The Voyage of the Blind Spider

Home of Izira Nyte and The Forgotten Layers Inn. Resting in an unnamed magical realm, the place is easier to find when lost if one is without the aid of a map drawn by the lady herself.

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The Voyage of the Blind Spider

Post by Gren Blockman » Sun Mar 01, 2020 6:02 pm

May 23, 2019





Despite being at least a day northwest of RhyDin and separated by thick forests and cold mountains, the seaside valley that the Sibreth family now called home was surprisingly warm for its location and for the time of year. Steady winds blew over the smooth, rolling hills that stretched a mile from the sea to the path at the top of the valley, bringing both warmer air and pleasant breezes from far to the south. Though the family was newly moved in this year, the orchard and vineyard were far from bereft of vegetation. Overgrowth covered clusters of apple trees and surviving vine stalks wound their way through the crumbled remains of buildings in the north end of the valley. Further south the surviving crops had been reclaimed, while new rows were planted closer to the sea. Buildings of both salvaged wood and stone and freshly cut timbers were clustered around a small hill near the center of the valley from which many sounds carried — the shrieks and peals of laughter from playing children, the hammering of mallets, and the steady rhythm of rolling wooden gears. A number of figures were moving around the buildings and the vegetation nearby, including the familiar form of a slender, short-statured elf in breeches and a brightly patterned tunic. Down at the southern end was a newly rebuilt dock, where a small sloop was berthed alongside a rowboat.

" . . . so I have to carry the both of you all the way out to Nowheresville. What was with all that "getting out of chores at Headquarters", huh? Just another lowdown trick. I tell you this 'noble steed' crap is for the birds." Alfred the Disgruntled Unicorn complained as he trundled up the path to the Sibreth’s home, carrying Gren and Izira.

Gren sighed. He was wearing his usual grey Ranger's cloak, but a nice button down shirt underneath to be presentable for the Sibreths. "You've carried heavier loads and you know it. Why do you have to complain every time Izira needs a ride?"

"Oh no, I don't care if she rides, heh heh heh. You're the third wheel, Gren. I think you should walk alongside. Be a real man”, Alfred retorted.

"Hey!", Gren objected, "you're supposed to be my steed!"

"Oh ho, so you're gonna let poor Izira walk then? What a chivalrous act there, big guy."

Gren stammered and pointed back and forth between Alfred and Izira.

There appeared to be four adult figures working outside (one of them likely Noira). After the nearest figure pointed, Noira turned and waved, and the others followed suit. There was a gate not far in front of Gren and Izira (and Alfred), two older columns that had seemingly been recently cleared of vines yet overgrown again in the brief period since then, and a wooden sign stretched over it that read: FOUR MOONS ORCHARD. A small, hand-painted sign beneath it showed the reason behind the name, RhyDin’s two moons setting over the sea and reflected in the water.

Gren monetarily forgot his frustration with Alfred. "Aw, Four Moons. That's such a romantic image."

Alfred scoffed. "Pssh, I bet "Four Moons" mean those four elves over there are about to pull their pants down at us."

"Quiet, Alfred! We're guests here. Be on your best behavior." Gren waved and smiled back at Noira, leading Alfred up to them. "Hello there! We just came by to see the place. How are things going so far?" Gren dismounted and offered a hand to help Izira down.

Izira was more amused with Alfred's behavior than Gren, but she did well to quell her grin over it. Taking Gren's hand, she dismounted. She petted Alfred in thanks before she smoothed out the riding skirt she wore.

One of the other elves waved at a distance, a man who appeared to be middle-aged judging from the touch of silver in his dark hair, and walked back towards the sprawling main house with a basket of strawberries in his arms and a sack of weeds he’d just picked slung over his shoulder.

“Hello to you, Gren, Izira, Alfred!” Noira called. From the sound of her voice, she had picked back up stronger elements of the elvish lilt in her voice in the months spent with her family. Her hands were filthy with dark soil, and she did her best to wipe them off with a handkerchief as she approached. “It goes well! We have little to pick just yet, though we have a visitor,” she nodded down to the boat in the docks, “who is interested in returning for our wine in the fall.” Then she gestured to the main house and smiled back at them. “My cousins have been putting together a meal for your visit. We have spinach and strawberries and nuts for a salad, and fresh bread with chicken and honey.” She colored a little as she added, “I had forgotten how sweet Estland elvish palates can be, compared to most others.”

"Hey, you got any oats or carrots or apples for a starving unicorn pressed into unfair transportation duties?" Alfred replied.

Gren tried unsuccessfully to shush Alfred, but he was too late. He turned a little red faced to Noira. "That all sounds great, Noira! I'm glad things are picking up. Yeah, uh, maybe we should put Alfred in a stable or something. By himself." He gave Alfred a pointed glare.

Even with the white blouse on, Izira did not worry over Noira's dirty hands, going in for a hug when she got close. "Food of any sort sounds wonderful to me."

“Oats we have plenty of, and carrots... carrots, we still have some of our late spring crop,” Noira said, and began to lead the way towards the stable. The other two elves were near this path, and they both looked very much like Noira — the man having the same splash of freckles, slender nose and pointed chin, though his face was most often dimpled with a smile; and the woman having the same dark hair and golden eyes. They both said something that sounded like a greeting, bowing their heads and giving a welcoming gesture to them. Noira said something back, though the names Gren and Izira could be clearly picked out, then smiled at her friends: “This is my mother and father, Leara and Trelas. They say that they welcome you to our farm, and that they hope they can make it as open and welcoming to you as you have made the Inn to me.”

Gren looked relieved that Alfred would be taken care of. He did know some elvish dialects, having learned them through his patrols in the deep woods, but he couldn't make out what was being said other than their names. "It's good to . . . . ahem, tell them it's good to finally meet them after all the stories you've shared with us over the years." He smiled and waved back, not knowing if he should hug them. "Do you all like living in RhyDin so far?"

"Indeed." Izira added her agreement to Gren's words. She bowed her head in return to them.

They did not approach for a hug, at the very least. Trelas moved to lead Alfred to the stable, and as he did, spoke to him in the family’s peculiar elvish dialect and then held out a genuine apple. It looked pretty fresh, even though it was May. ”Soe-thurn ah-pull,” he attempted to explain as the sloop captain had, and offered it to Alfred.

"Hey, you say ah-pull, I say apple, either way it's gettin' eaten." Alfred nibbled on the fruit as he was led to the stable.

“We do,” Noira said, after translating on Gren’s behalf, at which Leara beamed happily. “It is not home, but this has started to feel like a new one. My uncle, Loras, is happy to have found a peaceful place to raise his three children, away from the strife of our homeland. They speak more Common than my parents do, and will be happy to meet more of our...” Noira cast a glance around the very open and uninhabited space around them, before deciding that Gren and Izira were the closest thing they had to “neighbors.” She led the way down to the main house, while Leara split off to take care of a few more things before their meal. The windows were covered with fluttering curtains of intricately patterned fabric, showing elves and deer dancing among brambles and flowers... and through the curtains peeked three young faces, all similar in appearance to their father, Loras. “That is Aldar,” the oldest child, “Kendar,” the middle child, “and Tira,” the youngest child, who squeaked and hid out of sight when she was spotted.

"Wow, those curtains look lovely. Very detailed", Gren offered as they approached the house. He laughed and waved at the three, then two children looking out the window. "Hello!" He said. "You look just like your cousin Noira!"
Izira offered the three cousins a wave of her hand in greeting.

“No! I am more handsome,” Kendar said with affected arrogance and poise, which caused Aldar to poke him in the ribs.

They were about to start fighting as they made their way into the cozy but open kitchen, but Noira had only to clap once and say, “Aldar, Kendar, what will they think of you if you do not help your sister with the plates!” That seemed to kick them into gear. Tira had emerged from hiding to help, putting together different things from the stove and the nearby butcher’s block counter, leaving Noira to take care of drinks. “We have red wine and chilled mint tea. What would you like?” she asked, and gestured Gren and Izira not to a table, but a collection of floor cushions and mats where the plates were being set down. There was no sign of the ship captain, though there was the sound of snoring coming from elsewhere on the first floor.

Gren smiled at the three kids as they ran around to comply with Noira's wishes. "I'll take the mint tea, please." He didn't feel the need to go into his aversion to alcohol. He found a cushion that seemed comfortable and had a seat. Gren sniffed the air and got a curious look on his face. "What are you cooking in there?"

"Wine for me, please. Unless that led to..." Izira gave a light gesture to the snoring.

“The bread. We cooked the chicken outside,” Noira said, and then laughed at Izira’s words. “No... I am thinking that a week at sea with only her summons for help and company led to her current state.” She gave Gren his tea — peculiar to the Estland elves, perhaps like no other tea he had tasted, only slightly sweet but very tasty — and passed wine to Izira as she sat down on one of the cushions. The wine was rich and bold, and a good counterpoint to the relatively sweet meal. “Perhaps the strangeness of her company is behind her strange stories.” The children were sitting down now, too, and Trelas, Leara, and Loras soon followed — with Loras translating their words for Noira’s parents as they all ate.

Gren sipped at the tea and got a pleased expression. "It's always nice to find a non-alcoholic beverage I like. I can't have smoothies and Broots all the time. Strangeness of her company?" Gren asked.

Izira drank quietly as Gren had followed up on her same thought, she looked to the others, smiling.

“Her magical summons,” Noira stated simply. “She is a summoner, after a fashion. But it is the stories she says these creatures have related to her, that strike me as even stranger...”

"Strange creatures, huh? Please go on, that sounds interesting." Gren took more sips of his tea.

“They keep finding islands at sea,” Noira frowned over her wine as Loras went on explaining their conversation in Estland elvish, “where her charts say there are none, along well-traveled routes. She has seen less ships in these waters than she is used to, and worries that there have been shipwrecks... but what strains belief is —”

“Ghost ships,” said a voice from the other end of the room, belonging to a half-elvish woman with an eyepatch over her right eye, and a bite missing from her right ear.

"G-g-ghosts?" Gren turned pale, bug-eyed, and his teacup rattled on his plate as he suddenly started shaking at the words.
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Re: The Voyage of the Blind Spider

Post by Gren Blockman » Tue Mar 03, 2020 4:54 pm

Noira started a bit, and steadied her wine to stop herself spilling any as she began, “Oh, you have awoken! Gren and Izira—“

“Captain Miranda of the Blind Spider, at yer service,” said the half-elven woman, bending at the waist for a bow that less emulated and more mocked courtly manners. She used this angle to steal what was left of Noira’s bread and took a crunchy bite as she straightened. “I been sailin’ these waters since zombies ate the Spider’s last cap’n, oh, about aught seven. Quietest I ever seen ‘em, an’ it’s all down to these ghost ships.”

“Please, help yourself,” Noira said with a polite smile (that did little to cover her repressed irritation) as the captain was already pouring a generous portion of wine not into a small clay goblet like the others, but a large mug.

Gren tried to shakily take a sip of his mint tea and play it cool, but when Miranda mentioned zombies on top of ghost ships, he swallowed his tea the wrong way and coughed explosively. "Zombies too? Oh no . . . my face . . . is my face twitching?" Gren's right eye was rapidly blinking as if it had a life of its own.

Izira gently patted Gren's back to help him gain his breath again. "They're not here, love."

Gren tried rapid breathing to calm himself down, and also placed his fingers on both side of his eye to make the twitching stop.

“Haw haw haw.” She laughed a lot like Haddon; slapped her knee, too. “Now don’t you worry, those zombies are long dead ‘n’ gone — er, re-dead ‘n’ gone. But these ghost ships ‘r somethin’ else.” Now that she had wine, she invited herself to pull up a cushion more or less in between Gren and Noira. “I only ever see ‘em at night, like they’re lookin’ for someone or somethin’ but can’ never see me an’ my ship — but I can hear ‘em by day, too! The flappin’ o’ the canvas in the wind, a mournful cry of — Allo~! Allo~! An’ the strangest thing,” pointing a tattooed finger at Gren’s twitching face and grinning. “The smell o’ flowers. Always flowers.”

"Yah! Flowers!" Gren jumped in spite of himself.

Izira jerked back with Gren's jumping. She took a moment, "Which sort?"

That was one way to put the brash, swaggering captain on her back foot. “...Well, firs’ time I ever seen a graycloak reac’ tha’ way to flowers.” Then her one good eye swiveled over to Izira, and she grinned again. “Now, I know my flowers. These ‘uns... I whiffed foxgloves an’ pansies, mostly... also lilies, an’ fairy cups.”

"I have allergies." Gren muttered defensively.

Izira seemed to make a mental note, something to keep her nose open for. "Quite a nose you have." Izira 's hand returned to soothe Gren's back.

“An’ how could I forget — forget-me-nots! Haw haw”, and Miranda took a long drink of her wine. “But I wouldn’ expec’ any trade ships other’n mine to come out this way, lovely as it is! Nooo, you wanna do any tradin’ on the regular, you’re outta luck. Too many ships disappearin’ for any other’n me to risk it.” From what little Common they understood, Noira’s relatives exchanged anxious glances at that.

