. She drops the sword and manages a cartwheel, landing on her feet and drawing the sword back into her hand from the floor (likely through some electromagnetic magic of her own) before he has time to attack again.
He clicks a couple of times with his mouth, gauging the height of the cargo room, and finding it sufficient, decides on a new strategy. He braces himself. When Verra comes with another series of slashes, he sidesteps the vertical ones, backs up from the diagonals, and then when she tries a horizontal strike he leaps straight around, balancing himself on the flat of the blade (and forcing himself to ignore the pain of the resulting shock). He doesn't stay there for more than a couple of milliseconds, flipping completely over Verra, who ducks reflexively, and in the same motion lands and grabs her tail with the hand that wasn't recently shocked.
Keeping hold of the tail with his healthy hand, he clenches the other one through the pain of its burns and aims straight at her back. She feels the full force of the hit, but doesn't seem to as much as lose her breath over it. She starts slashing back at him with the blade, forcing him to dodge around the constant swipes, while still trying to land another hit on a body that is now struggling to turn around and face him again. The struggle goes on like this for another several seconds, neither of them really accomplishing much besides making her tail sore, and then they are interrupted by one of Verra's crew entering on her mental command and throwing two knives straight at the Neshobe.
He dodges back, losing his grip on the tail, and Verra runs for the door to the hallway. The new opponent, an elf with five or six more knives on him (two in his hands), moves in between the Neshobe and her, requiring him to either go around or through--both too slow to catch up. So instead the Neshobe moves to the nearby wall and plucks a knife off of it with his good hand.
"So you're the blade-breaker, ey?"
"So some say. I am not above using them." He throws the knife at the elf, who parries with one of his own, and it sticks in the ground a few inches in front of its target. He takes the other knife off the wall and holds it in a defensive position. "Come on." Whys, I hope you're listening. The spider got past me, and I have a pest to deal with here. If anyone's free, get them to stop her. I don't know where she's headed.
Who shall we follow next?
dA:Actually, Callor's doing the announcement that way because Verra's trying to make him act more like a proper pirate, and she knows how to tell him to do just enough things he finds annoying or unnessary to properly tease him without making him mad enough to disobey anything. Also something about turning him into a proper pirate or whatever. Theirs is a complicated non-romantic relationship.
Crumplepunch: Holy coooow that is awesome! I mean, I don't think I can properly express how much I appreciate and love that. Not to mention finding out you actually read this! I'm calling that canon. That is official canon Conall.
General notes: Detailed descriptions of action scenes has always been one of my favorite things to write, I just hope I'm not going overboard here. Random suggestions of things to happen will probably be taken into consideration, like the 'follow Verra' thing; your decision here may even effect who runs into her next. The colorized narration is meant to distinguish perspectives, if it's annoying or misleading to anyone I might remove it.
Neshobe: Palm of right hand severely burned by electric shock.
Verra: Took a couple of punches and now has a sore tail bone.
Lady Alyssa Dakon is trapped far from home in a strange new world. Can she return home, and save her world and the other?Abandoned.
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