15 Mar 1998. A valiant airship captain tries to save her ship from the Plaguebringers.
(Airship) (Larissa) (Mircus) (Rephidim) (Sabaoth's Wrath)
Rhiannon's Fire
The Airship "Rhiannon's Fire" is a standard Khattan Emirate Frigate. Swift and sure, her stout wooden hull hangs from sturdy hemp ropes, which criss-cross over the ship's gasbag. The bow of the hull sweeps back in a gentle curve, forming the forecastle where the light bow-chaser ballistae sits. The hull continues back, the sides dipping lower to allow the two medium ballistae on the main deck clear arcs of fire to port and starboard. The aft of the hull curves upwards, forming the sterncastle. A light wooden frame encases the gasbag, and holds up a pair of crow's nests fore and aft. A large propellor sits astern, providing power when the winds are not favourable for the ship's many crimson-and-gold sails.

Rephidim is visible in the distance, in the shadow of high-flying clouds that obscure the Procession, and cause condensation on the rigging and envelope of the Rhiannon's Fire. The city of Rephidim shines like a diamond necklace laid out on black velvet. The many gas and fire-lights show its position plainly, and are echoed by a few firefly-like wisps that glide in and out of the Docks. Also visible over that vast distance are the running lights of the few airships about the docks, and one other, the Intimidator. The Temple's warship hovers like a giant blot against the night sky, another traveller in the night on final approach to the sky island.

A young Rath'ani climbs up slowly from belowdecks. If he's guessing right, the ship should be back to Rephidim soon – which will be nice. While the captain of this vessel is far less of a… well… poodle, than one of the previous ones he's been on, he still gets airsick. Mircus sighs. Maybe he'll have to ask either Naomi or Dr. Roho about those berries…

Larissa pulls her greatcoat closer to her, the chill of the night's air a firm reminder of her trip's delay. She looks up at the great mass of the Intimidator, murmuring a heartsfelt thanks that she's not on that thing's bad side. The Khatta turns to her Cervani navigator. "Dalan? Who is scheduled to make the approach, first? Us, or the Intimidator?"

A graying Cervani in a long coat looks up from a scroll he bears in calloused hands. "The Intimidator is farther out, Captain, so we'll be making the approach," he says. He takes a pencil dangling by a string from one point on his antlers, and marks off something on the parchment. "An eeee or Vartan messenger should arrive shortly with updates."

An Eeee lands on the deck beside Captain Larissa – one of hers, and not Rephidim's. She salutes and says, "I can hear something from the observation point; it sounds like wings, but not quite."

The marmelade Khatta nods, smiling. She leans over, and whispers somewhat conspiratorily to the Cervani, "Well, at least we won't have to wait in line behind that," as she motions towards the Intimidator. "Lords and Martyrs, how do they build something that big, let alone get it to fly?" She looks up at the descending Eeee, and nods, frowning at the message. "Take one of the beacon lanterns aloft, and see if you can spot it. I wouldn't want to run into anything at this hour."

Mircus, by now, has wandered to a railing, fighting vertigo to look at and listen to the night. More interesting than vegetating in his cabin, at least.

Sirissa nods, "It's not close, Captain. It's… " The Eeee twists her head, her large ears cocked, "I don't know what it is, but I'll go take a look around."

Larissa nods. "Be careful, Sirissa," she says. Larissa steps forwards, to the edge of the sterncastle, looking down at the main deck. "Ahoy, Mircus! The Winds will have us down, soon enough!"

The Eee scoots to the railing and grabs a beacon light, then flaps into the dark, up and away from the airship.

Dalan chortles grimly to himself, pocketing the parchment and letting the pencil dangle freely again. "Really, Captain, it's a remarkable feat of shipbuilding. I'd have a hard time imagining what ship could stand up to the Intimidator's broadside, if I weren't standing on her." The Cervani chuckles again, and then looks where Larissa calls, to watch the Rath'ani.

Mircus starts in surprise, and looks around frantically for a moment before figuring out where the voice came from. He manages a cheerful grin and an only-slightly-dampened energetic wave, and starts towards the Captain and Cervani.

