Continuing the series of session reports for the Last Fleet campaign; previous entry here.
The group had returned from their expedition bloodied but triumphant. In the rescue of the Dwarven ship, they'd perhaps found a way to escape the In Between and make it through the Stormwall of their destination, where the pull of their linked twins lead them. But a new problem faced them- if the explosion on the flagship had been sabotage, then there might be further threats to the fleet.
The group parted ways, many of them heading off to recovery from their wounds. Whet spoke with his second-in-command, Tomyle Devildream, to see if anything had changed in their absence. While their had been nothing suspicious, the illness gripping many across the fleet had increased. In several cases, victims had been transformed by the magic, becoming violent. They'd injured themselves or others, forcing Devildream to shift the various personnel around the fleet to serve as security. Normal patrols had been canceled. She noted that the Artikhane either weren't affected by the magical ailment or else were speaking of it.
Dweena, relatively uninjured, wanted to begin working on investigating the sabotage. However, the Admiral told her that she needed to turn all of her attentions to aiding Gavesk Sundering. She set her staff to several tasks- primarily aiding the Shield creation. But as well they gathered people who might be able to aid with the de-petrification of the Dragon they'd rescued. But she did manage to find the time to pull all the records for the incident- supplies and deliveries.
Chain Firespinner spent time in the infirmary of the flag ship despite his desire to return back to his own people. The presence of the newly acquired dragon still brought thoughts of murder to his mind. Though the dragon Razeheart had helped to save him, they were ancient enemies of his race. Chain spoke with the orcish healer and found himself scolded when he spoke of his desire to slay the beast. He tried to clam himself, and spoke with the dragon briefly, trying to come to some kind of understanding. That would be made even more difficult later when Whet arrived bearing bad news. Chain's people, the Scalebound, had withdrawn support from him. His wyvern was to be given over to another warrior. Distraught, Chain reacted angrily to Whet next suggestion- that he make a pact with Razeheart as his new flying mount. Chain thought on it and recognized the necessity- his feelings and even the feelings of his people would have to be set aside for the interests of the fleet.
Marreg and Lira healed up and dealt with similar domestic matters. Marreg's twin brother paid him a brief visit, intending to bring words of disappointment from their father. But when he saw the attractive orcish physiker, Rainmouse, his attitude changed. Marreg could tell this would become a problem. Once recovered, Marreg returned to his duties and a surprise. His brother had volunteered to join his work on the hunting boats. The Master of Duties offered to instead have Marreg's brother assigned to cleaning out the nightsoil, but Marreg declined. He would deal with this on his own terms. Meanwhile, Lira looked in on her brother Aden. Like many of the Namiir, the loss of their land and people had struck hard at him. The whole history of their people had been lost. The Great sadness, as the Namiir called it, had already dragged a number down into suicide. Lira found her brother trapped in the depths of that. She shouted and railed at him, eventually dousing him with water to shake him out of it, with some success. Lira noted a clocked figure in the corner observing, Thanos, the Namiir god of death who faded away after thanking her for her efforts.
In the many days which followed, the group found themselves caught between many duties. Each had the tasks and responsibilities of their respective positions. But they also found themselves working on new operations and tasks related to Gavesk's Magical Shield. In order for that to work, the vessels of the fleet would have to be tied and drawn closely together. All of the shifts wold have to precisely match course and speed. The risks of the plan were enormous. The ships were already running their engines hard, trying to get to the swiftly approaching Stormwall as quickly as possible. Many of the flyers in the group found themselves running maneuvers- either flying patterns around the fleet to keep stragglers in line or else flying in between ships watching and trying to make sure they kept a reasonable distance. Ships knocked against one another, but only a handful of crew were lost. The also had to deal with tensions between the Dwarven engineer Gavesk and the high arcanist Rodol Faithjester. Gavesk still found the company of people overwhelming and Faithjester demanded more information on the operation of the shield. Dweena and the others interceded and defused the situation.
