Whispers of the Vampire’s Blade. Part V

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There were four air-skiffs in all, each with about six people in. Three were pulling up to the deck; one about half way along each side and the third at the prow only about fifteen feet from where Altera, Toryil and I were. The forth looked like it was trying to remain stationary about thirty feet above the deck. They could only have come from Jade’s Fury. We had led them straight to Lucan and the sword just as we had led them to Whitehearth.

Altera ran along the port edge of the deck, ready to engage one group of attackers.

Toryil cast a spell of Bull’s Strength upon himself and went forward to take on the occupants of the skiff at the prow.

I ran across the front of the ship to the starboard side. Looking down the length of the vessel I could see War-Forged at the far end. I shouted to him to make his way over if he could, though it looked like then Emerald Claw soldiers on the starboard side would cut him off. I cast a spell of Mirror Image, summoning up five illusionary decoys. It was just in time too as the archers in the forth air-skiff had picked targets and let fly their arrows. No sooner had it appeared then one of my decoys winked out of existence again as it was struck b y an arrow.

Now all hell broke loose as the Emerald Claw surged from the skiffs. I heard one of them shouting orders to “find the vampire, find the Schemas, kill everyone”.

Four jumped from the skiff at the prow. Within moments we were in tight melee with armoured attackers all around and arrows raining down from above.
One rushed over to me but ended up attacking a decoy instead. After a split second to make sure I wouldn’t hit Toryil I cast Burning Hands, catching three of the invaders. They cried out with pain but were still on their feet. I saw Toryil go down from a heavy blow. I took a second recall my Burning Hands to memory using the Pearl Of Power and them cast it again. This time two of the Emerald Claw soldiers went down. This left me and two Emerald Claw soldiers on the foredeck. I risked a glance at Toryil, he was bleeding freely, if he didn’t get help soon he was done for.

Both of my remaining opponents were burnt, one more badly then the other, but the intensity of the fight had already dispelled all but one of my decoys. Up till then I had been lucky and had avoided injury, that was soon about to change.

War-Forged charged into the fray. Luckily for me most of the invaders from the starboard skiff had charged below decks leaving only one to attack War-Forged. War-Forged had quickly brained his opponent and charged along the deck to reach the prow. Now he and one of the Emerald Claw soldiers were trading blows but for now their armour was thwarting the pair. The second soldier lunged at me. His luck was in and he ignored the remaining decoy and caught me with a glancing.

War-Forged was looking pretty done in, he had taken several vicious blows during the fight at the masquerade the night before. I quickly dodged behind him, pulling out one of the scrolls of Repair Light Damage that I had scribed for him while still in Sharn, and cast it into him.

A second later and my world exploded into blinding pain as I was pierced by an arrow from above. I fought to remain conscious. Focusing I realised that War-Forged had dispatched one of the two soldiers and had succeeded in drawing off the second, leaving me a safe route to Toryil’s body.  I dashed over to my fallen comrade. Even as I did so an arrow disrupted my last decoy but a forced myself not to think about that. The deck all around Toryil was thick with his blood, I pulled out a potion of healing  and poured it down the elf’s throat. It failed to revive him but at least it closed his wounds.

I glanced across to where War-Forged and his opponent were trading blows. Spotting an opening I cast Scorching Ray and finished the soldier off. An instant later I felt another blinding stab of pain as a second arrow hit home and then blacked out.

I was brought around a few seconds later as War-Forged fed me a healing potion. The sounds of fighting on deck seemed to have diminished but not stopped all together. I heard a voice I didn’t recognise shouting that he had found the vampire.

In quick succession I cast a Shield Spell and activated the protective powers of my Dragon Mark. It didn’t seem to do any good as a rain of arrows streaked down onto the deck from above. One transfixed my leg and I almost lost consciousness again. War-Forged dropped his heavy shield near by and, telling me to us it, moved towards the prow of The Cloud’s Destiny.

I grabbed for the shield and pulled it over me. As I did I scanned the night sky for the air-skiff carrying those damned archers. Spotting it I unleashed my second Scorching Ray. The shield was damned cumbersome. I almost botched the somatics while juggling the weight of the shield and it made aiming harder but the ray  shot true. An archer screamed in agony and fell from the air-skiff. Oddly he only fell for ten feet or so and then he slowed and drifted down to the deck.

