Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade. Part IV

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The glow of the elemental ring was a bad sign, it meant that the air-ship was preparing to depart. With a burst of speed we reached the base of the docking-tower. There were two ways up to the mooring area, a lightning-lift and a set of stairs. The lift was somewhere above us and it looked doubtful that we had time to wait. The stairs then. It may have only taken a few seconds to ascend the eighty feet or so to bring us level with the air-ship but by the time we had my legs felt like they were made of lead and I was leaning heavily against the wall for support. Despite the urgency of situation I had time to notice, and be slightly resentful, that my companions had taken the run in their stride.

We were faced by a loading peer some fifty feet long and about twenty wide, Though it’s effective width was halved by numerous crates, bales and barrels that were staked up along both sides. At the far end of the pier was a the airship with a short gang-plank running from one to another. Between us were five gnomes who, initially appeared to be dock-worker. As we pilled onto the pier, however, the gnomes all turned to us as one and began to ready short-bows.  Fraiya and Altera reacted as one, unlimbering their own bows and unleashing an arrow each. Both thudded into the same gnome, Fraiya’s arrow was turned harmlessly aside by a set of leather armour the gnome wore but Altera drew blood.

It seemed very unlikely to me that the average gnomish dock-worker would wear leather armour and carry a short bow and, we noticed, longswords. As the air-ship had been arranged by Neyr Ir’krell I figured that they might be her people and tried to reason with them but to no avail.

Readying his sword and shield Toryil quickly moved to back up War-Forged. Two of the gnomes unleashed arrows. One bounced off of War-Forged adamantium exo-skeleton but Toryil revived a nasty wound from the second. War-Forged charged forward, a second arrow ricocheting harmlessly off his armoured body as he did so, and wounded a gnome with his hammer.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Bri cast an Invisibility spell. My spell of See Invisibility had yet to expire and I saw her sneaking along the edge of the pier, quietly climbing over the boxes and barrels.

Battle had now been joined in earnest. Toryil had fallen back to drink a healing potion but Altera had run forward to take his place and between her and War-Forged had cut down a gnome and were engaging the others. Fraiya was trying to out-flank the gnomes by jumping over the boxes and creates but misjudged a jump and fell between then. I made one more attempt to reason with the gnomes but things seemed to have gone too far.

On the narrow pier the fight was turning into a war of attrition. Altera and War-Forged pressed the gnomes hard but our enemies proved to be tough and determined and were not going down without a fight. This was bad news as, once the fighting had started, the crew of the air-ship had re-doubled their efforts to get underway as quickly as possibility. Only the invisible Bri had the ability to manoeuvre freely. I saw her slip up to the gangplank. When she reached the  foot of it she paused and drank what I think was a healing potion.

I called on the Pearl of Power to re-call the Magic Missile spell I had cast at the ball and fired off a a pair of magical darts into a gnome, injuring but no killing him. I followed this up with a Scorching Ray spell but my aim was off and I missed the gnome.

By now there were only three gnomes left but they fought on with a single-mindedness that reminded me of the wolves we had fought some six days ago. My supply of spells was pretty much used up. I pulled a dagger and cast True Strike. I only had seconds to act before the spell dissipated and my companions were completely blocking my view of our small enemies. Willing my leaden limbs to work I pretty mush threw myself over the crates and ended up behind and to the side of the gnomes. As I did so  a ball of flame appeared about the feet of the rear most gnome, Bri had used a scroll to cast a Flaming Sphere spell. The gnome was burnt but still alive. I sent the dagger flying in his direction with a flick of my wrist. Guided by magic my aim was true but his armour absorbed most of the impact.

All I really did was succeed in getting the gnome’s attention and he quickly moved in to engage we. His first blow should have hit me but was deflected by my Mage-Armour spell. Fraiya took a shot at him with his bow but, putting a good margin for error in so the shot wouldn’t hit me, the arrow went wide of the mark.