"Uh oh." Gren glanced between Miranda, Noira, and her parents, putting two and two together. "So if they want to trade their wine, you're the only Captain that can make that happen?" Gren looked more thoughtful than worried now. "But what can you do about the ghost ships?"

Izira glanced toward Noira, the politeness made more sense with that information.

Do about ‘em? Well, I don’ know... but me faithful crew lets me ken when they be comin’. Sometimes I steer clear, sometimes I go in close ‘nough for a look... but whatever makes other ships disappear, me an’ my crew got our senses too open to let that happen. Aye?” She laughed.

Noira smiled sadly. “The captain has generously offered to stop here as often as she can, and pick up supplies from the city — but hauling varied goods to remote farms is not typically how she makes a living. And she often makes long voyages.”

“Aye, I migh’ not be back this way ‘til...” The captian squinted her one eye, considering. “Augus’, if’n I hurry.”

“It’s a help,” Noira added, “but not a solution...” Her expression towards the captain had softened as she further explained, but she couldn’t help but start to look irritated again when Miranda let out a glorious belch.

Izira spared a glance at the belch, before turning her attention to Noira, "Have you been out to see for yourself?"

Noira shook her head. “I have seen strange mists like the captain has described around the ghost ships, on three occasions... but the first two they were far out and faded quickly; and the last time, I could not row the full mile out before they faded away.” The elfess spared a sad smile between Gren and Izira. “The bite of that crossbow bolt — the sting of it has not faded. Without it, perhaps I would have managed in time.”

Gren glanced rapidly between the Captain and Noira. "Wait . . . you're suggesting we . . . investigate them? Like, actually go out there and . . . ?" He waves his finger around as his words trail off.

Noira put her hands up. “I would not presume to ask such of either of you. I have commissioned the captain to be ready to take me out in her sloop at the first sign of the mists... and investigate the cause with my own eyes.”

"Noira, for all that you have risked to help the rangers." Izira smiled , "I will not speak for Gren, but I will give you whatever help I can offer."

Gren looked like he needed a moment, but when Izira spoke up, he definitely wasn't going to leave her behind too. "Um . . . uh . . . Yeah, I'm going. To help. Against the g-g-ghosts." He tried to straighten his back and put on a brave face.

Noira bowed her head gratefully, and after conferring in Elvish with her mother, stated, “If you would wish to stay the night, to be on the call if the mists appear, we would be honored to have you as our guests — and I would be honored to have your help.”

The captain slurped loudly, working on the last little bit of wine left in her mug.

“Whatever she drinks is deducted from what I pay her,” Noira added in a conspiratorial undertone to Gren and Izira, as Miranda was currently distracted searching for a fresh bottle.

Izira dipped her head to accept the offer to stay. Looking up, she chewed her lower lip and glanced toward Gren as she spoke to Noira again, "Since the mists seem to quickly withdrawal, perhaps we should stay outside? Closer to the shore and more prepared to head off should they appear?"

"That doesn't sound like a bad idea. We can take turns watching during the night, to see when they arrive”, Gren agreed.

The captain haw-haw’ed again. “Wha’, you landlubbers got this nice cozy home, but you be sleepin’ in tents all lined up on the shore?”

Noira turned from Izira to Miranda with a clever smile. “I believe Izira’s excellent idea would be even better served if we quarter on your ship. I am certain you will be as hospitable a host as we have been to you.”

Izira smiled into her wine glass. Noira had read Izira's mind, though she did not have the leverage.

Miranda paused with her teeth open over the cork of a bottle... then bit into it, tugged it loose and spat it out. “Aye,” she said, and took a swig. “Aye, I s’pose I be deservin’ tha’.”
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Re: The Voyage of the Blind Spider

Post by Gren Blockman » Thu Mar 05, 2020 6:51 pm

The Blind Spider was a rather small sloop, though not small enough that Captain Miranda could crew it alone — yet there was no sign of a quartermaster, first mate, navigator, cabin boy, or even any everyday run-of-the-mill old sailors. The ship itself was made of old gray wood with a distinctly greenish tinge, ornate around the prow and carved with thorny vines, foxes, stags, and flowers. The deck was covered in cargo, mostly small barrels and sacks of various liquors, ales, and grains. But there was still room enough to stretch blankets from the mast like a series of a lean-to’s, with space for the hammocks and bedrolls they’d put together. Miranda was snoring loudly by the helm, arms draped over the wooden wheel as she half-stood.

Noira was on the opposite end, keeping watch by the prow after a few hours of sleeping lightly. Her sharp eyes scanned the horizon as she puffed away on her long wooden pipe, the embers in the bowl one of the few lights visible this time of night at a farm in the wilderness.

Gren tossed lightly in his hammock, absently kicking one leg. “. . . rabbits . . . . rabbits everywhere . . . . got to . . . save the . . . bunnies . . . . “He flipped face down and the hammock almost spun 360 degrees, but he managed to stay both on the hammock and asleep.

Izira sat just outside their makeshift camp, listening to Gren, the waters, and the shifting sounds of the ship. Her semi-meditative state was broken by Gren's sleep talking. "This is why we don't share the hammock”, she said to no one in general, or perhaps the seemingly non-existent crew.

Noira turned her chin to her shoulder to smile back at Izira, letting a slow stream of smoke pass through her lips. “You know... I don’t know that I’ve seen Jeremiah sleep before, so I cannot say if he talks in his sleep. It has been alleged that I do, in Elvish,” though she did not specify who had made that accusation.

Maybe it was the comment of Noira referring to Jeremiah talking in his sleep, but Gren suddenly sat up in the hammock, eyes wide open. "WhoWhat . . . What happened?" His eyes darted around the ship as if something must of caused him to awaken.

Izira smiled back to Noira. "He never sleeps, only rests." She glanced over her shoulder to Gren. "Did you save those bunnies, my love?"

It may have been the name; it may have also been the surprisingly cool breeze that blew in from the south, flapping the lean-to’s and causing the elfess to fold her arms together tightly. “Hmm,” was Noira’s distracted answer to Izira, and she turned to look in the direction the wind had come from. She scanned the horizon very closely, but the distant waves were harder to make out now than they had been before...

"The bunnies?" Gren squinted as if trying to remember now. "There was like a wave, a wave of rabbits, running everywhere. I was trying to direct them like traffic . . . but there was a CLIFF . . . !" He breaks off and pulls his blanket over his head, letting loose a whimper.

"Hm. I wonder what that could symbolize”, Izira said more to herself again as she pondered and watched.

“Gren, can you come here? And tell me what your ranger eyes see,” Noira said as she tapped on the bowl of her pipe, knocking ashes into the water.

Noira's request gave Gren something to think about other than the demise of his dream bunnies, so he slid out of his hammock and made his way over to the prow where Noira was. Narrowing his eyes, he scanned the horizon, looking for any signs of movement. After going back and forth a few times, he stopped. There was a rolling mist that hadn't been there before, and he could see an ominous silhouette emerging from it. "There!" He pointed at the mist. "It looks like a three-masted ship!"

Noira stared goggle-eyed over (well, not over so much as beside, short as she was) Gren’s shoulder. “Help me unmoor the ship!” she said, hurrying across the deck and untying ropes. “And someone awaken that obnoxious pirate!”

Gren threw his hands in the air and ran over to the first thing tied down with a rope.

Waking the pirate, Izira could do that. She found her feet and stood up smoothly, making her way to the slumbering woman. "Ah... AVAST YE!" She cried, perhaps louder than needed with the proximity.

Miranda snorted, whipping her head forward — right into the wheel, hitting her right orbital. “Ach, me eye!” she cried out, staggering back and holding... her eyepatch. She saw the flurry of activity and heard the noise and put two and two together. “Aha... right then, lass,” she gave an angled grin to Izira, and pulled away her eyepatch. Her right eye was unnaturally bright silver, a swirling miasma of light with tendrils that curled like the grasping arms of the dead. She looked around the ship, and wherever she looked, the ghostly shape of a sailor sprung out of the deck, finishing Gren and Noira’s work, pulling up the anchor, and opening the sails to set them in motion towards the mist on the horizon.

“I must confess that I did not see this coming,” Noira murmured, drawing back to prevent one of the ghostly forms from stepping through her.

Izira went from intrigued, both of the eye and the appearing crew, to immediately realizing that Gren might not be as into their new shipmates.

Gren had just removed another rope when he turned around and saw the ghostly forms at work around him. He jumped, his eyes went wide as pie plates, and his jaw went slack. When he finally caught his breath, he cried, "AAAAAHHHH!!! WE'RE HAUNTED!!!" He hid behind one of the masts, making a shooing gesture with his hand.

"They're with us!" Izira called over to Gren with a gesture to the captain as though that could be explanation enough. Aside to Miranda, she said, "I'm curious as to how you acquired them."

"Are you sure?" Gren was cringing back, with his arms covering his face as another ghost sailor got to near him.

"Yes.”, Izira said simply.

“Made a deal with a very nice ol’ vampire. Weird chap — grea’ with kids, though! Took me eye, gave me crew in exchange, I thought it was a righ’ fair trade! Isn’ that RIGHT, BOYS?!” she shouted as the sails caught a cold, strong wind of the dead and slipped out into the water, and the ghostly sailors let out a half-wailing huzzah in response. The fog had moved closer now, and it was beginning to cast an eerie light of its own — a faint green glow emanating off of the three-masted ship. Poor Gren. What had appeared to be greenish-hued wood comprising the ship known as the Blind Spider now appeared to be as pale as bone, and the ivy and other shapes making up the prow were now revealed to be bones and skulls and crosses — shapes associated with the grave.

"Vampire? Skulls? Bones? This can't be right!" Gren started dancing around the planks of the ship, trying to avoid the shifting figures. "What are we supposed to do now?"

“Um!” Noira herself seemed rather flustered, not put off that their captain was a warlock, just surprised that she was a warlock who’d struck an undead pact. “Try thinking of them as very... very see-through people!” she replied, “and focus on the ghost ship, not the ship that happens to have ghosts!” Indeed, as they drew closer and closer to the fog, the three-masted ship appeared to be translucent, and wavering, as if someone were trying and failing to tune into a TV station. What appeared to be crewmen shifted around the deck, but none of them seemed particularly ghastly or skeletal. If anything, they looked lost.

"What's the difference???" Gren cried, before noticing the ghostly ship looming ahead of them. Peering at the shapes, he gulped and looked around at the crew and Noira. "Uh . . . so what are we supposed to do? Say hello? Do we even have any cannons on this thing in case they try something? Ugh, man, rapid heartbeats . . . “He held his left hand to his chest and cringed, trying to calm himself down.

Oddly enough it was the bit about kids that Izira pondered over, Miranda not seeming the kid-type. The nearing ghost ship drew her attention, "Can we pull along side it?"

“Aye, that we can, lass!” Miranda called back to her, spinning the wheel again. The fast sloop kept pace with the three-masted ship rather easily. The ship itself and the people on it did not seem to be dead or deteriorated in any noticeable way, simply see-through and flickering. A man with a rather long mustache was patting a crying boy on the shoulder consolingly as he looked right over them... and then locked eyes with Gren, with a surprised expression. He began forming words, but only a number managed to carry over. ”You there! ... help us?! Please, we — ...out! We saw a green — then heard the laughter, like — ! ... he wants with us! How — ... find it?!”

Gren snapped out of his panic attack when he heard the person speaking words. He blinked and raised his head a bit as he tried to make out what the man was saying. "Can you hear them? They're speaking to us!" He tilted his head, leaning his ear forward. "Sir! Can you repeat that? I can barely hear what you're saying!"

"We need to get closer." Izira moved as near on the ship as she could get to the other, "I heard some of it."

The captain scowled as she turned the wheel again, bringing the two ships now treacherously close, certainly a cause for alarm if both of them occupied the same plane. But in this case? Unclear. ”The broken crown is scattered — ! ... sylvan prince expects us to find — ?! ... beware the ... of laughter, and lights that dance ... smell of flowers ... “

"Broken crown . . . Sylvan prince . . .” Gren repeated the words he heard and looked at Izira. "They don't seem like ghosts. Do you think they may have come through a portal?" He glanced at the mist, wondering if that was the direction they came from.

"Do you think we could board their ship?" Izira gauged the distance between the two. "If it's not really there... someone goes for a swim." Still, she glanced around for a loose rope.

As Gren turned his head away from the mist, his ears might have caught the sound of mischievous laughter — and twinkling green lights dancing to and fro in the tendrils of mist that were beginning to curl out in front of their vessel. Noira failed to notice this, currently assisting Izira with a length of rope. “Perhaps we see if they can grab onto this first...”

"Whoa . . . . whoa . . . . whoawhoawhoa . . . laughter . . . green . . . lights . . . . " Gren's eyes darted back and forth at whatever was happening in front of the ship. "Hey . . . hey . . . heyheyhey . . . " Gren rapidly patted Noira on the shoulder while pointing a shaky finger at the misty tendrils closing in on them.

Noira’s eyes widened. “Miranda, turn us about — !”

“TOO LATE! HOLD ON, YOU LOT!”