The Khatta's ears flick back, to catch Dalan's comment. She chuckles softly, caressing the rail of the sterncastle. "Ah, Rhiannon. Strong as you are, I doubt even you could withstand that. Fear not, however. We shall be down, soon, and you can rest from your journey."

Larissa takes a step back towards the navigator's table, as the Rath'ani climbs the stairs to the sterncastle. She gives a wave to him, and asks, "Are you ready to return to somewhat solid ground?"

The other Eees on board seem disturbed by something as well, a noise that only they can hear. It is K'ell however, who spots the source. A break in the clouds reveals something in the distance; many shiny forms, flying without benefit of envelopes. They are on a course that will bring them to the Intimidator, and finally Rephidim, as well as the airships in between.

The Rath'ani weaves slightly as he leaves the stairs, but waves cheerfully to the Navigator and Captain. "Yes ma'am. er… sir? er… Captain." {You'd think I'd know how to address her by now… } "More than ready… Airships aren't among my favorite places to be… um… No disrespect meant or anything."

Sirissa lands on the deck, "Captain, over there!" Her warning comes a little later than the Vartan wingleader's.

Larissa chuckles. "None taken, m'fr… " She turns, suddenly, looking out in the direction of the shiny forms. "By the Lords, what is THAT?", she shouts, reaching for her spyglass to see if she can get a better view of the fliers.

Mircus starts (again) and tries to look for the 'that'.

Dalan's squints his eyes, gripping the port rail. "Dagh take me if I know, Captain… but I'd recommend we present Rhiannon's side to it. I don't like the looks of them… "

The Cervani's left ear flips, as if to flick away a fly. "Or the sounds," he adds.

Alarms can be heard coming from the Intimidator, and grinding sounds as the warship deploys its weapons. There are glints of weapons and armour as the flightwing heads out from it to meet the menace.

Through the telescope, the captain can see several of the Temple's Lances flying out on their Rakhtors to meet the silvery forms. Focusing beyond, she makes out some details. The source of the strange sound seems to be large bugs, flying in formation, and even armoured.

Mircus looks from Captain to Navigator to Intimidator to Possible Threat, more than slightly 'concerned' and rather annoyed, too. This trip wasn't supposed to end up like the last one.

Below, on Rephidim island, the lights of the city start to go out. They are replaced by glowing lines that snake through the streets, the start of the Candlemass celebration.

"What do you see, madame?" asks Dalan, looking a trifle agitated.

Larissa murmurs, "Bugs," setting her spyglass down. "Dammit, not NOW. Not Candlemass." She steps fowards, and shouts down to the main deck, "All hands! Battlestations! This is not a drill!" The Khatta then turns to the small group on the Sterncastle. "Do you think the Intimidator got a warning off to Rephidim?"

Mircus just stays quiet and tries to edge to one side. That question probably wasn't aimed at him.

Below on Rephidim, the lines of light which are formed by all the citizens holding candles start to ripple. Black waves spread along the streets, like a pebble dropped in a pond. Candlemass continues – If they've been warned, they're ignoring it.

The Khatta Airship Captain looks to her navigator. "Lots and lots of flying bugs. Many of them armed and armoured. The Intimidator's flight wings have launched, the Temple Lances heading off to meet them."

"It's difficult to say," grunts the navigator, casting a glance at the glittering lights of the sky island. "If the sound of the alarm doesn't reach them, it'll take a little while for a flier dispatched from the Intimidator to reach Rephidim." Dalan's eyes narrow. "I hope for their sakes that those aren't Candlemass lights we're seeing… "

K'ell nods, rushing off to break out the weaponry for the crew and his flight wing. Other personnel scramble or flap to their positions.

Larissa sighs. "They are, Dalan. They are. All right, that makes it our job." She turns to Sirissa. "Take your Eees, and fly as fast as you can to Rephidim. You have got to warn those people down there. We'll stay back, far enough to cover you in case anything gets by the Intimidator."

