With little ceremony, Nights’ End is prepared for lift off. Few people outside of the Keep show up to see the ship off. Torrin, along with his personal retainers, the Governor and his wife, and a few of the straggling members of the various companies. Once, this would have been a grand event, the departure of the airship, but recent events have soured such a spectacle.
Even though the official presence of the Watch is missing, crowds gather in the streets, watching with longing and joy at the scene. Children flap their arms, cheering the ship on, as their imagination places each of them on the deck someday, heroes flying into the sunset.
With a warm handshake and words of encouragement, Torrin bids you all safe journey.
“The Unclaimed is a dangerous place, lads. You can’t trust anyone, or anything that appears. Most things you encounter would rather eat you than talk to you, and that goes double for the people!
Halfhand has your orders, which will be delivered after you leave. Your arguments over your worth had me thinking long into the night, and I decided to test you. You follow the orders given, complete the mission to my satisfaction, and I may allow you to ignore the general population of the Free Companies, and move into a more…private section.”
He gives each of you a pat on the shoulder, along with a few individualized words of encouragement.
Belias- Halfhand wouldn’t let me hire him a new pilot, being confident in your abilities to pick up the trade as you go along….don’t break my girl.
Glimyr- you are a sharp one, indeed. Don’t think that I haven’t heard the stories. Trust your intuition, son, it very well could save all your asses. Be careful.
Ashen- I know you are confused about a lot of things right now. Who you are, who you are going to be, and who you want to be. Remember one thing: you are who you want to be…nothing anyone else says, does, or is can change that. you have it in you to do great things, and I look forward to hearing the tales.
Lucen- Very rarely do I find someone as dedicated and stalwart as you. Believe it or not, you remind me of myself at your age: courageous, loyal, and tougher than shit. You have a long career in the Companies ahead of you, should you chose to pursue it, and I consider it an honor that you choose to wear my mark.
Kro- You are going to meet a lot of people like you, where you guys are headed. Young, cocky, and firmly convinced that the world will bow at their feet one day. You may be able to think circles around most of them, kid, and that counts for something. But keep your head on straight, and you may live long enough to attain some of your goals.
As Torrin leaves the ship for the last time, you see him running his fingertips along the railing wistfully. He doesn’t hide the fact that he’s tearing up, and gives the Nights’ End one last loving pat before he leaves. For the first time in over a decade, the ship is under the command of someone other than Torrin Ashe.
And, almost as quickly as you got here, you leave. Halfhand has the ship keep a lower altitude, giving the people of High Barrows a show, and once the city walls are clear, the ship is turned southeast.
Halfhand calls you all into his quarters, which still feel, even to him, like Torrin’s.
“Sit, sit. You want a drink?” he pulls a jug of beer out of a steel box. He hands it around, along with some mugs.
After everyone gets settled, he reaches into the desk, and grabs out a black leather courier’s pouch. The simple fastener bears the White Crow symbol of the Riders. He sits it down on the desk, and makes small talk for a couple of minutes. The red eyes of the Crow flash briefly, and Halfhand opens the pouch. He pulls out a small sheaf of papers.
“Once this opens, you all have officially become Jade Sting. While we have known each other for years, things have changed, for better or worse. As much as I don’t like it, this is my ship now. While you all balk at taking orders due to your unique skill set, you will follow my orders should I give them in times of duress. Its not a pride issue, it’s a survival issue. If you ignore any orders I give, you potentially put the crew of this ship in danger. That will not be tolerated from anyone, friend, former or current student, or subordinate. Are we all on the same page? Good. Down to business.”
He reads them, and then passes them around. “Here are our orders from our esteemed leader. “
Jade Sting operatives require extraction from the western network of the Ditch. They report their cover has been blown, and that the Fork has them surrounded. Only a matter of time before they are found. Provide air extraction.
After successful extraction head on bearing 38.5 NE, then N along the coast into Dubal. Fort Roden has been out of communication for a week now. Reconnect with Captain Fleer, and determine status of Fort.
The captain shows you the map, and you get a rough idea of where your point A and point B is.
Fort Roden is the base of most Sting patrols along the northern stretches of the Unclaimed. Under the original command of a contingent of dwarves, it is a massive fort that is an opening to the undercity of Rodenheim. Also called New Rodenheim, or Upper Rodenheim, it was a bustling trade center before the war, and post war, is an excellent place for weapon surplus.
The extraction point, unfortunately, is right at a lower point in the canyon. The agents, a pair of deep cover spies, need extraction. They will burn red smoke when they see the ship close.
Unfortunately, while the spies are on the level, Fork troops have set a trap.
In order to rescue the agents, who are hiding in a cave along the inner walls, they ship needs to either drop down to let them access the gangplank, or within 80 feet to lower the rope ladder.
As the ship prepares for the extraction, they hear signs of fighting from the cave entrance. The party leaves the ship to see if they can aid those they sought to rescue.
The two goblins manage to make it out of the tunnels, and as the party is re-boarding the ship, a massive attack is launched. Hidden ballistae launch barrels of burning oil onto the deck. Three ogre spiders appear from the canyon walls and launch their webs at the ship, halting its progress.
A squad of kobold rangers, riding their dire bat animal companions, circle the ship, firing poisoned crossbow bolts at any crew member they see. A dozen Grak battlemages dimension door onto the deck. These manage to subdue the pilot, Belias, and deactivate the ship.
A young black dragon appears in the distance, and zooms in, seeing the stranded ship and crew as tasty snacks.
The Firstborn launch a massive counterattack, defeating all the battle mages on deck and neutralizing the ballistae.
Ashen, using a potion he saved up for just an occasion, quaffs his potion of flying, and meets the dragon on its turf.
Ashen brutally wounds the dragon, and as it closes on the ship, its finished off.
The kobolds, seeing Ashen still flying around, decide its best they take their leave.
The bad news is the ship is slowly descending. In a short time, it’ll be grounded, and at that point, both the Nights’ End and its crew will be taken prisoner.
Captain Halfhand convinces the Firstborn to leave the ship, convincing them that if they too were to fall into the hands of the Crimson Fork, it would be a harsh blow to the Jade Sting. The ship and crew, or at least the crew, might be ransomed back to the Empire.
The Firstborn grudgingly agree, and sneak off the ship. They travel blindly through the network of caves that honeycomb the walls of the Ditch.
After a few hours, the party reaches the surface. As the party finds a place to lick their wounds, they hear a noise. They find a caravan of players circling up their wagons. The players, all slightly deformed/mutated/sick in some way, are led by a man named Morgan Weeg. He is an intelligent man, a bard, who makes his living with his troupe travelling the Unclaimed. Their destination, two stops away, is Soulless. They will be able to get the party in. Travelling with the Troupe is the safest route, even though they aren’t sure if they can be trusted.
The Firstborn and Weeg discuss the Troupe’s plans, and the caravan is on the way to Char, a town between their current location and Soulless. Blending in with the caravan, the Firstborn start to formulate plans on how to rescue Belias, Halfhand and the rest of the ship’s crew.