The mist rose up in front of them, and as they broke through its wall, there was a sound like a crashing wave, a precipitous lurch, and cargo rolling all around the deck as Noira clung to the mast with all her strength. There was a rather pained sound as her ribs slammed into the wood, and several barrels broke free and went bouncing overboard, splashing into the water. Still, placid, jade green water, disturbed only by the sudden arrival of their ship beside the three-masted vessel nearby, which now appeared wholly material to them. There was a small, rocky island directly ahead — — and no sign at all of the vineyard behind them.
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Re: The Voyage of the Blind Spider

Post by Gren Blockman » Sat Mar 07, 2020 6:50 pm

Gren went rolling across the deck, too quickly for him to find out where Izira was, and barreled through a hatch down into a cargo hold. Luckily for him it was bundles of blankets and straw for bedding. It still hurt though. "Aaaahhh! What the . . . “ Blinking his eyes, he looked up through the hatch to see the odd green lights filtering down. He groaned and rolled over a bit, then climbed up ladder to assess the damage. He surveyed the still green waters and finally turned to see the vessel beside them, no longer flickering. "Izira?" His gaze darted around the deck of the ship, trying to find her.

The water broke as Izira surfaced, having been too close to the railing and unprepared for the sudden relocation. She split between moving her arms to keep herself afloat and coughing. It was only when her lungs cleared a bit that the change of scenery hit her. She looked up at their ship. "Gren? Noira? Captain?" She asked more to see if everyone was okay.

The undead crew was either gone or (more likely) had faded from sight as the ship's rigging seemed to move on its own with no assistance from its captain. Miranda remained at the helm, calmer now but somehow more tense, viewing her surroundings with suspicion as she carefully replaced her eyepatch. "Cannae have the Fair Folk knowin' jus' what ol' Miranda is all about..."

"Woman overboard," Noira groaned at the captain as she pulled herself to her feet, who adjusted the sails to go even slower in these calm waters. The elfess went up to the railing, bracing her feet and looping a thick rope around her waist and one arm before tossing it down to her friend in the water. "Grab on, Izira. I can manage you aboard."

Hearing Izira's voice come from over the side of the boat caused Gren to bolt in that direction. As Noira began to haul Izira up, Gren bent over the railing, extending his hands to help her onboard. "Does anyone know what just happened exactly?"

"Thank you." Izira said to Noira and Gren as her feet found the solid surface of the deck. Her bun was partially undone from the unexpected dip. She fully undid it to fix it, giving it half a wring as warmth radiated from her and her hair and clothing dried. Doing the bun back up, she tilted her head to the other ship. "Perhaps we should ask them?"

By the time Gren and Noira were done settling Izira back onto the deck, Miranda had already had words with the crew of the larger, slower ship pulling up alongside to keep pace. "Mind your babes and your manners, for we be in the realm of the Fair Folk, lad," Miranda said to Gren with a wink, or a blink, anyway.

"They've been luring in ships and trapping us here, trying to make us fix their problems!” one sailor called over from the other ship. "We've been sailing around, looking for a way out for days!" another moaned.

Gren was relieved when Izira was fished out of the water, wet but not harmed. He blinked and turned red at Miranda's statement. "Mind my . . . . babes?" His jaw dropped a bit. Then the woes from the other sailors broke him out of his embarrassment and he looked in their direction. "Fair Folk? Aw geez. What problems do they want you to fix?" He called back.

"I'm ruling out complicated math...." Izira gave a side glance to Noira, then looked back at the passengers of the other ship.

"Something called the broken crown," the older man who'd been protecting the boy on the deck of the ship earlier stepped forward to speak up. He had the bearing of a captain, and his crew seemed to respect him as such. "I don't know why or how it got to be broken, but there's a princeling who holds a roving court on many of these rocky isles”, he said while jerking his head to the one they were approaching, "and he called to us from the shore. Begged us to come ashore, drink and feast with him--" The captain snorted, clearly wise to at least that fae trick. "Flanked by at least a dozen tittering green pixies, I suspect the same ones who drew both of us into this mess. Bade us find the remaining three pieces, make him the Emerald King." With that, he spat over the side of his deck into the emerald-hued waters of this realm. "But you know the Fair Folk. Things are always more complicated than what they say. I'm not about to endanger my crew playing their game."

Gren rubbed his forehead as the Captain finished telling his story. "I don't blame you. But on the other hand, how else are we supposed to get out of here?" He glanced nervously at the rocky Isle, then back at the Captain and his ship. "Hey wait . . . I just thought of something. Noira, you're an elf. And Izira, you have fae blood in you, right? Maybe they would accept you more. Or at the least, not be able to pull any tricks on you that you can't see coming."

"I can't imagine that this... prince... would be any more of a fan than my father's people." Izira looked over to the man that had addressed them, "Are there other ships?"

"I am rather resistant to even the most conniving charms of the fae," Noira struck a proud note there, lifting her chin. "I can tell this brat exactly where he can stick all of his glamour -- or I would, except that you are right in thinking that dealing with them directly is our best chance at leaving."

The other captain nodded grimly, then. "Yes, lass, but they do not trust one another. Most have been here long enough that they suspect anyone and everyone is just a fae spirit trying to trick them. We have found one ship adrift, with signs that the crew's own paranoia made them turn on one another... and others who have clearly fallen to the charms of various fae here -- or worse, gone mad from it. Approach any other ship you see with caution, and if you have any doubts at all... best to give them a wide berth," he nodded.

Gren rubbed his chin. "Well, that takes care of Noira and Izira, but what about me? Wait a minute . . . I saw this in a movie once . . . " Gren tore a strip of grey cloth off his cloak and made a headband out of it, covering the tops of his ears. "What do you think?" He asked, as if covering his ears would solve everything.

The twist of Izira’s lips said everything. She bit her lower lip, then looked to Miranda, "I think... it would be good to see how many others are floating around here. If Noira and I are successful at all.... we should try to get as many others out of here as well."

"Aye, but we may hafta break a spell or three to set 'em right, make 'em see reason again -- else they'll stay as mad as cats, even back in the land of the livin'”, Miranda replied.

Noira sighed then nodded her agreement with Miranda. "Which means satisfying a being here powerful enough to do such a thing."

Miranda looked back at Gren then, and raised an eyebrow. "Lad... what d'ye even be tryin' to accomplish?"

Gren held his finger to his lips and shushed Miranda. "Take it easy, you'll blow my cover!" Then he cleared his throat, rolled his shoulders as if getting into character. "Why, as a red blooded elf I feel it is my duty to help my fellow fae brethren in their most dire time of need. Aye, my elven sisters, aye?" He spoke loud enough for any fae within radius to hear his 'clever' disguise.

Izira looked to Noira for help.

Noira looked at Izira, looked back at Gren, and after a long moment ventured carefully, "After many years being an elf, speaking Elvish, and generally living among elves, I have gained the wisdom to know the very best disguise for the enterprising non-elf who wishes to go unnoticed. The mute elf. If you truly wish the fae at court to believe you to be an elf... that is the role I would attempt to play."

"And you cannot get startled.” Izira offered, because a startled Gren was rarely a silent one.

Gren looked upwards as if trying to process what Noira was saying, then he looked back with a smile and a finger point. He then drew an imaginary zipper across his lips. He nodded at Izira's suggestion as well, straightening his back in response.

Izira considered a moment, then looked at Noira, "Maybe... a spell?" She asked, then gave an apologetic look to Gren.

Noira considered her own comparatively limited arsenal of spells... then Miranda sighed and said, "Aye, aye, I got this one, don't ye worry none." She staggered her way over (unseen hands taking the helm in her absence), but as she got closer to Gren, her steps slowed, something more – ominous about her approach. She reached back to unfasten her eyepatch again, and as she did, the light around her grew darker, everything cast in shades of silver and gray as if she herself was a ghost. "Look into my eyes, lad”, and the howling face of a specter looked back at Gren from within hers.

"NO WAIT I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO GET STARTLED AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH------------" While looking into Miranda's eye, Gren's mouth froze open as if he was screaming at the sight of the evil specter's face but no sound could be heard any more.

Miranda calmly replaced the eyepatch, clapped Gren on the shoulder, and returned to her duties.

The hands that had shot up to cover her ears lowered slowly as Gren was left mute. "Impressive." Izira glanced at Miranda as she returned to her post, then looked to Gren.

Gren continued to stand there with his mouth open for a while until he realized Miranda had walked off. He looked bewildered for a minute, then opened his mouth again as if trying to say something, but once again there was no sound. He then tapped at his ears to see if they'd become pointed, then immediately got a disappointed look on his face when he realized he didn't get elven ears from the spell.

Izira gave Gren a squeeze of a hug. "I like your ears the way they are." She kissed his cheek. "Shall we ... go ashore then? Or wait for the invitation?"

Just then, three pixies dressed in shimmering green dresses appeared in a burst of sparkles in front of Izira, Gren, and Noira.
"O weary travellers from afar!”
“We'd like to find out who you are!”
“Or more precisely, our Prince would!”
“He'll greet you as a good Prince should!"
The pixies twirl and flit through the air in a circle around them.

Noira narrowed her eyes at them instinctively, then opened a hand and simply stated, "Lead on." The elfess often used five words where one would suffice, but not in this case, and Miranda began to carefully move the ship into deep water where a gangplank could be laid out onto a promontory.

"They said yes! Hip Hip Hooray!" Said the first pixie.
"Come on, we'll show you the way!" Said the second.
"To where the Emerald Prince lay! Or sits." The third added the last part that didn't rhyme.
"My name's Sparkle, I'm the oldest!" Said the first.
"My name's Rainbow, I'm the boldest!" Said the second.
"My name's Sunshine and I . . . oh, nothing rhymes with boldest!" Sunshine sulked.
"Coldest?" Rainbow offered.
"But I'm not cold!" Sunshine complained.
They flitted in front of the ship, guiding them towards the rocky Isle nearest to them.

"Gold...est." Izira's teeth pressed together following the suggestion.

"Yes! Yes! I'm the goldest!!!" Sunshine twirled and seemed more sparkly than normal.
"Oh stop it, Sunshine, we've no time to sing!" Sparkle said.
"Yes, we're meeting the Prince who would be King!" Sunshine agreed.
"Sunshine, you weren't supposed to tell them that part!" Rainbow admonished her.
"Oh, shoot!" Sunshine ducked her head and covered it with her arms in shame.

Noira tried her best not to sigh out loud as she made her way down the gangplank after the pixies. In fact, for every bit that the three seemed brighter, the elfess seemed to sulk all the more. But sensing an opportunity for information, she forced herself to open her mouth: "Sunshine, why weren't you supposed to say that?" She grunted a little as she navigated the rocky terrain of the island.

Sunshine remained with her head down, abashed. "The Prince wants to meet you, that is true!"
"But that's not all he wants to do!" Sparkle said, helping Sunshine.
"He wants to ask a boon of you!" Rainbow continued.
"If it is something you can do!" Sparkle finished.

Izira was managing to not sigh as well. Giving Noira a sympathetic smile helped. "I'm spoken for”, she said for the pixies.

"No, no, the Prince does not seek to wed!"
"He needs a royal crown for his head!"
"That way he'll be King, just like we said!"

"A boon he alone pursues, or am I misled?" Noira tried rhyming in another ploy to get another piece of information.

"We've talked enough, we'll let him say!"
"We're just the messengers anyway!"
"The Prince will ask himself this day!"
The pixies then buzz farther in front of the group as they made their way onto the island. They could see on the sandy beach there were various fae beings there to greet them, from little pixies to large Ent-like tree people.

"If he's going to ask himself, why does he need us?" Izira gave a hint of a smirk. "A welcoming party..."

Despite Noira's efforts to master her body language, she kept folding her arms tighter and tighter, and looking more and more cross...
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Re: The Voyage of the Blind Spider

Post by Gren Blockman » Mon Mar 09, 2020 5:54 pm

The group neared the sandy beach as the fae creatures started cramming onto it to be the first to greet the new guests. Little elf girls, pixies, and gnomes jumped up and down while following Gren, Noira, and Izira. Their chattering was soon drowned out by the thundering of trumpets from a new entourage on the beach. A portly fae was sitting on a velvet throne that was being carried by four centaurs in regal uniforms. "Welcome, welcome, my new friends welcome!" The chubby Prince waved his hands in the air as they approached.

The elfess stuck close beside Gren and Izira, watching the procession of fae with narrowed eyes. However, when the Emerald Prince spoke, she exchanged a look with her friends and bowed — though a little stiffly, bending at the waist and straightening again. She’d learned her manners in the legion instead of at court, after all.

Izira's straight posture seemed to straighten even further. The lady was not aware of it; it was something in the blood of her father's people. She remained as she had always been, but there was a slight edge of haughty politeness. Her head tipped only a little, her eyes not leaving the prince's pudgy face. "Your majesty."

Gren bowed, taking his cue from Noira. He tried to straighten his headband to hide his 'ears', or lack thereof.

