Continuing the series of session reports for the Last Fleet campaign; previous entry here.
The fleet had settled in for several days of repairs. The full enormity of events had settled on everyone. Behind them lay the still enormous blue and flickering sphere of the Stormwall which surrounded their lost section of the world. Scouts reported ta tiny flicker in the distance, like a faint star. This could be another Stormwall, one containing, they hoped, a safer world. Out here, in the In Between, the sky hung orange and constant with no visible source of light. Only uncertain flickering disturbed its surface. How long could they survive here? How long would it take for them to reach this other world? And what awaited them out here in the In Between?
Dweena Squint settled into her role as Master of the Stores. She's held that position on The Horn of Wrath, but now her authority extended to the whole of the fleet. Her first task had been to inventory goods, tools and resources across all ten ships. Her expert team had made great progress in this task. However, three ships proved troublesome. The Straadi maintained their highhanded approach to authority- Dweena could tell from the documents that they had hidden much away The Namir, as well, kept up a cautious stance, delaying answers and asking for continual clarifications. Finally the Rescue Ark, The Heart's Refuge, just seemed to be a mess. That might be a deliberate strategy or it might equally be the result of a ship over filled and lacking strong central authority. Dweena carefully went through and noted what resources those ships would need in the future. If and when their leaders came asking for key goods, Dweena would produce her trump cards then..
A more immediate situation, however, forced her into action. Rodol Faithjester, the Arcanist, was in change of magic affairs and more importantly the distribution of Magistone (necessary for casting) across the fleet. Petitioners from the Nocturne Consortium came to Dweena asking her to speak with Faithjester. He'd allocated the great portion of the Magistone to his own projects over those involved with food preservation and production. Dweena traveled down to the labs and found a sleepless, exhausted and driven Faithjester. He worked desperately on another version of the Opener Instrument. The first had, of course, allowed the fleet to escape, but had destroyed the flagship, The Daughter of Woe. Dweena applied her motherly instincts, getting Faithjester away from the work and his guilt. She then applied more serious pressure to get him to agree to a compromise about the distribution of the Magistone.
Meanwhile, Chain Firespinner took up his duties as Master of the Watch with enthusiasm. He'd had incredible success recruiting additional observers on each ship. Now those new recruits were discovering the tedium and cold involved in hours on the observation decks. Chain did his best to keep their spirits up. He also spoke with Kal'aso Garwayne, one of the last of the Ebon Elves. She remained distant and focused on her job as Master of Signals, seeing Firespinner as perhaps youthful and inexperienced. Chain noted this, but remained upbeat despite her attitude.
Chain also observed the various a strange meteorological phenomena of the In Between. Showers of ice-cold stones fell from the sky, and opposite cascades red-hot stones launched up from below. Chain collected some and then tested what contact between them would do. The result was a modest explosion of force and the release of a small amount of water. Chain instructed his men to gather the stones up and, after consulting with Dweena, spoke to Vestwar Dawncarver, the High Forager. She took in the information and suggested more caution with further experiments, given the Fleet's delicate situation.
Mareg Warmane took up his role as the Huntsman with relish. Like Chain, he'd been successful in putting together a crack team of hunters. He'd drawn two of note Ataso of the insect-like Artikhane and Emghalid Rink, last of the Spellfletchers. Mareg and his hunting boats had traveled out, finding little in the way of good solid game in the orange lit skies. They'd flown through cloud banks which tasted of smoke rather than vapor. It all had a strange feel, but Marreg pressed on. They came across a small lake- formed in a sphere as water does in the skies. But this water was red as blood. Mareg called for volunteers and began to lower Grishnar the Overenthusiastic by a rope line for a check. The rope however, proved weaker than the Orc's resolve and Grishnar plunged into the waters with a snap. Mareg waited a moment to see if the man would break surface, and when he did not, he tied himself off and leapt in after. The dark water filled his mouth with grit. The reddish dust of the air had collected in the water, giving it the bloody color. It was dank, rusty and lifeless. Mareg desperately searched for his crewman. Finally he located him, tangled in muddy weeds. They pushed off and were pulled back to safety.
Lira tracked down some of the other Namir on the other vessels of the fleet, discovering only a handful. The two she located on the refugee ship proved to be exiled Namir traitors who tried to conceal their identities. Lira noted to deal with in the future. But Lira spent most of her time training to fly the scout ship for the fleet, now hers to command as the Chief Scout. This proved to be an experimental vessel, different from others in the fleet. Most small ships are flying skiffs or launches. These serve as transport between ships of the fleet or for the hunting groups. Lira's ship, however had been built to be fast, tough and enclosed. Lira also discovered it was even more roomy than the cabin she's been allocated on The Silent Vanguard. Lira flew around the fleet, leaning the controls and also figuring out the routes and signals used in moving around the various vessels. Both Mimayi Fateflame (lead Engineer) and Arryn Godsilver (the Master of Flight) showed their admiration at how quickly Lira took to the skills involved. She even masterfully pulled off her first deck landing.
