Our story opened with the party aboard the Anarchy as it transported them north through the Straits of Haralin, under the command of Thuli Black. Picking their way slowly to avoid being sighted, it looked like they were making good progress. Soon, things took a turn for the worse as a flotilla of small ships came into view from the north. At first traveling in a line, they quickly began to spread out as they spotted the Anarchy. A look through the spyglass confirmed the party’s fears. This was an interceptor squadron from the Black Fleet.
Anarchy had time to prepare, but with a half-strength crew, there would be no escape without at least crippling the lead corvettes. As the first pair closed within range, Thuli Black and his crew surprised them with some unusual maneuvers and skilled firing, sinking both ships quickly while taking only minor damage in return. All the while, several members of the party pulled out every trick they could think of to confound and disrupt the tactics of the interceptor flotilla. Alerted to the danger of their quarry, the remaining ships redeployed to bracket the Anarchy and deny it the use of an entire gun battery. She simply could not fire fast enough to keep the smaller ships from swarming her, and the party could only lock down so many of the vessels at one time. Within a few minutes, the first corvette slammed alongside to deliver boarders to the Anarchy’s decks.
The fleet marines storming over the rail were tough, but would prove to be no match for the party if they could not muster more numbers on deck, and quickly. Another corvette risked closing quickly to aid the marines storming the Anarchy, and made it through, shredding wood from the surface of both vessels as they scrubbed alongside and disgorged more men to the deck. Now, with enough people on the Anarchy to completely consume the party’s attention, the remaining corvettes began to close more quickly. The next two groups of boarders split their compliment between storming the weatherdeck and climbing through gunports onto the Anarchy’s gundeck, prompting the battery officers to close the gunports and fight at close quarters inside the ship.
Now completely unopposed, the remaining corvettes dove in at the Anarchy. Within another minute, the deck of the ship was littered with bodies being trampled by more marines vaulting aboard. In the distance, a large frigate grew in size as it bore down on the swarmed Anarchy. As it closed, its most potent weapon entered the fray. Just as the party seemed to be getting the upper hand and started thinning out the marines on deck, the weather-mage from the frigate teleported himself into the fray and attacked the party directly- and he was not to be taken lightly. Ice storms and lightning bolts ripped across the deck of the ship as the man floated leisurely on the wind gusting across the deck. In short order, he overwhelmed the already exhausted group trying to defend Anarchy’s deck. One by one, the party succumbed to oblivion until only Tarsus remained. Most of the marines were out of action, as well. The weather-mage suffered many of his defenses to be stripped away, but still had a large pool of magical power left to draw upon before he lost his strength. Eschewing direct confrontation with the armored behemoth before him, he began to summon bearded devils to finish the job for him. Tarsus lost consciousness as a final strike of lightning descended upon him at the same time as the devil pounced.
Strangely, he did not fall, though he felt his soul being whisked from his body. All around him, Tarsus saw the world continue to go by in painfully slow motion, with seconds stretched into minutes. A radiant figure strode across the deck toward him, taking his hand and pulling him free of the last vestige of corporeality. He watched as the man did the same to Finn, and brought the two of them closer together. He introduced himself as a herald of heroes, all but confirming that he was some agent of rustum. Shimmering wings trailed behind him as he surveyed the carnage on deck. The angelic figure told them both that he was there to take them to the hall of heroes, if that was their wish- they had certainly earned their place there for loyal service and unending heroism. “Of course,” he said, “I am permitted to intervene occasionally, in the interests of a champion of my liege.”
Tarsus told the man he was not yet finished with what he had been charged to accomplish, and could not happily go to the hall of heroes. Asked what he preferred, Finn agreed. In response, the shimmering man said he could return them, or at least something like them, to life. He commended Finn on his stalwart representation of Rustum’s tenets, calling him a rarity among priests. Turning to Tarsus, the man said that what Tarsus once was must die today, but that if Tarsus agreed to take a knee, a true champion of Rustum would be reborn. The pair asked after the rest of their party. Ordinarily, they would be excluded from such second chances, but the herald would consider extending the deal to them if a sacrifice were offered. He took special interest in the unconscious form of Nanda, and noted that whomever they offered would not be killed outright, but would have to journey through trials meant to redeem them in Rustum’s eyes. Reluctantly, the pair offered Nanda to the herald, and the bargain was sealed.
A moment later, they found themselves in painfully familiar surroundings as the second wave of marines leapt the gunwales of the Anarchy’s weather deck. The frigate still closed in the distance, but was further away than it had been. The weather-mage was nowhere to be seen. Nanda was gone, but the rest of the party was on their feet and fighting as if the last minute had never happened. Tarsus glanced down as Dervish seemed to vibrate in his hand now, responding to the power newly invested in him. Sindar felt mostly unchanged, but refreshed and newly focused on skills he’d always wished he’d spent more time on. Finn was in much the same shape as Sindar. Zayn fond herself nearly completely reborn- the subtle magic that had once allowed her to insinuate herself into the minds of others had been replaced by raw, surging power… and a powerful urge to unleash it.
Momentarily, the group realized the weather-mage was still on the Anarchy, but was hidden from view behind the fore mast. They leapt to the offensive as renewed marines streamed aboard. Their resources and energy restored to them, the party tore quickly through the encroaching marines. Zayn obliterated groups at a time as Tarsus left a trail of bodies in a line that pointed toward the attacking mage. Already, the mage was losing defensive measures to a combined assault from Sindar’s bombs and Finn’s spells. This time, the group was ready. This time, they had become sharpened instruments of divine purpose. This time, the mage died in less than 20 seconds.
The assault on Anarchy broken, the group rushed below to see what had held up the guns from firing on the corvettes, only then discovering that a few marines had entered the gun deck. Even that small number had done serious damage below decks, but only one remained alive by the time the party went below. As he set himself in a defensive stance in a doorway, ready to receive their attack, a long, thin blade slid through his belly from the back, then disappeared and reemerged in a different spot. Sputtering blood, the man fell and revealed a wide-eyed Kando behind him- a wild look in his eyes and bloody blade in his hands. Finn dealt first with triage and aid, saving those he could, and then with calming Kando. Calls from the deck sent the party running back upstairs.
Outside, the frigate and its remaining escorts moved to widen the gap back out to long gun range, where the frigate had the advantage. It found its flanks cut off just then, however, by an approaching ragtag fleet of ships, some of which struck imperial colors just before firing a devastating opening salvo at the frigate that stripped away entire sections of rigging. The ship leading the new fleet looked familiar, and a quick check through the spyglass confirmed it to be the Talia’s Vengeance, still under the command of Arndt Jungson- except now he had a fleet. Pressing the surprise, the fleet encouraged the frigate to escape rather than fight. After a wary close pass to slip by the Anarchy, it did just that.
Still within sight of the escaping frigate and its escort ships, our story closed as Arndt sent a coded flag message in an attempt to bring the group and their ship up to speed: “Haralin not taken by cult. False flag by Empire.”
The vote has been tabled in the Asad while missing delegates are searched for and rescued. An automatic procedural clock of 60 days started when they went missing, with 14 days now remaining before the delegates are declared dead and replaced.
The Black Fleet has been spotted in Riyaqan waters, moving east along the southern coast.
Quote of the Day
“I’m going to put both of my balls on him.” -Zayn