The Prince gestured to Gren and Noira. "Oh, Rrrise! Please rrrise! My good adventurers! You have come to us at a most rrroyally oppurtune time!" He clapped his pudgy hands in glee. "Allow me to intrrroduce myself! I am the Most Rrroyal Emerald Prrrince! A most Rrroyally exquisite day, I must say . . . . Oh, wait a moment. Baldingham, what day is this?"

A little gnome with an official looking uniform and a monocle pulled a scroll from his robes and studied it intently. "It does seem to be a most Rrroyal Monday, Your Majesty."

"Rrroyal PUN-day? Oh joy!" The Prince said, misunderstanding Baldingham. "Commence with rrreading the Rrroyal Pun!"

Baldingham fished around in his uniform for another scroll, put his monocle in his eye, and read. "Have you heard about the Rrroyal Prisoner thrown into the Rrroyal Dungeon for falling into the Rrroyal Cement?"

The Prince tapped his chin thoughtfully. "No, I haven't."

Baldingham finished, "Such is the fate of a "hardened" criminal."

"BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!" The Prince pounded his pudgy fist on the arm of his throne.

Had it been Gren or a friend, Izira might have managed a smile or chuckle. As it was she lifted a brow at the prince's reaction, turning a look to her companions.

Gren blinked and looked upwards, trying to process that one. Considering he couldn't talk, that was the only reaction he could give.

With some effort, Noira laughed politely, and then opened her hands. The longer this went on, the more likely it was that the situation would turn even worse for the three of them; so she carefully pressed, “Your majesty, in what manner is this time and the arrival of we adventurers royally opportune?”

"Ohohoho Ahahaha!" The Prince wiped at his eyes and looked to be controlling himself with difficulty. "I do love Rrroyal Pun-Day! But I do suppose business comes first. Fair travelers, I have brought you to my Most Rrroyal Rrrealm to send you on a quest! I know how you adventurers do love your questing and adventuring. Don't they, Baldingham?"

The question brought another flurry of the gnome digging in his robes, which produced another scroll, which he studied carefully. "Yes, your Rrroyal Majesty, the very definition of Adventurer is those who adventure."

"Splendid, splendid! We here in this Rrroyal Rrrealm suffered a loss . . . a loss which can only be filled by those with brave hearts and firm constitutions. This Rrroyal Rrrealm is in desperate need of a King. But alas, I am but a mere Prrrince." The Prince replied, touching his fingers to his chest and looking tragically downwards.

Baldingham produced another scroll. "Yes, Your Majesty, the Rrroyal Rrrecords confirm you are but a Prrrince."

"Silence!" The Prince rebutted.

Noira waited for the prince’s rolling voice to finish echoing after his shout, her hands clasped together as she did. She let the silence hang for a second longer, before asking, “Your majesty, how might we humble adventurers remedy this grave injustice?”

"A most excellent question, my inquisitive friend! It can only be remedied by recovering the Crrrown!"

"The Brrroken Crrrown, Your Majesty!" Baldingham corrected.

"Yes, yes, I was just getting to that! There is a Rrroyal Crrrown that has been brrroken into Four Rrroyal Pieces!"

"Thrrree pieces, Your Majesty!" Baldingham chimed in.

"Oh, very well, Thrrree! All you have to do is venture out into our Rrroyal Rrrealm and rrrecover these thrrree pieces, and I will be King! Isn't that Rrroyally delightful?" The Prince clapped his hands together as if it was the most wonderful idea ever.

"Why was it broken?" Izira piped up with a slight head tilt.

"Why was it brrroken? Ahahaha, well isn't it obvious?" The Prince began, then got a confused look on his face. He turned to Baldingham. "Why was it broken?"

Baldingham pulled another scroll out, reading it intensely. "Because it was brrroken, Your Majesty."

"Nononono, I want to know WHY it was brrroken!"

The gnome looked perplexed, then consulted another scroll. "It seems that an enemy of our Rrroyal Rrrealm did not want there to be a Rrroyal King upon our Rrroyal Thrrrone. So he smashed the Emerrrald Crrrown to prevent this from ever happening, and scattering it to three most secret of locations."

The Prince blinked rapidly. "Enemy? I have an enemy? But I am the most loved, most intelligent, most rrroyally suited Prince to ever . . . . How is this possible? Someone find the name of this so-called Enemy. I demand it!" He slammed his fist onto his throne for emphasis.

“Are there any others who seek the pieces of your Emerald Crown, your majesty?” Noira spoke again, once Baldingham scurried off to answer the question of who had broken it to begin with.

The pixies, Sparkle, Rainbow, and Sunshine flitted up to the Prince.
"Your Majesty, we have an urgent tale!"
"The Enemy you seek and who wants you to fail!"
"He breathes fire, is scaly and has a long tail!"
Those gathered gasped and looked afraid.

Baldingham ran up with another scroll. "Your Majesty, it is the Black Drrragon who is behind this!"

The Prince turned white and nearly fell from his throne. "Oh Dear Heavens! A Black Drrragon! In MY Rrroyal Rrrealm! How can this be?"

Another tilt of her head as Izira tried to consider how a dragon would manage to break the crown into only three pieces. "... How big is this dragon?"

It was hard for Noira not to give that a flat look — not terrified, just exhausted at the thought that they might have to tangle with a black dragon. Taking down the dracolich had been different — they’d had large numbers, an ambush, and the dracolich was only just beginning to awaken. She looked a little hopeful, however, when Izira asked her incisive question.

"He's big with long sharp teeth and scary!"
"His acid breath should make you wary!"
"His horrible temper is quite contrary!" The pixies began.

"Silence!" The Prince waved his hand imperially at the pixies, then turned to Baldingham. "How big is this dragon?"

Baldingham adjusted his monocle. "An Adult Black Dragon can grow up to sixteen feet tall and eighty five feet long. He can breathe both air and water, and is capable of flight and swimming."

"Oh what a horrible trrragedy has befallen us, if only we had a group of brave adventurers to save us from this terrible beast!" The Prince covered his face with his hands and began to weep, although he split his fingers to peer at Noira, Gren, and Izira's reactions.

Izira was eyeing Baldingham and his scrolls.

One of Gren's eyes got bigger than the other and he had a panicked expression over the mention of a Black Dragon.

Noira appeared to be doing mental calculations, holding one hand open and counting a few times and making a few gestures as she looked up at the sky speculatively. Then she looked at the court to address them again, with a pasted-on smile. “Does this terrible beast hold any of the pieces?”

The Prince immediately stopped his lamenting, clapped his hands together and looked at Noira hopefully. "All three I would imagine."

"Actually", Baldingham said, "Maybe just one. He was supposed to have spread them around the Isles, but he may have one for safekeeping."

"Oh bother", the Prince said, deflated.

“Then the three of us should make haste, and pursue the three pieces, before he is tipped off — and when we restore the crown to its rightful place upon your majesty’s head, we and the other mortals who have strayed into this realm will be safely escorted out of this realm, upon intact ships.” Ah, there it was. The deal. She smiled at the Emerald Prince.

"A most agreeable arrraingement . . . but one condition! No offense to you good people, but I want a guarantee that if . . . I mean WHEN you return with my . . . ahem, THE crown, that I receive said crown. Therefore I humbly and Rrroyally rrrequest that one of you stays here . . . . as my most Rrroyal guest, of course." The Prince eyed all three of those present, then he finally stopped on Izira. "You there, a most enchanting young lady. I do believe that you would fit into my Rrroyal Court most nicely."

Many thoughts went through Izira’s mind but halted themselves before slipping from her tongue. Her mouth appeared to work to find something to say, but then stilled into a thin line that forced an edge of a smile. She exhaled, "Surely, reducing our numbers would decrease the probability of a quick success in the task at hand."

Gren opened his mouth and waved his hands frantically, mostly indicating that he didn't like the idea.

There was a dangerous look in Noira’s eyes, now as dark and gleaming as a starry sky, though she only smiled wider as she unclasped her hands to spread them as she asked, “What is it about my friend’s character that you find so fitting for your magnificent court, your majesty?”

"Why, her Rrroyal bearing, her Rrroyal beauty, her Rrroyal manners. Besides, you two look like the warriors in your little group, hmmm?" The Prince waggled his fingers between Noira and Gren. "And also, would you really want this lovely lady to be subject to the wrath of a fearsome Black Dragon? I should think not. She will be well cared for right here in my Rrroyal Court."

Izira could see that this could go back and forth, and time was important for those waiting out at sea for release. "Fine", she added with an edged smile, "It would be my pleasure to visit your court while my companions complete the task."

When Izira agreed, Noira nodded, and looked back at the court with that same smile — and the same look in her eyes. “She will be well cared for, she will not be compelled or mistreated in any way, and we will not bring the Enemy with us when we return to your court. All of these things, I am sure, will be true”, she stated, then bowed her head gracefully, though she did not break eye contact.

Gren looked bewildered between Izira and Noira, then sighed and gave up, nodding with them as they agreed.

The Prince tapped his fingers together gleefully. "Magnificent! The Rrroyal Bargain is struck! Of COURSE she will be well cared for! I am nothing if not a gracious host. Would you like to hear another Rrroyal Pun? I know I would!"

Baldingham fumbled with his scrolls. "Your Majesty, perhaps first we should give our brave adventurers a clue to where to look first."

The Prince sighed, dejected. "It won't be as fun, but alright."

Baldingham looked at a blue colored scroll, then suddenly shifted it around as if he was reading it upside down. "The Black Dragon was sighted on an Island not too far west of here. Wildflower Island, I do believe, the smell of flowers is everywhere there."

"Well, that certainly sounds pleasant enough", The Prince chortled.

Izira brushed Gren's hand with the back of hers, with a microscopic apologetic smile. She looked momentarily pained at the mention of more puns.

“We shall return with all due haste”, Noira decreed, with a sympathetic look at Izira for suffering through that pun, and those she would likely endure in the days to come. The threat had passed without incident, seemingly ignored by the Prince himself, though she did see several courtiers behind him exchanging nervous looks... She only hoped that it would be taken as seriously as she had meant it. “Let us return to our vessel. Adventure awaits — and the Emerald Crown awaits its rightful place”, she added, bowing one last time to the assembled court, though she did not hurry away just yet. Her heart ached for Gren and Izira, giving them time to say their goodbyes — or for her to say them, anyway.

Gren looked stricken at having to leave Izira behind, but having no voice, he could only walk up to her and hold her in his arms tightly. When he pulled back and could look in her face, he hoped that his love for her would shine through his ice blue eyes. He gave her a deep kiss, hoping her warmth would steady his own nerves at what he and Noira would have to accomplish to get both the Crown and Izira back.

Izira smiled knowingly at his gaze, resting her forehead to his after their kiss. Finally, she squeezed his hands and stepped back. "Hurry back." Her words extended from Gren to Noira as well.

Noira would make no swears to the fae, not ever, and especially not here; but to Izira she did not hesitate to promise, “I swear it on the bones of all who came before me. May you find cotton balls soon”, she added, with a sly smile for her friend and a glance after Baldingham and his pun scrolls; and then she was moving away, one hand companionably on Gren’s shoulder for a few moments as they moved off together.
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Re: The Voyage of the Blind Spider

Post by Gren Blockman » Wed Mar 11, 2020 6:45 pm

May 24, 2019




The Blind Spider kept a slow, careful pace as it sailed through the foggy waters surrounding Blackflower Island, and Captain Miranda and her spectral crew kept an eye out in every direction they could. There were a lot of nervous glances at the sky, to be sure, fearing the roar of a dragon about to descend through the thick blanket of fog... But the more immediate danger was the rocks. What was exposed was deceptively smooth, covered in lacy moss and glistening emerald grass that bloomed into beautiful flowers. The petals all had different shapes and sizes — but they were all conspicuously black. The sloop began to steer between a growing number of rocks to either side, and Captain Miranda pointed and hissed to them, “There! The Dragon’s Arms.” Ahead of them, the gray shape of a landmass began to rise in a crescent shape, nearly completely encircling a small, rocky bay. There were few waves in these waters, little in the way of natural currents, but ahead they could hear roaring and crashing that suggested a grotto or sea cave. The air was thick with the heady perfume smell of the island’s many flowers, but for the perceptive, there was something subtle and acrid that it all but completely masked.

The spell had thankfully worn off so Gren could speak again, but rather than his mouth being a problem, it was now his nose. His nostrils worked themselves around frantically trying to get the sulfurous smell out, coupled with the pollen from the flowers that were sure to set off his allergies. "Ah - ah -ah - ah - - - AHCHOO!" There they went. He sniffed and dabbed at his nose with a stiff, used tissue. "Why did it have to be a dragon?" He lamented. He peered into the grotto nervously. "Well, one good thing about a sea cave is I doubt the dragon is in there. Maybe we could dock there."

