13th Voyage

39 - The Search for the Thunder Star

The tale of the hundred freed goblin slaves.

Attsu, Kismet, Aya, and Wind-of-Embers assemble on the docks in the early morning, as the tides are rising, to embark once again on the quest for the Crocodile Jewel. Barbafir Bloodmouth’s wives, Hajuda and Tiyesha, go to the Twist of Fate with them, though the two women are clearly suffering from excessive drink and too little sleep. By contrast, as Lightning Zan and Katifa arrive, the two seem unfairly energetic and alert.

The two groups reaffirm their pursuit of the Crocodile and Maiden Jewels, respectively. Zan carefully offers, without offering, the other group an opportunity to say that they might prefer to chase the Maiden Jewel to Uur Iblim instead. But Kismet reassures Zan that he and his crew will be able to handle the fallen ogre kingdom, tales of degenerate flesh-eating ogres aside. Zan ruefully agrees, and then tells the others of his contact among the corsairs. Bulukh the Buffalo is the captain of the Thunder Star, and was formerly a galley slave on a Pashkuni ship. Zan played a part in freeing Bulukh, and ever since the emancipated corsair has targeted Pashkuni ships in particular. At present, Zan informs them, Bulukh has been dropping off other liberated slaves, primarily goblins, by Mosaic Island, where they have established a ragged settlement of their own.

Attsu takes the Hunter Jewel, and whispers the name “Bulukh the Buffalo” to it. “Well,” says Zan, one eyebrow raised, “that would also work.” The group begins discussing the possibility of tracking a name to Zarat, such as Barbafir’s senior wife Eremit, though Aya points out that they will likely need a Free Brethren ship such as Bulukh’s to vouch for them if they wish to near the corsair city safely. Hajuda throws the exhausted Tiyesha over her shoulder during the conversation, and finally it is resolved — the Twist of Fate will head for Mosaic Island or Bulukh, whichever seems closer, while the Fire-Eater sets a course for the ogre kingdom of Uur Iblim.

The Twist of Fate sets out, and Attsu uses the Hunter Jewel to track the location of Bulukh, and presumably the Thunder Star as well. Aya and Tairasha’s navigational skills help them triangulate the position of their quarry. They determine that Bulukh is not presently at Mosaic Island, but he may be drawing nearer. So they set sail for the island, with the intention of waiting there.

Once the Twist of Fate reaches Mosaic Island, they sail around the northern side, rather than passing the settlement of mixed-bloods on the main island. There they spy a much smaller satellite isle, a short swim from the larger, where a mismatched shantytown has been built from local timbers and at least one wrecked ship. A small community of mostly goblinkin move about the shantytown, most wearing hats or scarves to keep the light out of their eyes.

The goblins grow excited as the Twist of Fate draws nearer, jumping and waving to the ship. When the ship drops anchor and begins lowering a boat, several goblins dive into the water and swim over. They jabber cheerful greetings to Aya and Attsu and Kismet, and escort the boat back over to their settlement. There Kismet leads the trade with some scarves and curios she’d picked up in Adwa, which the goblins exchange for various odd scraps of salvage that have been decorated with materials such as mother-of-pearl. Aya wins the hearts of many goblins by passing out candy until the chief, Boss One-Eye, pushes his way into the conversation.

The goblins continue to seem pleasant until the venturers bring up Bulukh, and then the crowd goes very important. The venturers explain that they are not enemies: they need his help. “He is very important here,” says Boss One-Eye suspiciously. Aya gracefully says that they are friends to Bulukh’s cause, and they hope to be friends to him as well. Her charm swiftly wins over the goblins, who invite the venturers to stay for dinner. Their hospitality consists of mostly foods taken from the sea, such as fish cooked (or not cooked) in seaweed, shellfish such as sea urchin, and a few dishes incorporating coconuts brought over from the main island. Attsu, rather than eating, trades one of his throwing claws to an excited goblin in exchange for a parcel of the odd earthy, spicy pods harvested from an odd local strain of kelp. He tucks it away as a present for Wind-of-Embers, who is certain to devise something delicious to do with this particularly goblinish flavor.