Mircus watches quietly, confused and worried. A small voice in his head whispers inanely, {Bugs? Shouldn't the bats be attacking them, then? What in … }

As Larissa speaks, a ball of fire lights up the sky over the Collegia Esoterica. It is joined by several other ghost-lights that weave about in the air, then fly outward toward the nearing attackers. Perhaps some word HAS gotten to the city. Sirissa points, "Captain, the mages must know – Their rituals take too long. Everyone else might not have been told. Should we still go?"

Larissa blinks at the sudden, very bright light. "Well. A message did get through. No need for you to go, Sirissa. But we'll still be staying up. Mircus, you may want to get below… just in case."

Larissa turns to her helmsman. "Bring us about! Set an intercept course for the Intimidator, best possible speed!", she orders, before stepping to the rail again, to shout, "All hands, prepare to repel attackers! Archers to the crows' nests, and sterncastle!"

Mircus shakes his head no, airsickness quite forgotten at the moment. "I… I think I'll stay here," he offers quietly, and turns to watch as best he can.

"I should have known you wouldn't let me retire quietly," sighs Dalan. His tone is wry, but a hint of worry is in his voice as well.

Mircus waits nervously, hand clenching and unclenching on the knife at his belt. He's been through this part of it once before – not that that makes him feel any better…

The Khatta Airship Captain sighs softly. "Rhiannon'll keep us safe, Dalan. She hasn't failed us, yet." Larissa kneels to the deck, laying her palm flat against the wood. "Be strong, dear Rhiannon. Be strong."

The Rhiannon's Fire turns at the Captain's command, heading for the safe proximity of the larger ship. Other merchanters in the area are turning away from the bugs, or making all speed for the docks. The Templar Lances pass, heading out the meet the bugs.

The Procession's Way – a little further out, and coming into view along the Fire's side – is the first to be hit by the bugs. Small, highly maneuverable ones zip in, and slice through the envelope, as larger ones lift up huge stingers and dive in after. Arrows and crossbow shots seem to have no effect. The Lances engage. The bug swarm boils past them.

"Captain!" K'ell shouts, standing at the stern with his flight wing ready behind him. "Do you want us to join them, or wait for it to get here?"

Larissa watches the devastation, jaw agape as the bugs slice open the gasbag. "Lords and Martyrs!" she cries, whirling to shout down to the deck, "Riggers to your stations! Set the spinnakers, we need more speed!" She turns to K'ell. "I need you here, friend. Keep those bugs away from the gasbag, or we're all dead!"

Mircus flinches and looks away from the destruction. {… and we're next?… }

"I dearly hope so, Captain," replies the Cervani, the concern in his voice still evident as he watches the angry cloud of insects. "Facing ships is one thing… but… Dagh!" Dalan curses, watching the Procession's Way. "We're not going to make the Intimidator in time!"

The Khatta yells what is possibly her last order, before the bugs arrive, "Blow ballast, and up ship! Get us as far up as we can above those bugs! Make them climb to get us!"

Squinting through his own spyglass at the struggling crewman of the Procession's Way, Dalan speaks up again. "The bugs are going to hit us before we reach Rephidim, Captain." He lowers the spyglass, collapsing it. "Still… if we can hold them long enough, we might just barely make it… "

The ballast tanks empty from under the Fire, as the spinnakers are set and her speed increases. She starts to climb, away from the docks – but not away from the bugs, which are a swarm that is about to encompass all the other airships. The dischordant sounds of the Cobalt Lance's battlemusic, which blares from their weapon instruments, overlays the deadly hum of the giant bugs.

Mircus stumbles to the railing and holds on with both hands, somehow doubting a simple knife will be of much use. "… as if I needed another reason to dislike airships."

Larissa unlimbers a particularly potent Himaatian curse towards the bugs, and draws her sword from its scabbard. {Please, K'ell. Just keep them away from the bag.}

"Get Ready!" K'ell orders, as the seven members of his wing line up on either side of him. The bugs climb after the Fire. Behind them is the Gold Lancer. Sparks fly from the bug's shells as the Lance attacks, but no bugs fall. K'ell orders the barrage crew, "Don't hit the friendlies – FIRE!"

The Khatta crew of the barrage opens fire. The sharp pellets spray to the rear of the ship. Shots that would rip through a person bounce off the armoured insect shells. One bug recieves a hit on the eye, which prompts it to stagger in flight, but doesn't stop it from coming.