Noira looked alarmed at Gren's sneeze, not for its own sake but for all the trouble it could cause at the wrong moment. “The court sage did say that the dragon can breathe air and water, so I would not rule this out... but this will be a less watched path,” she said quietly, as the cave entrance came into view. While the glassy green water was impossible to see more than a few feet into, and impossible to know how deep it went, the arch of the cave above the surface was barely high enough for the sloop at the entrance, and went as low as ten feet. The water seemed shallow enough to wade through about twenty feet from where the Blind Spider dropped anchor. The flowery perfume was weaker down here (though far from absent), but that sulfurous smell made up the difference and then some. “Quickly and quietly,” Noira whispered to Gren. “I can cast a spell to help conceal us once we are inside the cave. Ready?” she asked him, standing now at the railing, preparing to dive into the water.

Gren moved to the railing next to Noira and nodded. "Ready!" He whispered as quietly as he could. He dove in with Noira, the water bubbling around him as he dipped below the surface momentarily. He then followed Noira to the cave's entrance, scanning around to see if he could see anything dangerous.

Noira tried to splash as little as possible as she emerged from the surface, her keen eyes adjusting to the darkness ahead. There was flickering green light in a more open space at the end of this low, wide tunnel, and silver and gemstones gleamed in this otherworldly firelight. Noira brought a finger to her lips for quiet, lowered her eyes for a moment, clenched her hands tightly... and willed a subtle wave of silver light to wash over them. The sounds they made were more muffled now, and the shadows themselves seemed to encroach around them, making them harder to see. She proceeded with him about forty feet down the tunnel, twisting one way and then back again, revealing the full extent of the dragon’s lair: piles of silver coins and ingots laid in jade coffers and spilling over the sides, emeralds and sapphires and moonstones set into fine jewelry or scattered loose among lesser treasures, flutes and harps of solid silver, marble statues of ancient elven lords and ladies, and many curiosities and trinkets scattered among the hoard. The floor was spongy, porous, moss-covered, damp earth, flanking several tidal streams and pools. Green flame blazed over the surface of many of these pools, giving off noxious gases in glittering green clouds. And in the center of it all was the dragon, which was likely at least eighty feet long when it stretched out, covered in black scales and spikes that gleamed under the twilight sky— almost like a cat, it slept in a patch of moonlight from the thirty foot hole in the cave over its head. Noira held her breath as she beheld it... then she motioned that she would investigate off to the left, leaving Gren to investigate the right.

Gren wished the mute spell was still in effect when he saw the massive dragon. He covered his mouth with his hand just in case a startled yelp would escape. Nodding furiously to Noira, and with his mouth still covered, he tiptoed off to the right. With a high twisting arc of his legs he stepped over a marble centaur, a little shimmy to get past a few stacks of gold coins, then he ran face to face into a large jade statue of the portly Emerald Prince. He blinked a few times and looked into its dull stone eyes, before shrugging and moving on again. Not far off was a secluded room with no roof, a little hill in the middle was covered with the black wildflowers. On top of the hill was a marble column with a jagged piece of a broken crown on top. Gren brightened and sidled over to it. He narrowed his eyes slightly, thinking it might be a trap, but with a glance up and down he didn't see anything wrong with the column. Yanking it up, he turned to show Noira, when the pollen from the black wildflowers got to his sensitive sinuses. "ah - ah -ah -ah . . . " He put his finger under his nose, and sighed after a moment when it seemed he would be fine, but as soon as he removed his finger, "ACCHHHHOOOO!!!!!"

As old and crafty as this dragon was, one could be forgiven for assuming the wildflowers were, in fact, a deliberately placed trap for this specific purpose. The milky green eyes that opened to stare at Gren, each larger than a serving tray, certainly seemed to hold enough cunning for such a trick. Noira froze among the statues she’d been creeping through, and as the dragon swept his gaze across his domain, he lingered but for a moment... before moving on. The concealing effects of her spell seemed to have spared her from notice, for now. Then his head swiveled back to Gren, stretching out his long neck to get a closer look at him. Puffs of green flame and noxious mist flared from his nostrils, and he bared his jagged teeth as he rumbled a greeting growl at the Ranger, giving the impression of an amused Gren. It was clear that this dragon was very old, scales chipped and scarred grey in many places, many of his long fangs jagged and broken, but in spite of this there was no slowness to his movements, nor any sign of frailty to the powerful muscles that could move his titanic body. “Little man,” he rumbled, and let a growl reverberate around the lair, loud enough to knock over several precarious piles of silver coins and nearly throwing Noira off her balance and blowing her cover. “Do you know what you’re holding there?”

Gren had slapped his hand over his face and froze, as if unconsciously playing possum. But unfortunately, he did not look dead or invisible. Gren's eyes slowly swiveled until they locked on the dragon, when they became as big as pie plates. "Uh . . . . buh . . . . muh . . . . I . . . . " Looking around frantically, he finally came up with an idea. Reaching behind him, he began scratching his back with it furiously. "Yeah . . . back scratcher . . . I got a mosquito bite back there and it's driving me crazy, uh heh heh heh . . .”

The dragon chuckled, shifting his massive bulk to move to encircle the ranger, tail swaying dangerously over Noira and the makeshift statue garden she hid within. “You are closer to the truth than you know... What you hold behind your back is an irritation... one I have taken...” He snapped his teeth together only a few feet from Gren. “...GREAT pains to remove.” The milky green eyes narrowed slyly. It had been so very long since the old beast had company to enjoy... “Tell me about yourself, small one. What do they call you? Why are you here? And what friends have you brought with you?”

Gren's bugged eyes made a circle much like the dragon's body did, and he slowly lowered the piece of the crown. Gulping mightily, he replied to the dragon. "Umm . . . My name is Guh-guh-Gren Blockman. I'm not from this world. We-I got sucked into this one. I met the Emerald Prince who said he wanted his crown back. So I have to bring it to him to get my fiancee back and so I can go home." His eyes darted around, unconsciously looking for Noira, although thankfully for her he couldn't pinpoint her location.

“We? Ahh... do you mean you and your fiancee? And no others with you? You make such jokes… about mosquito bites and back scratchers... surely you must have... friends...” The beast’s tail curled idly around the statues, and Noira slowly lifted one foot to avoid it brushing into her leg. “So... you would see the Emerald Prince become the Emerald King, the ruler of this realm, and then that great, massive idiot would be lord over ME. Is that what you wish, Mr. Blockman? For me to be... subjugated by a fat fool?”

"Well . . . ", Gren eyed the dragon's tail warily, " . . . subjugate is such a strong word . . . . If I could just get my fiancee, and the . . . um . . . others . . . on ships . . . that the Emerald Prince kinda sorta brought here? I'd be more than happy and we can all go back to our lives and pretend like all this just never happened." He noticed the piece of the crown dangling in his hand and reflexively hid it behind his back as if the dragon hadn't already seen it.

“Do you know how many more he will bring here once he has the crown — once he rules these waters?” One clawed foot came down hard, shaking the cave, and the dragon brought his face right up to Gren’s. “IT WAS I WHO USED TO RULE THE EMERALD SEA, AND IT WAS GREEN WITH MY FIRE, AND THE FAT FOOL TRAPPED ME HERE. AS A CURIOSITY. HE LIKED THE WAY THE WATER LOOKED, HE LIKED HOW THE ISLANDS WERE ENCHANTED, SO HIS COURT WIZARDS BOUND THIS PLACE TO THE MAGIC OF THE CROWN AND SEALED ME HERE.” WHOOSH, the tail swept over Noira’s head again, as the dragon paced an angry circle around his own lair, complaining as if Gren were his therapist. “And every time I go to burn them alive for crossing me, I only catch a few, and the damnable faeries scatter like rats in the scullery! It is bad enough that I am trapped here, with his courtiers, with no new treasure to find and their trickery, their songs, their mockery always reaching my ears, year after year, century after century...!” The dragon turned back to Gren again... and actually apologized. “...Forgive me. Clearly, you are no mage, of no mind to break the power of the crown, and therefore of no use to me. I am wasting your time and mine. The fire will be quick”, he promised, as green flame began to flicker and flare behind his jagged teeth.

Gren would have slunk behind something if there was somewhere to hide, but there wasn't. When the dragon mentioned fire, and saw the dangerous green flames appearing, he quickly threw his hands in the air, the crown piece hitting the ground in the process. "WAIT! WAITWAITWAIT! I know a mage! Several actually! Why don't we . . . uh . . . make a deal? What do you need from this . . . hypothetical mage?"

“Hypothetical?” The flames died out, and the dragon began to laugh. “Oh, the lies we spin to save our own hides... but, no”, he rumbled after staring hard at Gren. Dragons as old as this one were gifted with keen insight. “You do know a mage... I wonder if he got you in here? I wonder if he’s with us right now?” The dragon looked around his lair, searching high and low, then looked back at Gren. “Rebuild the crown, give it to the Prince... wait for the right moment, and then this... hypothetical mage”, he said with an amused rumble, “may read a hypothetical scroll I have kept in my hoard to banish him to the Void. He will be the absolute ruler of an empty wasteland of wind and dust, with nothing but himself, his crown, and whatever poor souls are caught in the portal for eternal company.”
The dragon looked away from Gren to scan the room once more, still seeking Noira. Again, he zeroed in on the statuary... but he did not quite notice her, not yet. He was looking for a man, but Noira had hidden herself perfectly behind a statue of a woman only slightly taller than she was. “I would read it myself,” the dragon mused, “but... they scatter like rats in the scullery when I approach, as I said.”

"So then . . . that would make you ruler of the Isles? Not that I mind, no not at all." Gren pictured the pixies and fae creatures sucked into a void. They didn't deserve something like that. Gren's eyes darted back and forth as he tried to think quickly. "How about something simpler . . . you let me go . . . I'll get the Prince to promise to let you go. That way you can go wherever you want, and nobody has to get sucked into an empty void?" Gren tried to smile through his fear, although his forehead was sweating profusely.

“Oh, it will only be those very close to him,” the dragon chuckled. “You are such a kindly soul, taking pity on the tricksters that have led so many of your kind to a lifetime of madness and woe, wandering these waters... No, the only way for me to leave would be if the Prince were to vacate, and he loves this realm so very, very much... and I would rather not leave all of this behind”, sweeping his gaze across his hoard once more, “after I spent so long acquiring it... Unless you have another idea?”

Gren rubbed the back of his head. "I . . . uh . . . don't have another idea." He gulped again. "I guess I'll have to go along with your plan."

“I can sculpt the spell,” Noira said, the strange shadows flickering away from her as soon as she spoke, boldly stepping forward as the dragon’s mighty head swiveled around to her. “Sculpt it so that only the Prince is affected... and we will all leave safely... and you will find a kobold warren or a dragon cult to convince to move your hoard for you, and leave these accursed waters behind forever.” The dragon moved his head slowly to follow her, flames flickering dangerously from his nostrils as she came to stand beside Gren, as she continued, “It must have been... what... close to a millennium? Or past it? Surely long enough to be sick of this place.” The dragon stared hard at them, rumbling thoughtfully, and Noira gave Gren a look that tried to silently communicate, I really hope this works!

Gren shrugged at Noira, wiped the sweat off of his forehead, and tried to give the same hopeful, wide smile to the dragon. "Hey, I'm on board. Sounds like a swell plan to me." He doubled down with more smiling and a big thumbs up.

The dragon laughed loudly then, as loud as any roar, shaking rocks loose from the ceiling above, causing Noira to duck and cover. “You have pleased Ossiderax the Cruel, small ones! HA! And you will please me more by banishing the Emerald Prince when you crown him... or I will not spare the fleeing ships from my flames”, he promised grimly. “You, elfling, take the scroll by the mithril lyre — and nothing else”, he added with a dangerous edge. “I know the smell of a thief all too well...”

Noira, chided by her assessment as a dungeon thief by this fearsome beast, hurried off to collect the spell scroll.

“And YOU,” the dragon turned his head back to Gren, and gave another dangerous smile. “Funny one. Mr. Blockman. I have hidden the other two pieces cleverly, and behind great dangers. Come closer, and listen well...”

"OH! Yes." Gren jumped as the dragon referred to him, then eased closer. He then stopped, realizing he wasn't holding the first piece, and his head swiveled around until he found it and picked it up. He held it up for the dragon. "Found the first one! Heh. Ahem, yes, tell me about the other pieces . . . . "
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Re: The Voyage of the Blind Spider

Post by Gren Blockman » Fri Mar 13, 2020 8:23 pm

“There is a tower, a lighthouse once, long ago,” Ossiderax growled uncomfortably close to the ranger’s face, the heat of his green flame flickering in his throat, close enough to cook the air between them. “South and east, at the furthest corner of these fae-cursed waters. You must be as silent as the...” The dragon gave him a fanged grin, letting drool drip from his teeth. “...dead, and do not disturb the lights in the water, or they will steal your very breath. Climb the tower, find a way to draw the lights out of the beacon at the top, and you will find the second piece.” The dragon waited, blinking his bowling-ball-sized eyes slowly, waiting for some expression of gratitude for this great gift.

At the word "dead", Gren reflexively cringed, and thankfully did not let out a yelp. When the Dragon stopped speaking, he waited a few long moments before clearing his throat. "Ah . . . yeah, great. Cursed waters. Lights that steal your breath. Silent as the dead. Sounds . . . . fun. Thanks for the information, we'll be getting on up the road now . . . " Gren gave Noira a few nervous taps to her shoulder and pointed hurriedly at the exit.