Tairasha’s crew also does some more earnest trade with the goblins, in particular fetching a good selection of goods in exchange for a bundle of nails. But soon a whistle sounds from the Twist of Fate, followed quickly by a frenzied clanging from the goblin lookout. The word quickly passes through the camp that Bulukh is returning — and then more clanging erupts, and the frightened murmur that the Thunder Star is being pursued.

The venturers catch sight of three ships on the horizon, two chasing a third, and return to the Twist of Fate. Tairasha surveys the three with his spyglass, and notes soberly that the pursuers are Shining Hands — slave hunters and hired sails in the service of Pashkun, City of Chains. The Twist of Fate raises anchor and moves to assist the Thunder Star.

As the ships draw nearer, the venturers take stock of the three vessels. To the port of the Twist of Fate_ (and following on the starboard of the Thunder Star) is a bulky galley with a strong orcish contingent among its sailors and marines; on the other side, a sleeker ship with a gilded leopard figurehead. Aya has Tairasha thread the needle, passing the Thunder Star on their starboard side and intercepting the galley. As they pass Bulukh’s ship, they note a rag-tag mixed crew headed by a badly burn-scarred female bugbear, a chunky man wearing portions of the garb of a harem eunuch, and a burly male bugbear wearing a horned headdress at the ship’s helm. The two crews eye one another warily, but the _Thunder Star seems to recognize the venturers as potential allies of convenience.

The galley, the Iron Wrath, changes course directly for the Twist of Fate, clearly recognizing it as a threat. As it plows through the waves, a tattooed mamluk hanging from the forestay by one hand, a ram becomes visible jutting from the galley’s prow. The Twist of Fate baits the Iron Wrath into a ramming maneuver, and then with a last-minute gale from Aya, changes courses to narrowly miss the collision and shear away the oars on the Iron Wrath’s port side.

Hooks fly from both crews, and the two ships grind together. Attsu runs along one of the spars and leaps down onto the galley’s deck, shifting into war form and letting out a fearsome roar. Several of the marines, both orc mamluk and human swordsman, fall back as a burly ogre advances and accepts his challenge. Attsu parries the ogre’s tremendous scimitar and locks up with his opponent as other sailors from the Twist of Fate leap aboard.

Both crews clash in a brutal melee. Kismet goes to Ruska’s aid against a powerfully built, scarred orc bosun. Attsu tears into the ogre, who shrugs away the wound. “I could use some more scars like that,” the massive warrior snarls. Attsu chuckles. “Oh, you’ll have scars.”

The captain fires a crossbow bolt that creases Aya’s skin. She retaliates with her aeromancy as Notch sends in deadly arrows to help clear the deck. Kismet aims a slash at the bosun’s neck, and as the scarred orc parries her blade, she pirouettes and opens his belly with a second slash. Behind her, the Twist of Fate crew cheers as Captain Tairasha, hale and uncursed, joins the boarding action.

The battle shifts swiftly in favor of the Twist of Fate. One of the few Iron Wrath crew members who manages to make it to the venturers’ ship is immediately struck by lightning, courtesy of Aya. Wind-of-Embers’ healing power saves the lives of several fellow crewmates, and the slave hunters have no such advantage themselves. Even the mighty ogre can turn aside only so many blows before Kismet cuts into an unguarded patch of flesh. As the ogre reels, Attsu stabs him in the throat with blazing firebrass claws, and before the brute can even topple backwards, Kismet kicks off his knee, leaps into the air, and beheads the ogre with a stroke.

The desert elf is no sooner back on the deck than she has raced over to the captain of the Iron Wrath. Surrounded by bodies, and with only a small number of reinforcements from the galley’s belowdecks, the captain contemplates the compass scimitar at his shoulder and Kismet’s stern gaze. She asks for his surrender, and he gives it.

“What should I do with him, captain?” she asks over her shoulder, more lightly.

Tairasha nods in approval. “Take him prisoner for now.” The other survivors of the Iron Wrath follow in their captain’s footsteps, and the crew of the Twist of Fate take them prisoner as the venturers turn their attention back to the Thunder Star and the ship that still opposes it.

Comments

Barastrondo

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.