"Protect the Ship!" K'ell shouts, then screams into a Vartan war cry as he dives off the stern. The wing follows behind him. The bugs swarm the Rhiannon's Fire.

Larissa's mind is simply stunned at the ineffectiveness of her frigate's weapons. She stands on the sterncastle, momentarily frozen by shock, as the bugs swarm the ship. She blinks, twice, before her mind recovers. She raises her sabre over her head, and screams, "Kaaaaaaaiii, Rhiannon!" her battlecry almost lost in the sound of the swarming of the bugs.

Dalan stands near the centre of the deck warily, bracing against the mast, a bowpistol cocked in one hand, and a fatalistic look on his face. He tries to train his weapon on the faces of the bugs that speed by, but has a hard time getting a decent shot.

The Insects surround the ship as K'ell and the Lance chase after them. Each one is huge; up close their size is apparent. The smallest one easily dwarfs a Vartan. The buzzing is incessant, and loud. One of the swarm rips through the rigging, and lands on the deck. Its pincers slash through the closest crewmember.

The spray of the unfortunate Khattha's blood spatters across Dalan and Larissa.

Mircus, eyes wide with fear, finally unfreezes at this point, skittering away from the bloody wash and the horrific bug.

Larissa screams and whirls around, her blade swinging in a arc starting low, swinging high towards the bug, her feet firmly set upon the deck of her ship, a look of fierce protectiveness blazing in her eyes.

The Captain's blade slides across the chitin hull, leaving barely a scratch. The bug turns towards her.

The Cervani cries out hoarsely as crimson spatters fleck his coat, and he raises his bowpistol. "Captain, no!"

The giant insect wobbles its abdomen, which pulses and flexes in an odd way, then splits open. Smaller bugs, the size of a person's head, burst forth and fly at the crew.

The marmelade Khatta staggers back, her sword raised in pitiful defiance against the seemingly invulnerable horror.

Larissa screams again, this time in pure fear. She flails her blade in front of her, trying to slash at the spray of smaller bugs, still trying to back away, to get behind the helm.

"CAPTAIN!" shouts Gabrul, diving down from the envelope to land protectively in front of her. His sword smashes across the bug's eye, as one of its pincers stabs through the Vartan.

Mircus stares in shock, then shakes his head – hard. He can't just sit here, and even a gesture of defiance… He draws his knife, aims, and throws at the big bug…

Larissa looks up suddenly, seeing the pincer stab into, and through, one of her Vartans. "No!"

Gabrul dies; the knife bounces harmlessly off the bug; an opening for the helm appears; the smaller bugs land on the crew, stinging and biting. Several stagger about, trying to pull them off, stabbing them with knives or swords.

Larissa slides back behind the helm, its comforting presence feeding her a bit of strength. She risks a glance around, looking for the Intimidator, before resuming her defense against the swarming, stinging bugs.

At least hand weapons will kill the smaller bugs. Several of them are sliced apart and litter the deck. They're fast, and their stingers are five inches long and venomed.

Mircus glares at his hand for a moment, {That was stupid… }, then scampers for cover, looking for a weapon … for anything.

The Intimidator is a long way off. Even Rephidim seems unreachably far as ripping sounds come from the envelope above.

Weapons are easy to find, fallen from the hands of slain crew. The large insect ignores the people around it, and attacks the rigging instead.

Larissa's eyes widen as she sees the larger insect attack her ship. She yells, a battlecry this time, as her fears are pushed aside by an intense and sudden hatred. She steps up, then leaps towards the bug, the razor-sharp tip of her sword plunging towards the only vulnerable spot she's seen, the 'eyes' of the bug.

The Cervani finally manages to draw a bead on the large insect's head, and a stout quarrel darts from his bowpistol.

Larissa's swordpoint plunges through the bug's eye, at the same time Dalan's shot punches through the eye that Gabrul cracked. The giant insect-ship lurches forward with a spastic shudder that knocks Larissa flying and moves it across the deck. It comes to rest beside Mircus, and through the wrecked lens, he can see an Eeee dying inside at the controls.