The dragon leapt up over them, unfurling and flapping his wings once, and landed heavily between them and the exit. Noira staggered from the impact, coming down awkwardly on one of her war wounds and limping back. “WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING?! AREN’T YOU FORGETTING SOMETHING?!” Smoke and fire shot out through his teeth, casting erratic shadows around his strange lair.

Gren reflexively covered his head, trying not to flee in terror from the massive bulk of the Dragon. "Forgetting . . . ? Forgetting . . . .ah, ah, eh . . . Oh, the scroll! Did you get the scroll, Noira? What else could we have forgotten? Crown Piece One? No, I've got that right here . . . My dignity? No, I left that in the boat back in RhyDin . . .”

“THE THIRD CLUE!” Ossiderax thundered. “Had you forgotten, or did you have some other plan for leaving the realm and trapping me here, I wonder...?” He lowered his spiny eye ridges and sniffed at Gren and Noira skeptically.

"NO NO! THE THIRD CLUE! I was just about to say that! Please, go on, go on!" Gren frantically waved his hands as if eager to hear the wisdom the Dragon would impart.

“The final piece,” the dragon snarled, eyeing the ranger in particular as if he wasn’t quite sure about him still, “rests in the one-time home of that foul trickster the Emerald Prince. North and west from the old tower, then north through the sunken Jesterwood. You will find an island inhabited by a creature so vile... so despicable... even the eldest of dragons do not dare to speak her name. With incredible power she blasts all beings back from her lair, and the souls she has driven to madness are beyond counting... yet you have no choice but to face her”, and the fanged snarl turned to a nasty grin. “The final piece, I allowed to fall into her terrible grasp beyond my reach and the Prince’s, and now she wears it as a trinket. Now... you have what you need to help me... and now, you may go”, and Ossiderax dismissed them with a low, territorial-sounding growl.

"Wonderful. Vile, descpicable, incredible power, driven to madness. I got it all right here." Gren tapped his temple for emphasis. "Well, it was lovely meeting you, Sir . . . uh, Mister Ossiderax the Cruel, Sir. We're hot on the trail, you can count on us. Noira? Time for us to get crackin' . . .”

“Your Cruelty”, Noira bade him by his formal title, one befitting a dragon of his station, and bowed as she left. She grabbed a hold of Gren’s sleeve to see to it he did the same, and to keep him from turning his back on Ossiderax, significantly stepping backwards the entire way to the low, wide tunnel that mercifully broke the ancient beast’s line of sight with them.

Gren jerked his head down at Noira's tug, trying not to pitch forward as he did so, before mimicking her backwards shuffle down the tunnel, wearing a plastered on smile and beads of sweat on his forehead. As they lost sight of the Dragon, he let out an explosive breath. "Geez . . . I'm sorry, I have allergies! Aw man, it's like we're walking into a death trap in both cases!"

“Sneezing happens at the worst possible times, my friend, believe me,” Noira assured him, patting him on the arm as she stepped up to the water’s edge. She paused there, looking back at the lair with a critical frown, her pointed ears mirroring the angle of her eyes as they narrowed. “The second is straightforward enough, and I have confidence in your lightness of foot and my experience in missions of stealth; and all that we need in addition to what we already possess is a distraction. “The third, however...” Noira shook her head as she waded into the water. “I wonder how such a creature is associated with laughter.” With that, she dove into the water to finally, mercifully exit the lair of Ossiderax the Cruel.
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Re: The Voyage of the Blind Spider

Post by Gren Blockman » Sun Mar 15, 2020 7:31 pm

May 27, 2019





There is a tower, a lighthouse once, long ago. South and east, at the furthest corner of these fae-cursed waters. You must be as silent as the dead, and do not disturb the lights in the water, or they will steal your very breath. Climb the tower, find a way to draw the lights out of the beacon at the top, and you will find the second piece...

It had been nearly a day since anyone aboard the Blind Spider had seen land, and that had been a meager excuse for it, two brown rocks jutting out of the jade waters, each capped with shifting red flowers that tried to compel them to come over for a whiff of their intoxicating aroma...

“Think a’ muckin’ stables,” Captain Miranda had advised them sagely, moving the ship beyond the trap and on towards the next. The strangely murky surface of the sea was wreathed in mist that seemed to grasp at the hull as they slid through the water, avoiding the fog banks that towered like massive plateaus in greater size and number with each passing hour. “Honored guests! There ain’t much further we can be goin’ now!” the captain called out to Gren and Noira.

“It must be close, so keep your voice down, if you please!” Noira hissed irritably, and turned to Gren to whisper: “What can you see? There must be something by now...”

They had finally been at sea for long enough that the constant rocking of the ship began to play on Gren's delicate disposition. Gren had turned from white to green as they sailed farther and farther from Wildflower Island. At this point, he was hanging over the railing of the ship and the sound of vomiting could be heard now and again. Luckily it had been a dry spell for him when Noira whispered to him, and he focused his bleary eyes ahead, peering through the fog banks. Soon, in the distance, he saw a faint, yellowish light coming from the southeast. He pointed a shaky finger. "I see something . . . light . . . >hup<", Gren put his hand up to his mouth as if to keep from throwing up again. As the ship made their way closer, they could see a tall spire of a lighthouse with a bright yellow glow at the top. The walls were a shimmering, milky white, like pearl. Most of the island was rocky, like a solitary finger jutting out of the ocean. "We should be careful . . . light in the >hup< water . . . " Gren continued as quietly as he could.

“Light in the tower, I see it now, too... but it must be drawn out if we are to have any chance of approaching it. I shall need one of your arrows. Captain Miranda? Let us stop here, and have your crew lower the skiff.” Quietly as they could, spectral hands grasped the ropes to still their groaning as much as possible, the ghostly sailors began to hoist the small boat over the side while Noira awaited Gren’s arrow.

Gren cast a few glances between Noira and the lighthouse, wondering what she was up to, but he went back to the railing where he had laid his bow and arrow while he was busy with . . . other things. Withdrawing an arrow, he brought it back and handed it to her, curious as to what her plan was.

The small boat lingered alongside the deck, and with Gren’s arrow in grasp, Noira padded quietly across the ship and into the skiff. She shut her eyes for a moment... and the shaft of the arrow turned black, glittering faintly with little motes of starlight. “Fire this past the tower,” she whispered to Gren, “as far as you can.”

"Past the Tower. Far as you can. If I would have known that I would have brought my bow too." Tiptoeing back over to the railing, Gren grabbed his bow, then went back over to the skiff and climbed inside. He rapidly blinked his eyes and rolled his shoulders as if trying to break out of the funk he was in, then he notched the arrow, pulled the string and aimed for the lighthouse. After a few moments to steady himself, he launched the arrow, which sailed through the air, passing the lighthouse on the left and moving beyond.

As the head of the arrow dipped down on the last leg of its arc, Noira’s eyes snapped open and she made a sharp gesture, and it accelerated[, dropping into the sea with the same splash as a large stone. It sounded like bells going off in the top of the lighthouse, and dozens of glowing, sickly yellow, wispy shapes curled away from each other and floated out over the water on the far side of the tower, searching for the source of the disturbance. Noira gave Gren a satisfied smile, then gave a thumbs up to the crew as she grabbed one of the oars. Soon they were being lowered down into the gently lapping waters, and Noira was dipping her oar in to start them towards the lighthouse.

Gren took a seat next to Noira, and taking the opposite oar, began to row them towards the rocky island. There was a small beach at the base of the cliff where the lighthouse was situated, with a rocky path that wound up and around to its door. Gren nervously glanced behind him, to make sure the creatures of light weren't returning. Landing on the beach, he helped pull the boat up onto the sand. Trying to stay quiet, he began the trek up the narrow path towards the lighthouse.

Returning? Not quite... but in the time it had taken them to get there, a number of the creatures had reached a point about thirty feet past where the arrow had splashed down and started roving their way back, moving side to side as they advanced like hounds scenting a trail. Three of them were close enough to be seen from the beach when they peeked around the edge of the lighthouse, close enough to make out their shapes — like amorphous, yawning, ravenous faces of gleaming fae magic. They had a couple of minutes, though it was not clear how the will-o’-wisps would behave once they felt they had completed their search or how long that would take. The doorway was barred with a locked silver cage door, the slats wide enough to allow the faerie lights to pass through, but not the ranger or even his petite elvish friend. She tried it, then mouthed to Gren: ”It’s locked.”

Gren gulped and looked upwards. The shimmering, pearl like substance was a series of ivory bricks that made up the lighthouse's wall. Being old and rugged, some of the bricks stuck out a bit. It looked like maybe they could use them as hand and foot holds to climb up the side. Gren pointed his finger upwards and shrugged at Noira as if asking her if they should try it.

Noira gestured as if to say that he should try it, tapping the point where she was previously wounded with a crossbow and the leg she limped on for emphasis. She handed him a rope and pointed to the top — once he had the piece of the crown, she’d help him down. The sickly yellow glow began to reach the far side of the island. She jabbed up insistently. Get to it!

He gulped and nodded. Glancing upwards, there was a parapet around where the bulb of the lighthouse was with a pronged railing. Making a little lasso, he flipped it around his head a few times before throwing it upwards. Luckily it caught a prong, and he cinched the knot, before tying the other end around his waist. He then walked up the side, pulling himself up hand by hand. Being careful to find foothold in the bricks, he slowly edged his way up the side of the lighthouse, before pulling himself over the railing. He hit the ground and lay there for a moment, looking around quickly to see if any of the will-o'-wisps had seen him.

None yet, though that glow was beginning to reach the top as one of the blind will-o’-wisps made its way up the wall. The light illuminated the beacon itself — the bright fae spirits made their bed on a layer of not coals but hundreds of quartz crystals, peppered with large chunks of raw emerald. Sitting in the center was another piece of the crown, the second in the set of three.

Gren eyes lit up as he saw the crown piece. He scuttled like a crab along the parapet, trying to avoid the sharp edges of the quartz, until he was near his prize. Reaching into a pile of the emeralds, he carefully drew out the crown, trying not to let the gems jangle as he did so. Sticking it into his pocket, he ambled back over to the railing and slid over. This time his descent was easier as he slid down the side, wrapping his hands with his cloak so as not to get rope burn. Soon he had landed next to Noira, and held up the piece to her in victory.

As he did so, she was making a stilted motion across her neck with a flat hand. Kill something? Go die? No, probably quiet, as evidenced by the glow of a will-o’-wisp as it drifted slowly in his direction. There was one drifting up behind her, too, lazily up and down along the lighthouse wall as it moved ever nearer to the cage door only a few feet away from them... A few more were moving along the beach, within sight of them now, and from the glow on the far side of the island, several more had returned that way.

Gren cringed and nodded rapidly, stuffing the piece of crown back in his pocket. With a flick of his wrist, he unhooked the rope from the railing above, then tied it to the door of the lighthouse. He pointed down to the beach, then pointed to his back as if telling Noira to jump on.

Noira was not certain she understood his plan, but the faerie lights were less than ten feet away, close enough that she could feel the edge of their draining, wearying aura — and she trusted him. She all but held her breath as she climbed onto his back, hooking her arms carefully around him, and winced and peeked to see if the spirits were racing towards them. They weren’t, but they were within only five feet now, and she could see half a dozen more trailing up the tower not far over their heads now.

Using his cloak like he had done on his initial descent, Gren instead sped up the process, jumping down the side of the cliff, they rapidly descended down to the beach, although the fabric of his cloak got hot that time, causing him to quickly drop the rope once they hit bottom and shake his hands out.

It appeared the sound of their impact on the beach had drawn the attention of several of the spirits; a tentative chiming sound that in this tense context, better approximated a growl. Noira climbed off of Gren’s back as she saw the glow approach the edge of the cliff and the wispy shapes emerge... She blinked twice, her eyes turning to seas of starlight, and pointed up at the beacon. There was a shattering sound, quartz shards flying out in every direction, and the spirits rang shrilly like alarm bells as they swarmed all around the tower for the source of the disturbance. It was an enraged swarm, and was growing quickly, each will-o’-wisp flaring as it blindly used its draining power in different directions. Noira padded as quickly and quietly as she could to the skiff to push it back into the water.

Gren winced and followed Noira as quickly as he dared. As they got the boat into the sea, he climbed in and started rowing as fast as he could without causing too much noise as his oar hit the water. He glanced back to the Blind Spider, hoping that the distance wasn't too far.

Captain Miranda was daring to take the Blind Spider closer, seeing the dire circumstances the pair were in. Noira joined Gren in rowing as quickly and quietly as she could, propelling the small boat forward through the water, but she could see the reflection of yellow lights in the green surface that told her the swarm was still close — closer, even. As one of the spirits passed just over them, it flared with its terrible magic, drawing vitality out of their flesh and into itself — enough to alert it to their presence, as it stopped its trajectory and prepared to act again.

Gren flinched as he felt his energy drain from him. "Let's go!" He told Noira, and he doubled his efforts to row the small boat back. He could see the Blind Spider getting closer, and ropes being lower to them. He tried to channel all his strength into getting the tiny craft back to safety.

