Episode 14: Exeunt Omnes
One Chance in a Million — Running the Aermada blockade
- Sigea, Morgar, Caeldryn, Mikal, Zanne, Hope, Lugrithillirid, Ace d’Lyrandar, Aurelio Cato, Beasley Thonk d’Kundarak, Gallio d’Medani, Alpha, Winston Wallace, Ace’s crew and others.
- The party returned from their battle with Cynar and the Vampires on the Royal Vessel, courtesy of Lugey and his portal.
- Caeldryn, unwilling to give up the cloak, attempted to bargain with the Illithid. Surprisingly, he was willing to allow her to keep her cloak if she simply wielded it against the sun for him to see.
- Caeldryn attempted to wield the cloak against the moon, but failed to realize that it was merely the reflection of the sun itself. Her efforts blocked out the sun for a moment, an act that seemed to satisfy the Illithid. Afterwards, he disappeared back from whence he came.
- Upon being beckoned by Ace, the party made their way to the upper decks to help steer the ship towards escape.
- They, along with the Eladrin who had returned with them from the Royal Vessel and Ace’s stalwart crew, split up and helped where they were most needed. Through their efforts, they were able to provide assistance to Ace in his driving and boost the speed of the White Feather.
- They flew through the city, narrowly avoiding buildings and towers while dodging the incoming blasts from gunships and Griffin riders. A few near-crashes were avoided in large part to the noble sacrifice of Sigea, who gave up his eyes and heart to the Elemental powering the ship. With their bond in tact, the Elemental was able to more effectively guide the ship.
- Upon reaching the docks, they noticed a fleet of Lyrandar ships being attacked. Despite the protests of much of the crew, Ace flew to their rescue. Some swift shooting made quick work of the guboats and frigates, allowing the Lyrandar a chance to escape. Some followed the White Feather, others split off in different directions.
- Ace then guided the ship out of the city, but the freedom provided by the open air also left them exposed to the entire armada of Imperial Battleships. Mikal, with the rushing wind and crisp sails returning him to his element, goaded the captain on, calling for full speed ahead in the hopes of avoiding the heavy cannon fire.
- Though the odds seemed impossible, the White Feather made its way into the heart of the armada, protected by the magically-amplified spells of Zanne, Caeldryn, and the newcomer Hope. Their victory was also their doom, however, as the decreased proximity made them all the more open to attack.
- Suddenly, a light streaked across the sky towards the ship, Cursing under his breath, Cato leaped into action to deal with this new threat. When they collided, the crew could make out the form of Cynar in the sky, battling with his former captain.
- Just as all seemed lost, however, they were saved by the helping hands of Beasley, who used his dragomarked powers to create a forcefield around the ship. The White Feather delayed enough for him to board, along with blind elder Gallio, who used his Greater Mark of Detection to place a protective spell on the ship to keep the Eladrin from teleporting on board.
- With this new-found assistance, the White Feather made its way through the heart of the Armada. Just when escape seemed at hand, however, they were accosted by a dozen battleships led by three Imperial Dreadnoughts. Beasley, sacrificing his life for the good of the crew, managed to fend off initial attacks, but it was clear that nothing short of a miracle would save the White Feather from its doom.
- That miracle arrived, however, in the form of an army of Warforged, led by Alpha, who boarded one of the battleships and loosed havoc upon it and its companion ships. Alpha got his longed-for chance to fire his shoulder cannon through a Dreadnought Spell Amplifier at the neighboring capital ship, then set a suicide collision course with the third. The ensuing chaos created a roadblock, allowing Ace and his crew to escape to the open air.
- The escape came with a steep price, however, as more than one of the crew lost his life in the battle. Odo, brave and powerful half-orc, was slain by the gunships. So too went Malfier, Ace’s first mate and optomistic friend, who was blasted from the upper decks while assisting Zanne. Cato, presumably locked in battle with his former master, also lost his loyal Eladrin. And Beasley, brave Dwarf with a passion for fashion, took his last breaths on the ship after valiantly protecting them all from the battleships.