The Khatta captain lands in a sprawl behind the helm again, the wind knocked out of her, her sabre falling from her paw, onto the deck, with a dull rattle.

"Be careful, Captain!" snaps a somewhat frazzled Dalan, rushing to Larissa's side to try to help her up. "We can't afford to lose you!"

The large threat is dealt with, but the smaller bugs still swarm the crew, and the success of the Lance and the Wing remains to be seen.

Mircus, hand just catching up a fallen dagger, squeeks and stumbles back in shock, and then sees… No! "Captain!" The young Rath'ani is weaponless again – the blade flying towards a bug the Captain cannot see. "Behind you!"

"Wha-huh?", mumbles a woozy captain. "Lose me? To whom? Who offered me as a bet?", she asks, as she stands … barely.

The knife flies past the woozy Khatta, and strikes the wing off one of the large wasps heading towards her.

It lands on the ground and crawls for her foot, still trying to sting.

{I hit it!} The surprised Rath'ani dives for another knife.

Larissa ducks as she sees a knife flying towards her! "Hey, watch wh… " Her words are cut off when she hears the wasp thump behind her. She spins, looking at the bug which almost got the drop upon her. Larissa grabs for her sabre, and strikes down, hard, at the wounded insect.

One less bug, out of dozens of deadly ones.

The Cervani doesn't have time to be disgusted at the squishing noise the bug makes. His bowpistol goes back into his coat, less effective against the smaller menaces than his rapier. He can't help panting a comment. "Ironic, isn't it, captain? Using chitin weapons on bugs?" In the chaos, this little bit of madness seems entirely in place.

Mircus scampers towards the big not-exactly-a-bug – Maybe he can use it for cover. Latest knife in hand, he looks frantically about for targets.

One of the giant insects buzzes past, with a raktor-riding Gold Lancer following. The insect slices through more of the rigging to the rear, and the deck tilts. Cracks show on its chitin sides, oozing a green coloured fluid, but it still flies.

Larissa takes stock of the situation, her training and experience clicking back into place as her mind accepts that these things can be killed. "As if set by the Lords themselves, Dalan." She takes the helm of the Airship. "We have to make Repidim, Dalan!" she cries, as her ship is injured yet again, holding her footing on the shifting deck.

The insect on the deck makes a strange squeak as Mircus scoots over. Its wings twitch, and it seems very much alive.

Looking around, the Rath'ani can see about five remaining crewmembers, excluding the Captain and Dalan. They are busy trying to deal with the two dozen wasps that fly around them. The rest of the crew has either died, fallen overboard, or gone below. A buzzing beneath the decks suggests that is where the bulk of the insects went as well.

Mircus decides to gamble the bug probably won't hurt him – for some reason, he thinks he saw an Eeee in there – and lets rip at one of the bugs harassing the crew … and immediately hunts for another knife.

Across the listing deck of the Rhiannon's Fire, the Khatta captain can see Rephidim. It's much higher than it should be, or the airship is sinking. The airship is still above height of the docks; she just has to stay aloft a little longer.

The giant bug does nothing, except slide across the deck as the stern drops. It makes another squeak as it bumps up against one of the supporting masts.

"We've got some momentum, Captain … if we can keep some loft, we can make it," notes Dalan grimly. The Cervani laughs slightly, his antler points glinting. "Unfortunately … at our current rate, we might dock a lot harder than anticipated."

Larissa puts the ship onto a course for the docks, her paws innately trading off her hydrogen reserves to maintain altitude, counteracting the loss of gas from the rents made by the insect's pincers. She knows, however, that she cannot keep her wounded craft afloat indefinitely. Her brow furrows, her muzzle sets in a line of determination, a look upon her face which mirrors her words. "I'm sure Rephidim can afford to replace the dock we're about to become one with."

In the far distance the Intimidator's guns are firing, and might have been for some time. The buzzing around the Fire drowns out the sounds again. Whatever help those weapons are, the Rhiannon's Fire isn't receiving any of it.

The envelope flutters above, collapsing as it loses hydrogen pressure. The speed of the Fire's descent increases.