Noira struggled to maintain enough energy to continue rowing, and the will-o’-wisp began to shudder as they approached the side of the boat, beginning the first note of a chiming alarm that would announce their presence— Captain Miranda was staring down over the railing, but not at them - at the will-o’-wisp. Her eyepatch was off, and her marked eye gleamed like a silvery ghost, the grasping arms of the dead unfurling from it and racing out to the fae creature. Its cry was cut off on the first note as the pact-bound captain willed death into it, and it withered away into fading sparks. The ghastly tendrils retreated, and ropes were lowered to bring the skiff aboard as the Blind Spider pulled further away from the spirit-swarmed lighthouse.

"Oh, boy, that was close." Gren was sweating profusely at that point. After being hauled aboard, he shook his arms out and looked at his wounded palms caused by the descent to the beach. "And unfortunately . . . that was supposed to be the easy one."
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Re: The Voyage of the Blind Spider

Post by Gren Blockman » Mon Mar 16, 2020 6:28 pm

May 28, 2019




The Blind Spider continued its journey through the strange fae waters, although this area seemed different. Murky green water surrounded the boat, and an unnatural seeming silence pervaded the area. You would think there would at least be a gull or two, Gren thought. Staring out over the prow, he scanned the horizon for their next island target. Soon a brown smudge appeared, and Gren waved to the Captain to steer towards it. As the ship approached, they could see signs of devastation as they neared the one, broken dock that jutted out towards them. Trees were torn and smashed, laying in the same direction on the beach. Boats, some as small as fishing vessels, others large enough to be cargo ships, were wrecked in various places in the waters. Discarded papers and clothing blew across the sand. Gren gulped and looked around as they tied the ship to the mangled dock. "Geez, as if I wasn't spooked enough already", he said in a hushed whisper.

Noira put up a hand to signal Gren to stop, and shook her head. Her ears swiveled low, wary and uncertain, and she barely dared to give any voice at all to her words. “Notice the way the trees are lying, and the boats at the same angle. No... I think we are on our own for this one. Captain, cast off and anchor past the furthest wreck, but leave the rowboat behind.” She adjusted her lightweight pack and eased carefully down the dock, creaking the wood as little as possible, peering ahead at the exposed sand-worn rocks covered with tufts of uprooted dune grass.

Gren clammed up and gingerly exited the boat, landing on the wood of the dock that shuddered at every step he took. He wanted to ask her what she thought might have happened, but her cautiousness kept him quiet. Dead leaves and refuse blew past him as he walked up the beach.

Noira made her way up as stealthily as she could, pausing often to watch the Blind Spider sail further and further out. It wasn’t until she saw the anchor splash into the water that she began to climb the ridge in earnest. When they reached the top, they could see more of the sand-blasted stone (and little remaining sand) and a shallow pool in the center, surrounded by withered tree stumps angled nearly parallel to the ground. Bones were scattered up against the rocks, some ground into bone meal, while torn clothes lay strewn further up the slope. In the center was a being more than twenty feet tall, her wispy, water-formed lower body hovering just over the pool, heavy jewelry hanging off of her belt, her ears, her nose, and her eyebrows — and one familiar piece was studded in her navel... ”Marid,” Noira mouthed to Gren, confused how such a being could have an outsized fearsome reputation. Her back was to them, but she was turning slowly, and they could see the edge of her smile as she scanned her surroundings.

Gren had seen a lot of monsters and creatures in his time, but never a Marid. He gaped and his eyes bugged out a bit as he followed the large being's movements. He looked at Noira and shrugged, as if asking her what they should do.

Noira shrugged emphatically at Gren as she ducked down with him behind the robes of a wizard who likely did not need them anymore, dangling from a sharp driftwood branch. She started to make a motion as if one of them should circle around the other side, when the marid’s voice boomed at them.

”HAVE MORE STRANGERS COME TO SEE CLEMIRA, THE QUEEN OF JOKES?”

If their cover hadn’t been blown before, it was now. Her voice was loud enough not only to make Noira’s sensitive ears ring terribly, but to flap the robe completely out of their path.

”TELL ME THIS, NEW FRIENDS. WHAT DO YOU CALL SOMEONE WITH NO BODY AND NO NOSE?”

Coming from her, under the circumstances, it struck Noira as a threat. She gulped.

Gren froze, although it was too late for him to panic or dive behind anything. He cringed back and covered his face with his arms when the Marid boomed out her riddle to him. He stammered a few moments before saying, "I don't know . . . she doesn't know . . . Nobody knows!"

”THAT’S RIGHT! NOBODY KNOWS! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!” She laughed with enough force to whip the robes off the branch and fifty feet into the air, and to send both the elfess and the ranger tumbling back to the ridge line.

Gren didn't have time to voice an objection before he went rolling head over heels backwards. Luckily for him he grabbed onto a rock, and stuck his hand out to catch Noira before she could fly past him. "Holy crap . . . . what are we gonna do?"

“I don’t know!” Noira wailed as she grabbed onto Gren and one of the rocks, pulling herself flat again. “Maybe, if we get three right—“

Clemira wasn’t waiting. ”FRIENDS! I HAVE A GOOD ONE, A PERSONAL ONE — A SAUCY ONE.” She chuckled, which was only enough force to whip dust in their faces and send a palm frond aloft. ”WHEN MY EX-HUSBAND’S FRIENDS ASKED HIM IF HE LOVED ME, WHAT DID HE SAY?”

"I've never been married!" Gren cried, then he looked at Noira, still hanging onto the rock. "Do you have an ex-husband? Or any friends beside me? I'm drawing a blank." Then he lifted his hand in the Marid's direction. "Give us just a second! It's a . . . really good joke!"

”BUT YOU CANNOT KNOW HOW GOOD A JOKE IT IS UNTIL YOU HEAR THE PUNCHLINE. I CANNOT HOLD BACK. I HAVE TO TELL YOU.” The marid took a deep breath, then blurted it all out at once. ”IF I LOVED HER I WOULDN’T HAVE MARID HER! MARID? MARRIED? GET IT?! BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!”

This time Noira dug a climbing hook into the rock to hang on, flapping through the air for a few seconds and doing her best to hang onto Gren too, until the laughter subsided and they fell back to the ground.

As Gren grabbed onto a rock too, his legs kicked out in the air at the force of the laughter again, and when he crashed to the ground, he turned to Noira. "Geez Louise . . . we ought to introduce this one to the Emerald Prince, they both love puns." He painfully got to his feet and tried to face the Marid, although he was reflexively shrinking back a bit. "Ha . . . ha . . . haha, uh yeah. Married. I get it. Say, uh . . . Miss Queen of Jokes . . . we were kind of looking for something. And that something is stuck in your belly button."

The marid looked puzzled, but she wasn’t examining her own navel, except in a completely abstract way. ”LINT? NO, THAT ISN’T A GOOD PUNCHLINE... MY LITTLE FINGER, THAT IS KIND OF FUNNY IN A CERTAIN CONTEXT, BUT I DON’T KNOW... I GIVE UP. WHAT IS IT?” She was looking up at the sky pensively and then back down at them. ”OR WAS THAT THE PUNCHLINE? THAT SOMETHING IS STUCK IN MY BELLY BUTTON?” She seemed both puzzled, and determined to understand the joke.

Gren looked off to the side for a long moment, then focused his gaze back on her. "No . . . I, uh . . . wasn't telling a joke. It's literally stuck in your belly button. That piece of a crown, that's what we're after." He paused. "By the way, your jokes were really funny. Nobody knows, ahahahaheh."

The marid beamed proudly, while Noira was already taking cover. ”I KNOW! AREN’T THEY? THAT REMINDS ME OF ANOTHER. HOW DO I LOOK?” She struck a pose, adjusting the silks wound through her hair and the bracelets on her wrists vainly.

Gren glanced to Noira, then grimaced as she hid under the rock. He flinched, realizing he was on his own. He plastered a smile on his face and looked back at the creature. "You . . . uh . . . . look A-MARID-ZING! Ahaha!" Gren threw his arms out as if to say "Tada!"

She actually looked put out. ”NO, THAT ISN’T FUNNY AT ALL. A-MARID-ZING DOESN’T SOUND AT ALL LIKE AMAZING, IT’S TOO MUCH OF A STRETCH. AND JOKES ARE NEVER COMPLIMENTS LIKE THAT. THEY JUST AREN’T.” She was so busy explaining how bad the punch line was that she had momentarily forgotten to finish her own joke, long enough for Noira to creep forward from the rock she was behind and crouch down behind another, lashing herself down tight. ”NO... WITH MY EYES! I LOOK WITH MY EYES! A HA HA HEH HEH”, she laughed with only enough force now to blow Gren’s hair back, and the chuckle quickly died. ”OH, THE MOMENT’S PASSED. NOW I HAVE TO COME UP WITH A NEW ONE.” She tapped her chin, thinking.

Noira ducked out from behind the rock, considering the next point to scurry to.

Gren cringed as the monster didn't like his joke, and he dodged her words as if they were punches being thrown at him. Then he spotted Noira scurrying to another rock, and he suddenly got a bright idea. "Hey! Wait a sec! Give me a chance to tell a better one! Why did the Octopus cross the road? Give up? To get to the other "tide"! Ahahaha! That was a good one! And it was a water joke!" He pointed his finger for emphasis.

The marid watched him while he told the joke, then turned away, folding her arms tightly to consider it. ”TO GET TO THE BETTER TIDE, HUH. BUT WHY WOULD AN OCTOPUS EVEN CROSS A ROAD? IF IT WAS ON A BARRIER ISLAND, ONLY ONE SIDE WOULD EVEN HAVE MUCH OF A TIDE...”

Noira scurried almost up to the pool, but found no rocks as the marid started to turn around. She gave Gren a wide-eyed look, panicked, and ducked down behind one of the stumps, pulling some palm fronds over herself.

”UGH, AFTER A JOKE LIKE THAT, WE NEED A PALATE CLEANSER. OH, THAT PUTS ONE IN MIND...”

"Wait, wait, wait!" Gren put up his hands, seeing Noira's frantic look. "I can do better than that! Where can you see a fish in orbit? Come on, come on! No? In TROUT-er space! Ahaha! It's like a shooting starfish!" Gren shielded his eyes while looking up in the sky and shifted his head from left to right as if following the imaginary fish's trajectory.

Clemira chuckled at shooting starfish, and Noira looked terrified as that was enough to blow one of the palm fronds away, but the rest of the joke disappointed her and she turned away to consider it. ”TROUT-ER SPACE IS TERRIBLE WORDPLAY - AND WHY WOULD A FISH BE IN OUTER SPACE? IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER IF YOU HAD SAID, WHERE DOES AN ASTRONAUT KEEP HER STARFISH? IN TROUT-ER SPACE. THAT IS AT LEAST WORTH A GOOD CHUCKLE. BUT NO, CLEARLY YOU NEED HUMOR LESSONS. FORTUNATELY FOR YOU, I HAVE PLENTY MORE JOKES—“ As she turned around to face Gren again, there Noira was, at the edge of the pool, already mid-spring. She landed on her stomach, braced with her feet, and started to tug on the crown piece. ”WHAT ARE YOU— WHA HA HA, HEY, STOP THAT, I’M TICKLISH—“

Gren started towards the marid once he saw Noira's cover was blown. "Oh, I'm not finished yet . . . one last try! How to you make an Octopus laugh? With ten tickles! Get it?" He reached up and started tickling the creature's belly as Noira made a play for the crown piece.

”OH— HAH, HEH HEH, THAT WAS ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD— HEHEHEH— HAHAHA— BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!” And with that burst of laughter, the ranger and the elfess went sailing through the air together, the massive bellybutton stud in her grasp as she went flying in an arc for the mercifully soft (though not that soft) landing of the beach.

Sand flew in the air as Gren landed unceremoniously on the beach, then rolled a few times. He sat up, groaning, and glanced around for Noira. "Please tell me you got it?"

Noira did not sit up, still recovering from her landing, and did not have the breath to verbally answer. She did, however, hold both her arms up and the crown piece with it. Leaves and loose debris blew overhead as the marid dissolved into paroxysms of laughter. Noira cracked an eye open to look at him finally, and asked him, “Trout-er space? Really?”

Gren shrugged his shoulders and looked exasperated. "Hey, if I needed tree jokes, I could have done a better job!"
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Re: The Voyage of the Blind Spider

Post by Gren Blockman » Wed Mar 18, 2020 7:43 pm

May 29, 2019




"HAHAHAHAHA! Oh give us another Rrroyal Pun, Baldingham! I cannot get enough of them!" The Emerald Prince was sitting on a plush divan in the courtyard of his castle.

Baldingham was standing next to him, shuffling his scrolls like a deck of cards. "Yes, Your most Rrroyal Majesty, yes . . . . Did you hear about the Pumpkin that won the Rrroyal Beauty Contest?"

The Emerald Prince tapped his cheek thoughtfully. "I can't say that I have."

"It was rrroyally and absolutely GOURDgeous!"

