First installment of the Sapphire Searchers campaign.

| Next Installment>>

A massive barbarian woman slept in the top bunk of her room aboard a ship known as the Gloomhazel. In the bunk below, her diminutive friend tossed and turned. Any onlooker would be concerned that the bunk frame would collapse in a moment, and the larger of the two ladies would be crushed in an instant. But that's how things were between Lupe and Ka'Ara- Ka'Ara wanted the top bunk, and Lupe made it happen, no matter the risk.

What kept Lupe up was not the sleeping arrangement. Instead, it was her dubious employment of late. She didn't care for labels like con artist, charlatan, or highwayman, but she would have preferred any of them to what she had been pressed into service as lately. For better or worse, she had been made a pirate.

Between Ka'Ara's snores and the sizzling sound of her drool freezing on the Greataxe of Frost that she refused to sleep without, it was impossible for Lupe to sleep. This was just as well, as it was in this moment that a goblin crew member knocked at her quarters and spoke through the door.

"Coming ashore soon. Captain wants to see you both before landfall, special assignment!"

brown wooden ship's wheel
Photo by Maximilian Weisbecker / Unsplash

The thought of her captain gave Lupe an unsettling chill. It wasn't that she lacked respect for the man- Far from it. She just preferred to respect him from far, far, away. Maybe not so far she couldn't hit him with an enchanted arrow, but certainly far enough that he couldn't hit her.

After mustering Ka'Ara, the two reported to the Gloomhazel's top deck; A flurry of green and blue skinned goblins running this way and that. They weren't much shorter than Lupe, but where she stood tall, they had a tendency to hunch or even scamper on all fours. It was impossible to get a solid count of how many were aboard, as they were all adept at making themselves unknown.

The ship had been leading a small fleet and, to Lupe's surprise, appeared to have been in combat for hours. There was a sinking ship in the harbor, smoking and crumbling towers inland, and the fleet's ships were sending barrages of magic and steel at any ship, structure, or dispatch of troops foolhardy enough to defend the town.

A bizarre dance of flags signaled one ship to another, and the two began to dock with each other while landing craft departed and raced for the shore. The overlap of weather and screaming and the clatter of normal ship operations made it hard to hear anything, but a sense of gravity shifted all eyes to the gangplank settling in and linking the two ships. Striding across was a rock of a man, Seneca.

Photo by Annie Sowards / Unsplash

Grey-Blue skin pulled taut over sheet of muscle and bone, Seneca's face was one of perpetual frustration and disappointment. He had a visible contempt for the way the world was, and had hewn himself such that he might be able to change it. He lacked the patience for fashion or uniform or any form of embellishment. His head and face were clean shaven, and he wore simple garments under mutilated plate armor. While the armor was past its prime defense-wise, it was a clear indicator that people- powerful ones at that- had tried and failed to kill him.

Behind him followed a monotone monk, black hair fixed in a top bun, sunken grey eyes in a sunken grey face that matched her tunic. Only a thin red line of hemming ran through the outfit, which had sleeves halting just above the wrist. This allowed for plenty of space to manipulate her most important equipment; Her hands.

"Follow me" barked the captain, headed toward the landing craft.

After coming ashore and entering the town, the four pirates followed a path of wreckage, bodies, and blood. Rain pounded the cobblestone sending streaks of red into puddles, but the stones didn't seem to get any less bloody. There were sounds of war blocks away, but the immediate area was eerily quiet. The path they followed wound slightly this way and that, but the destination was clear; A grand edifice less than a mile away. It's towers soared, eight stories or more into the sky, and it was braced with buttresses on either side, etched and dyed a dark blue.

Before they could reach it, however, a shop door swung open. From inside, a handful of shrieking villagers charged. At the helm, a man swinging an oversized morningstar, and behind him his wife hurled a dagger. Persephone's quickness caught the blade and sent it right back, skewering the woman's head. The morningstar finished its arc, sinking into Ka'Ara's chest, but it didn't move her. She didn't even flinch- Just smiled. Out in the open now, it was clear that the other villagers were the young children of the couple- A teenaged daughter protecting her infant brother. Yelling, she charged at the group, but advanced only a few steps before Lupe's arrows cut the meat of her legs, felling her like so much firewood.

Seneca didn't break stride as he outstretched his arm, sending blue and white crackles of energy that magically pulled the father's head into his open gauntleted hand. Seneca remarked that this was "No time for games" and crushed the father's skull into a bloody mess. His charges followed behind him, leaving the weeping boy tugging at his mother's side.

After winding down the road, the group arrived at the structure they had seen in the distance. The area was abuzz with activity from pirates of all kinds, but none had breached the building itself. With a gesture and grunt, Seneca indicated to Ka'Ara to bring down the door, an order with which she happily complied. Inside, excitable academics scurried and fled deeper within the structure, halted only by the booming of Seneca's voice.

"STOP. Which of you has trained in the routes to the East?"

None could form words until he sent out his crackling lines of energy again.

"I won't ask twice."

A frightened Firbolg, already ashamed of what he was about to do, shouted and pointed, "The big one, him- He knows that space." Seneca's arcane lances slithered along the pointing creature's finger, leading to a massive Goliath standing stoic against the wall. They grasped him and pulled him to Seneca, who held him aloft and pierced him with his eyes.

"Is it true?"

"Yes" uttered Brut, ever the fan of monosyllablism in the face of danger.

"Very well. You three will use this one to find passage. Take a ship, follow the chart, find the stone. I'll return in a year. You know how I feel about failure, and how I feel about repeating myself. Is your assignment clear?"