Ms0 3

THE IMPERIAL CORVETTE "TWILIGHT" , OFF THE COAST OF IVIQUE.

Its cargo bay is heavy with steel coffins, one of which containing Folis. Folis mutters under magicked breath, cursing the pure absurdity of this situation. This was the longest of long shots, but it was a far sight better than dying… maybe. She had no idea where they were or where they were headed. She has heard the smatterings of conversations - that the mission will have to be carried out quickly, as every ship will be needed for taking Ecafa.
Mostly, she has been left alone with the thrum of the engines and the rumbling churn of the water beneath her for some time. Her containment smells like metal, seawater, and bleach.
Eventually, she hears the engine halt. The cargo doors wrench open. The muffled exertions of the crew lifting coffin after coffin.

Waiting.

Waiting is hell.

Folis grimaces in the dark, applying minute amounts of fire, then ice, then fire, then ice, to the inside edges of her containment, trying to warp the metal even slightly. This was an extremely risky maneuver and she had no idea how strong the reinforcement on the container was, but the waiting… the hellish waiting had made her angry now. Slowly, slowly, it starts to warp, bend, weaken. As long as it goes unnoticed, then -

And then, a voice that could be heard through solid steel, the voice of the Black Knight, hissing through solid helmet. "This one is expected to be especially accursed. I shall handle the disposal personally."

Folis's anger turned absolutely icy. It took every mote of her willpower to not try and blow the cover open now. But they hadn't moved at all yet, and popping out in the midst of the enemy crew, and the Knight Themself, would be a really, REALLY terrible idea. One end of the coffin is lifted. Folis can feel every rivet in the deck as it is dragged, slowly, to the edge of the open cargo bay.
Folis keeps mental count - she might have not seen much of the ship before she was sealed, but she had a rough idea of how large a cargo ship might be. One bump, then another, then another, then another…

The edge. One of the mighty clasps holding the coffin shut is popped. Then another.

Folis freezes a moment. Wait, they're not dumping the containers straight into the sea? She might have miscalculated slightly…

She would have heard the coffins opening if they were opening them. The snap of those clasps is unmistakable.

So then - The Black Knight wrenches open the coffin, the sweep of that obscuring helmet suggesting the beak of a hunting bird. Even beneath the fitting of the black metal plates, no skin is visible - some bodysuit of glossy black seems to cover every inch. The voice is filtered through the helmet, picking up an ominous crackle and a gurgling hiss. At one side, he wears a sword - at the other, a thoroughly locked case, of roughly the same size. The coffin has been carried to the edge of the cargo bay, overlooking a choppy, storm-dark sea. He speaks: "As expected, you are alive."

Folis looks up. "… Guess there's no hiding it from someone as exceptional as you. What the hell you want? See my fires go out? Watch as I sink to the seabed with nothin' left to me?"

He looks out at the ocean. In the distance, the slightest lights of Ivique shine, mirage-like, on the fog. A harsh wave crashes against the open cargo door, spraying a wash of freezing water over the two of them. "I want to be sure. Stand up."

"Yeah, yeah." Folis hauls herself up, dusts herself off as best she can. She's soaked with sweat from her long confinement, and wears something resembling a sullen grin. "To think you gave up your radiance for this."

"No," the Knight says. "Not for this." His sword makes no noise as he draws it.

Folis shrugs. "Guess it'll be an eternal mystery then. Can't win it all, right?" Then, if she was no longer further restrained, she'd turn on a dime, and start bolting for the edge of the ship, taking a flying leap off. "Neither can you. See you in hell, lightning bolt!"

"You-" The Black Knight reaches out with gauntleted hand as the stormy sea swallows Folis up.

The shock of cold water and the confusion of the churning sea.

He waits. He turns back to his deck. He calls to his crew, after moments: "The matter is resolved."

Folis swims to a fair depth, briefly struggling in panic, before instinct took over. Ripping at a small vial that had been sewn into the inside of her armor, she stuck it in her mouth and bit down hard. Thankfully she had bitten through most of the sealant rather than the glass, making a small hole through which she greedily sucked down the aspirant. Even now, she was trying to stave off the hopeless realization of the sea's vastness - but for now, she was alive, and she was going to do her damndest to remain so. Folis waits… and waits… she swims a fair deal away while doing so, in a direction away from the ship. Once she figures she's far enough out, she surfaces - scanning frantically for any sort of landmark.

The slight glimmer of Ivique's lights through the rain fog is too damn far to present any hope. But if there's the slightest spit of land, the slightest chance to rest and set your feet down and -

They say that a miracle is when only one thing can possibly happen, and then it doesn't. They say that there is a light at the bottom of the ocean, and for a moment, in the sucking, churning cold, Folis can see it -

Before she passes out.

A SPIT OF LAND, THE TOWERS

The next morning. Folis is ashore on a tiny stretch of shattered black-stone beach, which after the slightest sword-grassy dune rises a sandstone tower. Pipers, tiny seabirds, dance up and down the shore, hunting prey only they can see, and skittering from each wash of foamy wave, tittering as they course downwards as it recedes. Without realizing, she is clutching something in her hand, so tightly her nails have drawn a hint of blood from her palm.

"… huh? What's…" Folis lolls about a bit, before taking a look. An octagonal coin. Judging from the weight, it must be almost solid gold. The face depicts what appears to be a lamia - a woman with the body of a serpent. On the other, indecipherable symbols.

Folis staaaaaaares at it a moment. Then… she laughs. Just laughs. Laughs and laughs and laughs. She wasn't even going to begin to question this.