Whet Bloodlaced found himself pressed for time over the first several days- trying to establish the Vigil across the Fleet. The command had been to set up watch posts on each vessel, with at least one native member and one non-native as guards at any time. Recruitment had gone well- better than well, in fact. However in some cases, the difficulty lay in getting permission to establish those offices aboard the various ships. The Orcish Ship, The Valiant Hound, for example was unlike the others in the Fleet. The other ships had, for the most part, been built, stocked and crewed for long term survival. The Hound, on the other hand, had been a massive hunting and whaling vessel, thrown off course and away from home when their lands had been destroyed. They'd joined with the Daughter of Woe and her sister ships nearly a year ago. As a result, the Orcs had a kind of rough justice already in place. The idea of outsiders coming in to help enforce peace seemed more amusing to them than anything else. Whet put down his own instincts,as these Orcs were not the ones his people had fought with and worked out a careful settlement. His new second-in-command, the scrupulously accurate Tolmyle Devildream, took down extensive notes, shaking her heading throughout.
The Orcs had just required some personal attention to get into line. The Artikhane required more serious diplomacy. Whet met with the Ambassador, a strange insect-human hybrid assigned to help relations between the Artikhane and the rest of the Fleet. She explained that outsiders would not be permitted in most of the Artikhane Hive ship. Whet stepped carefully around the subject, pointing out the suspicions that might raise among her fellow peoples. They danced around the topic for some time, before Whet established a compromise. A post would be established on the Artikhane ship- hosting the paired Artikhane and foreign Vigil officers. If there was a problem, ship passengers could seek out their assistance. It wasn't exactly what Whet had hoped for, but it would served as a foot in the door and could be expanded later.
Admiral Eldiing Greybattle assembled the group. One of the far-range forward scouts had spotted a structure in the distance, perched on a small floating island. Strange spiral clouds encircled the island. The problem lay in an oncoming massive storm-front which would reach the area soon. Greybattle tasked the crew with heading to the island, assessing any native life, searching for any resources the fleet could use and stripping those resources out if possible. If they could find natives or any information on the In-Between that would be excellent- the admiral expressed some worries about illness among the fleet. After some discussion, the group requested a forager to come with them and they were joined by Ashpala Deathvoyage.
Chain handled the navigation out to the island, but found the steady orange skies something of a distraction, meaning that what should have been a one-hour voyage took several. The group flew in close, discovering that the swirling clouds actually contained rocks and debris, circling the land mass like multiple swirling rings. From the air, they could see a barren landscape, several miles across, with a star shaped pyramid in the center. They dipped below the horizon and noted many large mirrored surfaces embedded in the rocks of the island's underside- irregularly arrayed. Dweena did a quick calculation to judge that all would point in the same relative direction- or at least any rays from them would intersect within the island. The ship lifted up in an attempt to land- at which point Lira, distracted and under pressure, managed to slam it into the shoreline. The vessel appeared undamaged, but had lodged firmly into the ground with a great roar.
The group disembarked and approached the pyramid. They noted the storm was closer than they'd hoped- the delays having cut their time shorter. Soon they made discovery, the recent tracks of great hopping beasts. From the size, Lira judged that these animals would have to have an alternate food source- the sparse vegetation and small game could not support something of their size. The group grew wary- now expecting that these beast smight be some sort of guard for the structure.
Soon they spotted a dust cloud as a group came running at them at top speed- furred, rabbit-like monsters the size of great wolves with wide mouths of razor sharp teeth. The group set themselves up and prepared for the onslaught. Four rushed at their position and Lira moved to flank them under the cover of the twilight shadows. Two beasts died before they could even get close, while the other two engaged Marreg who bellowed to draw their ire. However i the midst of this fight, Dweenea noted another group coming up from the rear- two similar beasts and another of even larger size, like a small horse. Marreg flung the bodies of one of the now-dead attackers into the larger one, slowing him to give them some breathing room. Chain and Dweena combined to set others on fire, while Whet and Lira spun through killing and sniping. By the time the largest monster reached the group, the other six had been dealt with. As a team they laid into it, blinding, slowing and setting fire to it. Within a few seconds, they'd completely staggered it, such that when Marreg hurled it into the air, it crashed down dead.
THE MYSTERIOUS STRUCTURE
They dragged the bodies up closer to the structure- hoping to find a place to store or shelter them. The meat and fur could prove useful to the fleet. Finding little, they left the carcasses at the base and proceeded up one of the six ramps leading to the top of the structure. They saw no evidence of any tracks beyond those of the animals. The ramps met at the top in a large, flat landing. In the center they found large, round doors flush with the stonework. These had been used recently-within the last week. They also found two levers which seemed to be associated with the doors. Lira examined these and felt wary- they appeared to be trapped. Luckily her search revealed another hidden device- a lever which, when pulled, revealed a a set of stairs leading down into the mysterious structure.
The second session of a campaign can be tough, especially after you've had a pretty epic opening. But not every session should be epic, you have to have a chance for the PCs to regroup and get settled into the game. I don't think it is giving too much away to say I had three major objective for this session (I even wrote them down in my notes like this)
1. Reestablish and reinforce the players' roles and offices in the Fleet.
2. Do some stage setting to make the Fleet feel like a place and establish some of the pressures on it.
3. Have an exploration and a fight to shake out those mechanics with the players.
Originally, I'd planned to do a little one-on-one with each player about their character, very briefly and then we'd move to the exploration and get through that in one session. But the players seemed to enjoy the interactions and focus, so that took longer than I'd had in my mind. It was good though- with each player making some problem-solving decisions and everyone listening attentively to the other scenes. The exploration went well and people did fine in combat- I did some damage to the PCs, which I always enjoy. They also picked up quickly on the new idea of tagging bad guys in order to "debuff" them. Good session.