- With most of the crew dead or unconscious, the White Feather flew on with Ace at the helm. Battered, but not broken, the Brave Vesparia along with their new allies head off to the Dark Forest.
In the eeris silence following the the battle, Mikal wandered the ship, checking ropes and tightening knots. He took a deep breath, almost tasting the air as it passed through his unfeeling shards. If he closed his eyes, he could almost forget the carnage that had occurred and revel in the thrill of flying. A year ago, Mikal would have laughed out of sheer freedom.
But no laughter would come today.
Maybe some old version of Mikal would have wandered the ship, cracking a smile and encouraging his comrades. But just now, he didn’t feel much like old Mikal. When time had passed, he would likely return to his cavalier former self, but at the moment there was just so much sadness.
He allowed himself to slip inside his own mind. falling deep into an unconscious reliving of the past year. His gift of psychic awareness was also his curse, as the cruelties he had suffered bit into his mind with just as much ferocity as the first time they occurred.
When he and his crew had joined up with the two wandering girls, it had all seemed relatively simple. It was fun. Sure, they had some tough scrapes, but they had always made it through. But slowly, he watched as his shipmates were killed off, suffering deaths far before their time. Lucan, his brain eaten by the very monster who still haunted their footsteps. Yet it was this very same monster who held such sway over Mikal’s mind even now. What was it about the mindflayer that made him feel such an unsettling kinship?
Then they had jumped to the future. That was when Mikal’s optimism first began to falter. The past had been cruel, to be sure, but this future was beyond any darkness he had ever seen. Eladrin using dreamers as slave fodder. The Empire slowly tightening its grip on its unsuspecting people.
And the Vampires.
Mikal had DIED. His friends seemed to be able to ignore it for the most part. I mean, Mikal was back, right? What reason was their for concern? They didn’t know the trauma of seeing your final moments. They hadn’t felt the horror of watching the bullet, spinning in slow motion, pierce through his body, leaving a wake of torn organs and ruined muscle. He hadn’t merely passed out. No, that’s far too kind of a description. He had felt his life ripped from his protesting body, his soul shattered as it moved on to the grayness of the beyond.
It’s not like someone can just shrug that off.
But all of this, every single damn arrow that fate had shot his way had been worth it, if only to be by her side. Love, an emotion that he had never felt before, was the tonic that soothed every wound, calmed every fear, and pushed through every obstacle. Zanne had been his everything. He had followed her into this strange, cold future and had stood by her side through thick and thin.
At night, when he was alone with his thoughts, and darkness creeped into the corners of his mind, the warm glow of her body, as close to him as he dared, would drive out the bad thoughts with every sweet breath she exhaled.
She was his anchor from the madness of the world, and now she was gone.
Everyone had laughed at his love. No one had taken it seriously, but still he loved on. She spurned his advances and scoffed at his words, but still he loved on. She never noticed the way he was there, always beside her to protect her from her foes, but still he loved on. She loved other men, confiding in them, but even still he loved on. But then she ran to him, who Mikal had spent so long protecting her from, and gave herself over, body and mind, to his darkness. And it was in that moment, in that singular decision to reject everything that he had worked for and spit in the face of his protests, that his love finally failed. His heart, which had stood so strong for so long, finally collapsed under the weight of sorrow.
When your hands are full with the shattered pieces of a broken heart, what do you hold on to? The White Feather had offered a brief respite from sadness, but much of the crew was dead, and the ship would likely be out of their control soon. His shards told him that much. They had spoken to the Elemental and had told him of Sigea’s promise. No, this ship would not be theirs forever.
Perhaps, then, his only refuge is in the bitter-sweet balm of time. Even now, after traveling through his memories, he could feel a spark of hope returning. He was strong, stronger than anyone ever gave him credit for, and he would make it through this trial as well.
He would laugh again.
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