"And… up!" Yes, she was talking to herself on whatever this spit of land was. Taking track of her situation… all she had was herself, her armor, and the meager emergency tools sewn into her armor, minus one aspirant. She knew not how long she had laid on the shore, but she was still pretty soaked - she cast about looking for driftwood or anything else to start a small fire. She needed to dry off, catching one's death of chill after a miraculous escape would be a horrible waste.

Taking a bit of a look around, there's many isles like this visible - sandstone towers jutting out of the sparkling water, some of them worn to arches by the lap and surge of water beneath them. That puts Folis in the Towers, south of Ecafa, near Leviathan - a fishing spot, not far off the shipping lanes.

Roll Survival to gather fuel for fire.
(To roll a skill, roll 2d6 + 1d6 per rank you have in that skill, counting 5s and 6s as successes.)
Folis rolled 3d6 and got 2, 6, 5 ( Total: 13 )

There's sodden, worn-smooth logs washed up along the beach, rotted slightly and draped in seaweed. With some exertion, they drag up to the dry sand. Fallen thrushvine branches, dry and brambled, competing with the sword-grass of the dunes, makes good kindling, hauled out from where the stone rises from the slight break of grass. The kindling catches with slightest sorcery, billowing heavy smoke. The wood steams and cracks, what bark remaining sloughing off, drying under the kindling heat - Until it too catches, with roaring flame.

Warmth! Sweet warmth! The scent of woodsmoke and the glow of fire-heat upon Folis' face.

Folis slips out of her armor, removes all the little tools, and sets it asive, to give it the chance to air out and dry as well. She mumbles some small maiden's prayer as she unwraps a well-packed hardtack biscuit and starts nibbling away at it. She let out a long sigh. She had gone through mortal hell to reach where she was - wherever this is - and she was alive. Just that mere fact weighed on her profoundly, crowding out other thoughts for the time being. She sat, staring into the fire, occasionally scanning her surroundings in case something shows up.

Seabirds circle on the ocean. Over the horizon, a boat approaches, flying sails a patchwork of a million colors. A fishing vessel, two-hulled.

Folis perks up in curiosity. She decided to chance it again - she went back to gather more and more kindling, heaping it up by the pile to cause the flames to rise higher, to hopefully catch the vessel's attention.

It comes up to the shore of the little island. The crew lower a rowboat into the water, sending over two fishermen - a dwarf in heavy, colorful coat, wrapped in a dozen scarves, and a crab-Hundred. The latter calls out: "C'mon. You're getting rescued."

"Nice, didn't even have to ask." Folis replies, as she sets about strapping her amor back on, since she'd end up in a more suitable resting location anyway, then sets about heaping sand upon the fire to extinguish it. Folis slips the coin into one of the armor's pouches before heading out to the rowboat. "This has been one hell of a lucky adventure."

"Were you aboard the Ravanelle?" The Hundred asks. The dwarf reaches out a hand, helping Folis in. The boat rocks and bobs under the new arrival.

"Search me," Folis says. "I was in a steel coffin damn near the entire time. Put myself into trance so I could get dumped out at sea and forgotten about. And by some small-or-large miracle I made it here. But if that Knight frequents the vessel you speak of, then yes, I do suppose it would be. To be quite honest, I don't care so much about that right now, as where I ended up. Where am I, anyway?"

"Looks like you washed up on the Towers. And-" The Hundred frowns, with a little purse of the maxillipeds. "We'll get you back to Leviathan. And - no, the Ravanelle was a refugee ship. Went down to Imperial cannon. A reward's been promised for any survivors. Nobody's found any yet."

"Well, shit. I wouldn't know. As far as I'm aware, I was the only living member of the, uh, cargo of the vessel I was on. Can't say I've heard much about Leviathan, but whatever it is, it's likely a sight better than the Imperials running rampant through the mainland."

They begin rowing. The dwarf laughs. "A sight better for now. Don't think we could do much if they rolled in with one of their dreadnoughts."

"Isn't that just my luck." Folis says, with a snort. "Just as long as I can find some niche to settle in and be useful, I'll let my flame burn on as it may."

The Hundred reaches over and slaps the dwarf on the shoulder. "Oh, what would they want with a pile of bones and some rotting wharves? Think they've really got a craving for ssuseva?"

"I mean, you'd be surprised," Folis interjects.

The dwarf shrugs. "You would be."

Folis continues: "They flattened a village of outcasts. I figure they're smashing everything up to rebuild to their liking from the ruins." She elicits a sympathetic groan from the crab-Hundred, with this. She changes the subject: "So, what's happening in Leviathan? What's it like?"

"Stuffed to the brim, is what," says the Crab. "More looking for work than we've ever had before, with all these poor bastards seeking refuge. Never been a worse wage for a day's fishing."

"Mm. This might complicate things a great deal," says Folis. "How's the outlook for hunting or slaying? I know a trick or three, they just wouldn't serve me at all aboard an Imperial corpse ship."

"I heard that salvage captain, what's her name-" "McGunnery." "she's taking on muscle for a trip to the Arcolith. All new hands, none of her usual crew."

That's all Folis needed. "Great, I'll start there. Do I need a local's word or do I just show up?"

"Juust show up. I get the sense she's not bein… Selective." The Crab averts his gaze.

"And the Arcolith?" asks Folis. "Or is that somethin' I'll be asking the good captain?"

The Crab Hundred points. There, past the Towers, on the ocean -
A city of black stone, square and impossible, silent and cyclopean.
The Arcolith "Filios" .

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