"BWAHAHAHAHA!" The Emerald Prince flapped his arms from side to side like an enormous chicken who thought he could fly. "Oh, too marrrvelous! Simply wonderful! I do love a good Rrroyal pun!"

Izira sighed, sitting at a table nearby, her chin in her palm with her elbow resting on its surface. It had been days of one bad pun after another while she waited for Gren and Noira to return.

But return they did, Noira leading the way! After several hard days of adventuring, her stride hobbled a bit, but she appeared to be in good spirits. She gave the Emerald Prince a beatific smile as she walked in front of Gren. Clutched in her hand was a sealed scroll, tied with a lovely green velvet ribbon. "Your Highness, we have returned!" she declared, standing off to one side to make way for the Ranger and the crown he carried, and cleared her throat as if preparing for an official announcement from the scroll.

Gren marched up towards the Emerald Prince, with the newly restored crown in his hands sparkling, and took a knee in front of him.

Izira stood from the table, lightly pressing her hands together with a pleased look on her face at Gren and Noira's return.

Lifting the Crown up to him, Gren said, "We have completed the Crown, just as you have asked, Your Royal Majesty."

"Oh my Grrracious! Can it be?" The Emerald Prince clapped his pudgy hands together and jumped up and down like a kid at a candy store. "I'm rrrealy going to be an Emerald King! Oh, what a prrrrestigious occasion!" He waddled over to Gren and took the Crown from his hands, then gingerly laid it upon his head. "I feel it! Oh I feel so much more rrrregal! I am! I am the Emerald King! BWAHAHAHA!!!!" He shook his fists in triumph.

"Ahh-- but Your Majesty, it does not work until it is formally announced!" Noira could be a wily liar when the situation called for it, and she kept her tone and expression carefully controlled for the situation as she stepped forward and thrust a finger into the air to make her point -- then leveled her hand out flat to transition into a low, humble bow. "After seeing the crown restored, would you allow me the honor of reading what has been prepared for this occasion?" She asked while indicating the scroll in her other hand.

"I don't see why a most Rrroyal speech should not be given at such a momentous occasion! You may prrroceed!" The Emerald King tilted his head back and placed his hand over his heart, trying to assume a more dignified pose. Courtiers began to assemble to watch the spectacle, as well as the pixies, Sparkle, Rainbow, and Sunshine.

Noira smiled in the most dignified way she could manage, rose from her bow, loosened the ribbon, and unfurled the scroll. As her lips formed the first syllable, her eyes turned as black as night, speckled with starlight, and the words of an unfamiliar language began to spill from her lips. While she did so, though, she began gesturing between herself and Gren, to Izira, to the courtiers, and then to the Emerald Prince himself as if she were weaving some great tale about their adventure and whose glory it was for. When it came to him, she gestured her hand emphatically a few times, raising her voice, as if singing his praises!

The Emerald King was still looking upwards, but his eyes swiveled to Baldingham. "What language is this?"

Baldingham consulted a few of his scrolls, then his eyes got a bit wide. "It seems, Your Rrroyal Majesty . . . she is speaking in Draconic!"

"But why is she doing that . . . ?" The Emerald King began, before Gren covered his face with his hands and peered through his fingers.

Noira sped up her recitation once Baldingham recognized the language. Her eyes were darting down the lines faster, visibly nervous a second before the scroll began to fade from her hand, and what appeared to be stars streamed from her fingers to swirl around the newly crowned Emerald King -- and a diamond-shaped tear to the empty white void opened beneath him to pull him and him alone in, as directed by the elfess' careful gestures. "Ossiderax the Cruel... sends his regards... and wishes you a long reign... and good health... as Emerald King of the Void”, her words were strained as she put all of her will into the spell and making it work!

"Ossiderrrax the . . . WAAAAAHHH!!! No, this can't happen to me! I'm the Emerald Kiiinnngggg!!!!" The Emerald King frantically flailed his arms as the tear sucked him backwards and into the void, and with a last wail, he disappeared into the darkness.

Baldingham, Sparkle, Rainbow, Sunshine, and the rest of the faerie citizens either gasped in shock or stared in wonder at his vanishing.

Her war wounds be damned, the elfess used the moment of shock to dash over to Izira and give her a push in Gren's direction as she declared, "I believe it is time that we were leaving!" Noira was eager to be getting on the boat by the time the courtiers finished processing what had happened and decided what they would do to the people responsible.

"Oh my!" Izira's hands flew up in the air as Noira pushed her to Gren.

Thinking quickly, Gren scooped her up in his arms and made a dash for the Castle exit. "Do you think they'll be alright?" Gren wasn't going to argue with Noira, but he glanced back at the gnomes and pixies that were still in shock over their missing King.

"Either a new monarch will assert themselves, or they will form a council to delegate civic duties, or they will become a failed state, and I will be fascinated to learn more about the outcome once we are further from the potential for violent retribution!" Noira was wordy as ever, even as she huffed her way through sprinting for the Castle exit, and the shoreline beyond. She had never been happier to see the Blind Spider, its gangplank lowered as the crew scrambled about the deck. The elfess flailed her arms in a wild gesture, and Captain Miranda gave the order to prepare to set sail.

"Maybe you're right. I worry about things like faerie governments too much." Running up the gangplank, Gren finally felt safe enough to lower Izira down to the deck, where she promptly kissed him in happiness.

"I knew you'd come back, My Ranger." Izira smiled and batted her eyelashes at him.

"Aw, well . . . " Gren turned red and rubbed the back of his neck.

"My Princess! My Princess!"
"Our princess by right of deposition!"
“Come back, your highness, come back, please!"
"What have we done to offend you, your highness?! Forgive us!"


There was a chorus of high-pitched voices from all of the pixies, gnomes, and other beings darting out of the castle towards the shoreline, and Noira's eyes became very wide, and she all but shrieked, "Cast off!" at Miranda. The Blind Spider drifted away from the shore, painfully slowly as the courtiers drew closer, but soon she was catching the wind and beginning to gain speed...

"Come back!" Baldingham called out as the ship slipped further into the clearing mists, now that the reign of the Emerald Prince had ended. "Come back, your highness! I have -- new material! A most wonderful joke about an octopus!" But his voice could only carry but so far, as the various courtiers stood waist high in the water or flitted just above it and watched the ship slip over the horizon, back towards home.
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Re: The Voyage of the Blind Spider

Post by Gren Blockman » Fri Mar 20, 2020 5:46 pm

They were spotted coming back to Sibreth Orchard, and by the time the Blind Spider pulled up to the dock, Noira’s parents, her uncle, and her three cousins were all out there waiting for them. She flushed with embarrassment as the moment she stepped off the deck of the ship, both her mother and father had pulled her into a firm hug, squeezing her hard enough to get a grunt out of her. The surprise of it turned her face red, and there was a lot of chatter going on in Elvish that may have included admonishments for the wayward battlemage.

Miranda seemed entirely too happy to hang back, tending to her sloop alone -- her eyepatch was replaced, her crew was nowhere in sight, and she turned her head and gave a sliver of a grin as she watched the happy reunion -- from a safe distance.

Gren was relieved enough at making it back to Noira's home that he could chuckle then smile at Noira getting flustered by her family's greeting. He glanced back at Captain Miranda, then gulped. Well, at least this voyage is over, he thought, no more ghost ships for me. Gren smiled and squeezed Izira's hand as they disembarked and came to a stop behind the Sibreth family.

Noira clarified to Gren and Izira, with an apologetic smile for the chaotic reunion now beginning to settle down around them, "They are inviting us to a proper Sibreth family dinner... which means opening a good bottle every hour until it is time to sleep. Captain Miranda, if you would like to--?"

The captain chuckled and shook her head. "Nah, lass, I've got things needin' tendin' to here, an' a hold to fill with some of that wine. Just save a good bottle for me, aye?"

The elfess nodded, a little surprised by her manner, but moved to fall in with Gren and Izira. The little cousins were tugging at their hands, trying to hurry them along. There were far more words in Elvish than in Common, but it sounded like the word "pie" kept coming up.

"Okay, okay, I'm coming!" Gren laughed and held little Tira's hand as they pulled them towards the impending meal. "I could use a good meal in a nice, warm house right about now." Gren watched Tira's excitement over pie, and he couldn't help but think about if he and Izira would ever have children. Their relationship had built slowly over the years, but since they would be married eventually, it was more and more present on his mind. It was nice to imagine himself as part of an extended family, and he followed along with the Sibreths, letting himself daydream, for the moment, that it was real.

Baking with the 'help' of Tira, along with Aldar and Kendar, turned into a glorious mess of flour, and the resulting fruit pies were delicious if not necessarily as pretty as they could have been. The pies were for after what appeared to be horns of bread packed tightly with seared and spiced vegetables and shredded meat, small hunks of gooey cheese, and round grains spiced almost as liberally as the main course. The first wine bottle was opened before the plates were set. By the time the pies were demolished, three tall green bottles stood empty, and Kendar and Tira were yawning as their drowsy elders were shepherding them to bed. Aldar had insisted on staying up with the grown-ups while they smoked outside and watched the stars, but he had dozed off next to Noira. She was seated on cushions on the small, low deck along one side of the home and slowly putting wind braids into his hair as her pipe smoldered away on top of a smooth stone, forgotten for the moment. She looked serene... as relaxed as she had been in days. "That was quite an adventure," she murmured, pitching her voice low so as not to rouse her young cousin.

Gren quietly laughed at that. "Ghost ships, Pixies, a talking Dragon, an Emerald Prince, a Marid that tells jokes . . . .” He stopped and looked up at the night sky. "I wonder sometimes . . . how I get caught up in adventures like these." He was quiet for a moment, then looked at Noira. "I'm glad you were there with me. We make a pretty darn good team, you know."

"We do." Noira smiled with her eyes when she looked over at Gren, skillfully adjusting the painted porcelain beads on the end of a braid without watching what she was doing. "Did I ever tell you about what I did, while I served the Empire? My comrades in the Mystic Legion?"

Gren opened his mouth to respond. He thought of some of the things she had told him over the years, like dungeoneering and waking up at the crack of dawn to go fight some army from who knows where. He then smiled and leaned back in his seat. "Why don't you tell me again?"

"There were three of us. I was the Scholar, Tavos was the Scout, and Grenwal was the Shield. The Scout watched over us, the Shield protected us... and I relied on my knowledge to find us the missions that often got us into danger, and tried to get us back out of it. They were good men... the best men I have ever known, even after counting their faults. When we descended into a dungeon, it was only the three of us. When we went into battle, it was as a team, no matter how many thousands of soldiers were with us."

He noticed she said they were good men. " . . . . Are they still alive?" He asked her.

Noira shook her head sadly, though the smile was still in her eyes; she seemed at peace with the matter. "They died for their team, protecting the only person they could save in the moment... me." Finished with Aldar's braids, she brushed them back gently, and settled a hand over his shoulder when he stirred; she was silent for a few moments, letting him doze off again, before she continued. "I think about them often, and I try to live my life by their example, and honor their memory by showing the same commitment to my family and friends, and never any less." She looked back over at him, and dipped her head slowly, a simple gesture heavy with the weight of her loyalty and her friendship. "We do make... a pretty darn good team," she said, with a quiet laugh as she tried to take on one of his affectations instead of her own more formal words.

Gren smiled and ducked his head down, then looked back at her. "Well . . . . I hope we both stay alive for a long time. I would mind having kids with Izira some day. I want to live long enough to hear their stories about their adventures. I'm sure I'll have my share to tell . . . sitting on a porch with them on some starry night."

Noira let out another soft laugh as she nodded with agreement, and with the movement, Aldar roused again. She murmured a few words to him in Elvish, and he nodded mutely and got to his feet, trudging back inside to go to bed. She collected her pipe as she finally answered him. "That sounds beautiful, and I believe in my heart that is what the two of you will do. Have children. Watch them grow. Help them grow. The two of you deserve that happiness." There was a long draw of smoke, and a thoughtful hum in her throat. "I think I will have to content myself with being an aunt... but there is an abundance of joy there, too. And you two”, looking over to Gren, "when you have children of your own, will have to invite their Aunt Noira over to visit."

"I'm sure they'd like that." Gren had watched Aldar, sleepily move inside. He rubbed his eyes. "Well . . . I'm pretty exhausted myself. Do you have a spare room that Izira and I can stay in tonight?" He thought a moment and rubbed the back of his head. "Or . . . uh . . . we can stay in separate rooms if your parents wouldn't approve."

"It was many years ago when the two of them fell in love... but it did happen”, Noira replied with her eyebrows raised at him, then laughed. "It will be fine." She tapped out her pipe on the stone and scrubbed out the bowl with her thumb as she stood. Her eyes tracked to the starry sky, more familiar now than what she had seen trapped in the Emerald Sea... but not so familiar as the stars over her first home. Then she looked to Gren, and nodded as she led the way inside: "I'll show you both to your room."

Gren put his arm around Izira's shoulders, then they followed Noira back into the house. "Thanks . . . Aunt Noira." He chuckled. "Hey, I could have said Princess."

There was a shudder from Noira as they moved inside.


End
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