As I desperately tried to call the words to Acid Spray to mind War-Forged and Altera finished of their opponents . Aletra pointed at me and shouted “guard”. In response a grey shaped leapt forward and my gnomish opponent was born to the ground by Altera’s wolf.

I took a split second to asses the situation. We had taken too long with the gnomes. The crew of the air-ship had pulled up the gang-plank and the craft was slowly drifting away from the pier, already it was some fifteen feet away. To make matters worse there was Bri standing on the air-ship, alone.

I took a deep breath and with one  ran along the pier as fast as my exhausted legs would carry me. Even as I lunched myself into the air from the end of the pier I knew that I wasn’t going to make it. A life of academia hadn’t prepared me for this sort of things and I was still winded form the run up the stairs. I didn’t even covered half the distance before gravity caught me in it’s grip and I plummeted towards the ground eighty feet below!

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned but, like all natives of Sharn, I didn’t feel dressed if I didn’t have a Featherfall Token on my person. Of course the real problem was that a token is only good for falls of sixty feet or less so I had to hold my nerve for the first thirty feet of the fall and then activated the small magical talisman. Once activated it took me another six seconds or so to float to the ground. As I fell I saw the air-ship race away from the mooring tower and followed the glow of it’s fire-elemental with my eyes as it headed in a northerly direction. At least Bri was on board, hopefully she could persuade the  captain to return with his murderous passengers.

Once I hit the ground I made my way over to the lightning lift and headed back up. Exiting the lift back on the docking level I was surprised to see that Bri, sporting a few scratches, was among my companions. I was even more surprised to see that War-Forged wasn’t! It transpired that, fearing that she would be marooned on the air-ship on her own, Bri had attempted to jump back to the pier. She too had fallen short of her target but had been close enough and luck enough to grab on to the supports that held up pier. She had been carrying her familiar at the time and, terrified that it was going to plummet to it’s death, the cat had dug in with it’s claws for all it was worth.

At about the same War-Forged had lumbered along the pier and, despite his great weight, hurled himself across the gap to the air-ship. Part of me was really sorry to have missed the spectacle.

Fraiya had been helping riffling through the kit of the dead gnome. He was impressed by their bows and took one. The swords were just as good and both he and Bri helped themselves to one. Finally Fraiya discovered that each gnome carried what looked like a healing potion so he handed them out. Most of my companions drank their straight away but I pocket mine for later us.

It strained my eyes to follow the rapidly diminishing ring of fire that was the air-ship hoping to see it turn around and head back. It soon became apparent that it wasn’t . What we need was to know where that air-ship was going and a way to catch up with it. Altera suggested that we look for an administrator’s office and see if the air-ship had left a flight plan.

Just as we were heading back to the lift there was a heavy “whoosh” of air and an air-ship pulled up to the pier. For a second I thought it was the air-ship that had just departed but there were obverse differences; there as no ring of fire surrounding this craft, suggesting that it was powered by an air-elemental rather then a fire one, and the hull of the vessel showed clear signs of un-repaired battle damaged.

A rather dishevelled half-elf leant over the side and shouted to us to jump aboard if we wanted to catch that other air-ship. With barely a seconds hesitation we were all aboard and heading off into the night.

We soon learnt that our new friends was Captain Raw-wag of Jade’s Fury. He told us that he had received a message from Ambassador Neyr Ir’krell to meet us at the docking-tower in case we hadn’t been quick enough to stop Lucan’s escape.

Jade’s Fury raced onwards. Raw-wag seemed confident that we could catch the other vessel but it would take some time. He had a crewmen show us to a common room where we could sleep. I for one was exhausted but we made sure that one of us stayed alert through the night in case our new ally was more then he seemed.

As the sun rose the next morning it was clear that we had gained considerably on the air-ship carrying Lucan and War-Forged but it would still be some time before we got close enough to board it. The spells I learnt that morning had a strong emphasis on offensive and defensive magics, I had a feeling I’d need then before the day was out .

Captain Raw-Wag asked us how we wanted to deal with the situation. I was eager to try and negotiate. Neyr Ir’krell had said that she had arrange Lucan‘s passage, I we could get a message across to the captain of the other vessel that she had withdrawn her patronage he might hand over Lucan and Grilsha.