"Lord and Martyrs, I hope they've got some Mages at the docks to get these accursed bugs off of my Ship!", the Khatta yells, as she tilts the nose of the ship up a bit, using the sails as flaps in an attempt to slow the crippled Airship's descent. "Come on, Rhiannon! Just hold up a little longer!"

Mircus continues to find and throw knives at any bug in sight, trying his best not to think about why the decks are so slick … or of the many things that could happen.

The nose of the Rhiannon's Fire is coming up on her own. Most of the slashed rigging is to the stern. The Docks are approaching, close enough to see activity on them, but the Fire needs more speed, or more lift. The Pusher-Puller propellors spin to a stop, their lack of motion a silent testimony to the fate of the slaves who run them.

Dalan stands by, his knuckles whitening under his fur with the grip on his rapier. He tries to keep an eye out for bugs that might attack his captain, and something to brace against when they hit…

Several of the bugs are flying, or crawling towards Dalan and his captain. The remaining Khattas on deck succumb to the stings, and fall beneath their venemous attackers.

The navigator stabs at any of the insects that come too close. Age seems to have begun the process of slowing Dalan's reflexes, but he seems to have some experience behind him – even if swordplay isn't his forte', so to speak.

Larissa gets a grin upon her face, the battle to get her precious Airship to safety testing all of her skills as an Airship Pilot. She shuts off the reserve valves, and noses the ship over, to pick up speed towards the docks. "Kai, Rhiannon! I sure hope those dockworkers know when to run!"

The marmelade Khatta's actions seem a tad insane.

… and another knife … and another … and … Three of the knives the small Rath'ani has managed to scrounge find targets in the wasps going for the captain.

The aging Cervani's blade slices into the wasps flying towards him. A sudden thump lands behind the raving Khatta. "I'm sorry, Captain," K'ell gasps, heavily wounded, "We tried; it was too much."

Larissa jumps, startled. "K'ell!"

The Navigator echoes his captain's outcry. "K'ell! Keep it together, we can get help on Rephidim!" Dalan's gravelly voice holds a pleading note … those he's sailed with for years … gone in a day?

The Rhianon's Fire picks up speed, in a downward direction, as the hydrogen in her envelope leaks free and none replaces it. The docks are closing in. Workers, guards, and others can be seen, fighting the few advance bugs that have made it that far.

"We won't make it," the Vartan gasps. "I can fly you to safety, but I can't wait much longer."

Larissa waits, her paw hovering over the gas valve until her 'landing' site crests over the bowspirit. She then jams them, full open, releasing the last of her reserves into the rended envelope.

"We will make it! I will not let my crew's deaths be for nothing!", the Khatta shouts!

Gas floods the rent balloon, billowing it, and slowing the ship's descent with a lurch. The Fire slides forward.

Larissa grins, triumphantly! "Hah! Everyone brace yourselves against the stern! It's going to get really bumpy, really soon!"

One of the Gold Lancers hovers beside the deck, near Mircus. He waves for the Rath'ani to jump towards his Raktor.

In a feeble effort to help his comrade, Dalan tries to drag the wounded Vartan to a rail for them to hang onto, waiting for the impact.

K'ell clutches, watching the looming timber of the Rephidim Ports.

Mircus looks frantically between the Lancer and the sterncastle, then flings his last dagger at a wasp and leaps for the Lancer!

The yellow and black wasp dies as the yellow armoured black Khattha grabs the Rath'ani and pulls him aboard his flying steed. He wings back from the Rhiannon's Fire, fearful of what a real flame would do to the dying ship.

Larissa shouts, "Hang on!" and lurches the wheel of the Airship over, throwing the ship into a spin to starboard, gambling on the last of her hydrogen reserves … and the still-open spinnakers! With the ship reversed, they'll snap full and act as airbrakes! Or, at least, so she hopes. Larissa holds onto the helm wheel for dear life, uttering a prayer… Lords and Martyrs, protect us…

Mircus hangs on tight, but watches the ship. {Will they … ?}

"Should this be our last day, shipmates," gasps the Cervani, "I pray there are ships to sail amidst the stars in the Procession."