The archers retaliated but my shields, both mundane and magical, deflected the shafts.

Running footsteps heading my way got my attention but to my relief it was only Altera and her wolf. Covered in blood, a gore soaked blade in each hand and under the effects of her Beast Hide power, Altera looked a fearsome sight . The pair had been fighting side by side along the port side of the air-ship. Between then they had dispatched  four of the Emerald Claw, receiving numerous wounds of in the process but were still full of fight.

Something caught Altera’s attention. I craned my neck to see what it was and my heart skipped several beats. Jade’s Fury was on a collision course with us!

With a sound like thunder Jade’s Fury smashed into the back of The Cloud’s Destiny. The impact caused the two air-ships, now fatally joined in a way their respective designers never envisaged, the spin violently on the air. I fought desperately to stay up-right. There was an indescribable noise as the ring of fire around The Cloud’s Destiny was cut by the almost invisible ring of air that surrounded Jade’s Fury. To my horror the fire, a bound fire elemental, twisted and surged like a trapped snake and then leapt away from the mats that contained it. I could feel rather then see the same thing happening to the air-elemental tied to Jade’s Fury. The elementals, the only things holding up the twisted, misshapen  hulk of wood that had once been The Cloud’s Destiny and Jade’s Fury, had broken free!

The air-ships began to plummet towards the ground. Altera snatched up her wolf and jumped over the side. My mind raced. I had used up my only Feather Fall Token last night. Toryil, I realised, would have one  but was in no state to use his. I dived across the tilting deck and grabbed hold of my unconscious friend, one arm around his waist and the searching for his token with my free hand. I found it as I propelled us over the side. As we fell away from the wreckage I saw the metallic shape of War-Forged jumping over the edge.

It was hard to judge distances in the dark. Luckily there was a violent, crimson light come down from above where the fire elemental and air elemental fight with inhuman furry. Judging the right moment I activated the token an my decent dramatically slowed. I had time to look around. Above me I saw the air-skiff carrying the archers being obliterated as the wildly struggling elementals passed too close to it. The power of the unleashed elementals was awe-inspiring.

Looking around I spotted Bri for the first time since the Emerald Claw had attacked. She looked okay, floating down with the rest of us. I couldn’t see Fraiya anywhere.

With a thunderous detonation the two crippled air-ships slammed into the ground about half a mile away, throwing a thick cloud of wood into the air. Just as I touched down there was a final, animalistic roar from above me coupled with a prolonged downwards rush of blisteringly hot air as the elementals destroyed each other.

Just because I had my feet back on the ground didn’t make me feel safe. If my companions and I have survived the air-ship crash I couldn’t see why enemies couldn’t too. Quickly I went through Toryil’s pockets and found a couple of healing potions. The first I fed to Toryil, it’s healing power bringing him to consciousness. The second I downed myself.

Alert for any danger Toryil and I tried to find the other. Quickly we were reunited with War-Forged, Altera and her wolf and Bri. Unlike the reset of us Bri was pretty much unharmed. When the Emerald Claw had attacked she had quickly headed below decks only to become trapped in the vicious, close quarters fighting between  the crew of The Cloud’s Destiny and The Emerald Claw. Luckily a combination of Invisibility and Mirror Image spells had kept her safe. During the fight she had spotted Grilsha and Bri reported that the mage had escaped the crash using a spell of Flight. Bri’s own escape from the crash had been less certain as she did not posses a Feather Fall Token. Luckily, as The Cloud’s Destiny fell from the sky, she had seen a crewman fish a potion out of his pocket and run for a side room. Bri had fished around in the pocket of a nearby dead crewman, found a potion and followed. The room she found herself held a ballista. The crewman had already thrown open the shutters to the outside world and, still clutching the potion, threw himself out into the night. Guessing, correctly, that the crew of The Cloud’s Destiny carried potions of Feather Fall in case of emergencies Bri followed suite and jumped out the window.