If that failed it seemed that we had no choice but to board the air-ship and apprehend the pair by force if necessary. We could only speculate as to War-Forged situation. Was he a prisoner? Had Lucan killed him?

Raw-wag  quizzed us carefully on what we thought we would be up against if we tried to board the air0-ship and take Lucan by force, not an unreasonable question as he and his crew would be in just as much danger as us.

By noon we were within a couple of hundred yards of the air-ship carrying  War-Forged. As we had drawn near I had grown more and more convinced that the air-ship we were chasing was none other then The Cloud’s Destiny. I felt like saying that, with Lucan, the crew of The Cloud’s Destiny and us, it was just like old times. But then I remembered it wasn’t like old times at all, Nev was dead.

It appeared that the crew of air-ships had a way of passing on messages using light reflected on mirrors.

Several times we sent across the message “Aundrain Ambassador has revoked passage for man and woman. Man is murderer. Will take man and woman into custody” but didn’t even get an acknowledgement.

Captain Raw-wag advised us that the safest way for us to get aboard would be to wait till night.  Remembering Toryil’s comment that vampires were powerless in sunlight I wasn’t happy about the idea of waiting that long but the captain explained  that Jade’s Fury had the advantage over The Cloud’s Destiny in that it used an air rather the fire elemental. If the deck lights were all extinguished Jade’s Fury would be all but invisible in the dark. We could then manoeuvre close up below The Cloud’s Destiny and transfer across in an air-skiff. The plan seemed worth the risk.

As we waited for day to turn into night Toryil commented that  he could see a war-forged on The Cloud’s Destiny but wasn’t sure it was our comrade.

Be dusk we could see the setting sun illuminating the snow-capped peaks of The Seawall mountains. I heard someone in the crew mention that Mistmarsh was somewhere below us.

More of Jade’s Destiny came on deck. It was surprising how many of them there were, certainly more then Captain Stern Fae had needed to crew The Cloud’s Destiny. For some reason this made me nervous and I could tell from Altera’s demeanour I wasn’t the only one. However the die was cast. The truth was we needed Captain Raw-wag and Jade’s Fury if we were to be reunited with War-Forged and capture Lucan. If there was another show waiting to drop we would just have to deal with that when it happened.

It was soon dark enough to launch our raid. I took one final moment to remind my comrades that the crew of The Cloud’s Destiny had saved our lives and that Lucan had either tricked them or was somehow controlling them. Either way we should avoid killing anyone if it was at all possible.

The air-skiff was about ten feet long and six feet wide. It was crewed by one sailor who controlled the vessel by holding a thick rod mounted in the prow. Whatever noise the skiff made was drowned out by the rushing of the wind and the deep roar of The Cloud Destiny’s elemental ring as we flew beneath her hull. As we went both Bri and I quickly cast Mage Armour and added See Invisibility for good measure.

Initially Captain Raw-Wag had suggested that we climb up on to the deck to minimise the risk of being seen but Altera’s wolf had put pay to that idea so instead we slowly inched up in the skiff till we were level with the deck and hopped across, came up level with the deck at the hoped across.

As quickly and quietly as we could we moved up till we were pressed up against the front of the same, glass-fronted common room where only a month or so ago we and Lucan had discussed the Schemas.

Bri quickly cast Invisibility and Altera cast Longstrider.  We glanced down either side of the deck. There seemed to be two men on watch,  one on either side. Our luck seemed to be in as, talking to one of the watchmen was none other then War-Forged.

Fraiya tried to sneak up on the second watchmen. He had barely got halfway when the guard spotted him and gave a shout of “Skyraider ahoy!”. The words were no sooner out his mouth then he was hit in the back by and arrow and collapsed.

Where had that arrow come from? I looked around and to my horror noticed that there were several more air-skiffs closing on us. On board were warriors in the all too familiar half-helms and green tabards of the Emerald Claw.