No sane captain would attempt this. No insane captain would either. Only one that had nothing left to lose but the ship would. Spinning a vessel seconds before docking with a turn hard enough to rip out the rigging is only the act of the totally doomed. Yet … it works. The huge triangular sails to either side of the ship billow from the Fire's velocity.

The Gold Lancer pulls his Raktor up from the docks as the Fire backs towards them. The sails at her front are reducing her velocity, but she will still hit hard. The spinnakers are simply not a big enough parachute for an airship.

Mircus watches in numb horror… All that effort, and…

* * * CRASH * * *

Collapsing landings and crushed crates mark the arrival of the Rhiannon's Fire to Rephidim, as she smashes into the berth and carries on through it onto the loading areas behind. Wood splinters around the stern of the ship as her own hull buckles from the impact. The aft sails and propellor are sheared off, rigging snaps, and the broken off timbers slice through sails and envelope.

The crippled airship slides across the bay, her keel ripping up the planks and gouging into the earth beneath.

Larissa holds onto the wheel for dear life, tears streaming from her eyes as she hears her ship, her precious Rhiannon smashing into the docks, the sounds of tearing fabric and shearing timber like cries of pain to her ears…

Mircus closes his eyes. He can't watch.

Dalan's eyes are clenched tightly shut, his teeth gritted as the ship shudders beneath his crouched form. One arm clutches the Vartan as best he can, while the other clings precariously to the railing, his long coat flapping like a struggling bird.

K'ell holds on with a desperation that comes from someone who thinks they're going to die. Still, his grip is weak, and the blood from his wounds soaks into Dalan's side.

The Fire slides to a stop, her progress leaving a wake of smashed platforms. Her spinnakers snap, still slowing her motion as their booms and rigging catch on the ruined dock. Under the deck, the buzz of agitated insects grows faint, as they expire from the impact that slamed them against the inner surfaces and each other. Only a few fly out of holes in the hull. With a loud groan, the airship rolls onto her starboard side.

Larissa aaaiees!, as the ship rolls over, still hanging from the helm wheel, her feet scrabbling for purchase on something, anything…

The giant insect falls off the deck, followed by the crushed bodies of the smaller ones, and the corpses of the crew. They land in a wet pile beside the airship.

The Gold Lancer brings his Raktor down to land some distance away. He doesn't say anything as he lowers Mircus to the ground. That mess is going to take a long time to clean up.

Dalan lies slumped against the far railing, where the pitch of the ship threw him. One of his antlers is broken about halfway down, and a red stain spreads across the sleeve of his coat, just below the shoulder. It doesn't look like it's from K'ell. The Cervani doesn't move.

Larissa scrabbles for one of the rigging ropes, trying to climb down. Her left arm hangs limp, and she slips several times, before dropping the last few feet to the ground. She falls, looking up at the ruin of the Rhiannon. The tears flow freely from her eyes as she sees naught but corpses and ruin before her.

Mircus isn't paying much attention to the lancer beyond a habitual nod of thanks. The youth scrambles towards the wreck as quickly as his exhausted body will let him. The only thought in his head is that he's got to see if anyone made it.

Larissa feebly crawls towards the Vartan and Cervani, checking to see if they live, sobbing in relief when she discovers that they do.

Around the captain is a flurry of activity as dock workers and soldiers arrive to help. The remaining insects are killed. A Jupani healer pulls the shocked Larissa away from her ship, and tends to her wounds as well, as a rat goes to work on Dalan's and K'ell's. There are no other survivors found, once the inside of the ship is cleared of the small attackers, except for Brril, who survived by sealing himself in a barrel.

Mircus staggers up to the destruction and falls to his knees. He catches a glimpse of the Captain through the crowd and sags in relief. At least someone else made it…

Many others did not. Their lives and airships are lost in the wilderness far below. The cost of saving Rephidim was enormous, and part of the price was the Rhiannon's crew.

A discarded candle stands upright, miraculously still alight. Its flickering flame is one of many that are being rekindled across the island, as Candlemass continues.


GMed by John

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Today is 26 days after Candlemass, Year 25 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6124)