Both Altera and War-Forged announced that they had seen Lucan during the fight. Alyera had seen a mist rise up through the decking and solidify into Lucan. A couple of Emerald Claw soldiers had tried to attack him but the same uncanny speed that he displayed at the masquerade ball had kept Lucan from harm. Just before he had leapt from the air-ships War-Forged had seen Lucan transform himself into a bat and fly to safety.

War-Forged was adamant that he needed repairing. All I had to hand were the remaining three scrolls that I had scribed for him and, on War-Forged insistence, I used all three.

Rather ominously we could find no trace of Friaya. No one had really seen him since the start of the fight when the initial rush of Emerald Claw soldiers had separated him from the bulk of us. We made our way over to the crash site. About half a mile from where we had landed we found the beginning of a fresh, wide scar  gouged out of the ground. We followed trench, littered with pieces of wood and the odd body part, for  a couple of hundred yards. At it’s end we found the bulk of the remains of the two air-ships.

Carefully we began to search through the wreckage. It was delicate work as the wood, in some places slick with blood, groaned, shifted and is some places gave way under foot. Soon enough Altera and I found Fraiya’s body. It was a grizzly sight. The terrible power of the impact had sheared his legs clean off and they were nowhere in sight. Most of the bones in what was left of his body were broken. However I doubted that it was the crash that killed him judging by the number of broken arrows that stuck out of his body. In his hand he still clasped a twisted length of metal that had once been a finely crafted rapier. His Feather Fall Token seemed unused so he had been either dead or incapacitated when the crash had occurred. Not wanting to waist the token I used it to replace my own. Bri took possesion of his Darkweave Cloak.

We wrapped up what was left of our friend and carried him our of the wreckage. Fraiya had never been a particularly religious man, or if he had he kept his faith to himself, but he had invoked The Sovereign Host during times of stress. So War-Forged dug him a grave, Toryil said prayers commending our comrades soul to the care of The Host and I placed a platinum coin in his hand to distract The Keeper as our friend’s his soul made it’s journey to Dourrh.

Viorr’s mission had now claimed the life of two if our company. I had only known Friaya barely six months but I grown use to his easy-going outlook on life. I was beginning to wish that we had never answered Viorr’s summons.   

We managed to scavenge a bit of loose money from the wreckage. War-Forged found a severed arm with a ring on it’s hand. War-Forged speculated that, judging by the burns, the arm may have once belonged to the archer I had killed with the Scorching Ray. This jogged a memory; the dead archer falling out of the air-skiff and then floating to the deck of The Cloud’s Destiny. On a hunch I cast Detect Magic. The ring had an aura of Transmutation magic, just like the Feather Fall Tokens. I was certain that it was a Ring of Feather Fall and suggested to War-Forged that he wear it. In exchange War-Forged gave me Nev’s token. Since I hoped I wouldn’t need two I passed the token I had lifted from Friaya on to Toryil.

We had noticed the lights of what could be a settlement to our north so, with nowhere else to go, we headed that way.

During his time on The Cloud’s Destiny War-Forged had learnt their planned route. The air-ship would have gone to Thrane, visiting Vathiond on the boarder with Mournland and the Flame Keep. From there they had planned to travel to Carlackton on Carnath. Our only notion was to follow the planned route as best we could and hope to pick up Lucan and Grilsha’s trail.

I had pretty much expended my magical energies during the fight and was very grateful when Bri offered me a scroll of Magic Missiles.

After a three and a half hour walk we came to the source of the lights, the fortified town of Sturngate at the very edge of Breland.

This late at night, of course, the great doors to Sturngate were closed but Bri managed to talk the guards into letting us in. Everything was going well until a guard spotted the wolf. The wolf, he said, was going to stay outside. Altera dug her heels in; if the wolf stayed outside so would she. The rest of my companions seemed okay with this but I wasn’t having any of it. Perhaps my nerves were over stretched from a night full of death, Fraiya’s death and far too many close calls for myself. Whatever the reason in a rare display of disregard for my own comfort I announced that if one of my companions was going to stay outside it wouldn’t be on their own. I was staying too.

As the town gates closed behind War-Forged, Toryil and Bri I found a sheltered spot up against the might wall of Sturngate, turned up my hood and tried to get to sleep.