With some of that taken care of, they could finally turn their attention to the question of sabotage. They spoke with the various mages who had looked over the wreckage. Those examiners had narrowed the problem down to one of three items crafted on other vessels and sent over to aid with the project. Each had been made to specifications and been checked. However, the pattern of the destruction suggested one of them had an anomaly. The first item was a lens crafted by the Artikhane insect folk. Marreg and Whet traveled there- eventually gaining an audience. Whet could sense some of the disturbance among the Artikhane, worry that they might be accused of a crime and suspecting that their outsider status made them ripe for scapegoating. Whet and Marreg carefully questioned those involved. In doing so they finally gained some insight into the Artikhane people. Clearly speaking about “internal” matters- like politics, homelife, society- was considered taboo among them. Talking of such things to outsiders clearly made them uncomfortable. Whet and Marreg came away a little wiser and convinced that the Hive Ship had not been involved.
Chain, Dweena and Lira meanwhile went to speak with the magical craftsmen on the Nocturne Consortium ship. While Chain entertained the Captain, the Goblin and Namiir, went into the workshops and carefully questioned everyone. The Gob,ins had been commissioned to cut a piece of magistone to specifications. They've even made of set of them cut to the specs and had chosen the one which bets fit. Lira and Dweena examined the stones and could detect no flaw. Given the quality control there, they suspected that the item from the Nocturne had also not been the item of sabotage.
Finally the group as a whole traveled to the human ship of the Straadi. The best appointed of the vessels, the Straadi had clearly maintained their old social structures and hierarchy. Eventually, the group tracked down the Straadi magical engineer who had supplied a particular regulator device. Immediately they detected something was wrong- with the engineer evasive and nervous. Playing bad cop, worse cop, they applied pressure until the got the information. The regulator device which had been requested had been a little beyond the abilities of the engineer- at least in the time frame given. However, one of the Aeolatoi, Poet Shell had visited and offered to assist. He'd done the work and asked for no credit. The group stormed off in pursuit of Poet Shell.
They found him on deck, speakin with another Aeolatoi, Casting Fate. Chain carefully moved her away as Whet engaged in questioning. The Elf realized that he's never actually spoken with Poet Shell before- that the Aeolatoi had avoided him. Surrounded, Shell admitted to what he'd done, but not for the reasons that they suspected. He hadn't sabotages the device to slow the Fleet down. Instead it had been a signal to his master Sunforge. The elemental energies would have finally told the Overlod where the Fleet lay. Poet Shell made to escape but found himself quickly cut down. Even as they did so, everyone could feel a change in the atmosphere- a sense of gathering power. Lord Sunforge was coming.
The group desperately raised the alarm, calling all ships to alert. Everyone made for their flyers- hearidng the fleet into ready position. In the distance behind them, they could see the sky shift and warp. Soon Sunforge's legions would pour through. While the others raised the hue and cry and got flyers into the air, Dweena rushed to the Dwarven vessel. She broke the news to Gavesk. He nodded slowly and told his assistants nearby to alert the Admiral that they would have to activate the emergency plan he'd spoken of. The fleet would have to draw in quickly as close as they could. Gavesk dismissed Dweena and his bodyguards, who reluctantly withdraw from the Dwarven ship, leaving the last of the Dwarves to his machines. Meanwhile the first wave of assaults began, even as the group desperately herded the fleet's ships like cattle- heedless of the crashing together. Then suddenly the Dwarven vessel exploded with electric fire. A field suddenly expanded around most of the fleet. As it had done when escaping the Stone Queen, the vessel fired off arcane energy propelling everything at breakneck speed. The fleet slammed into the Stormwall and passed through, protected by the shield. The gaps crackled close behind them, even as the Dwarven ship imploded from the strain.
The Fleet had made it through, had escaped from the In Between. But what lay before them in this new and unknown world?