Weyland takes a moment to inspect his work. A steel collar now holds the alchemical engine to the center mast of the cargo deck. Gran had advised against placing it in the bilge – too much moisture. No fewer than a dozen heavy chains are suspended from the engine collar, through the decking and into brackets on the keel below. If the old witch can ever work out the complex fluids and gases found inside the device, this configuration might theoretically bare the immense weight of the Maelstrom.
With his task complete, the android decides to catch up with the scouting party. Perhaps with help from the captain and Alcades, they might do so more quickly.
Brig: “Sorry Weyland, captain’s duty. I have to see this done,” says Vitran. He bats the cage of the mortified Astral Whaler. It was decided that leviathans would decide the shulsaga’s fate, and a pod of the creatures was on its way. Weyland feels no sympathy.
Alcades’ cabin: “Not now, Weyland!” says Alcades with an uneasy voice. "Oh, fine. Come in. It’s not like you’ll care.” The door opens and the captain’s monkey escapes in terror.
Alcades looks more like his undine self in a loose sweat-stained robe. His recent half-dragon features have withdrawn into an horrific growth at his side. Like a fish gulping at the air in futility, Elliot convulses listlessly there.
“Fascinating,” remarks Weyland.
“Shut up,” grumps Alcades. The two are conjoined at the abdomen. “It seems Apsu is undoing Dahak’s transformation. Very slowly, I might add. However, I can at least travel now. Let’s sneak away so no one sees me like this.”
Weyland responds, "Very well. The leviathan bull that helped subdue the Astral Whaler witnessed State. It teleported the scouting chariot as thanks for rescuing the mother and calf. Perhaps she can transport us to her mate in a similar fashion.
The bull releases Araris and Scandrannon who tow Akane and Papa on the chariot. Instead of laying eyes on SIate, they see a two-mile globe of elemental flux hovering in the vicinity. Presumably, the Obelisks of Fortune hide within.
“What do you make of it?” asks Araris. "Even at astral speeds, traveling though all that looks dangerous.”
“She say’in dee flux be a protectah. It got dee fiyah. It got dee rock. It got dee watah an wind. But, where dee darkness?” asks Papa. While scanning for traces of elemental shadow, his haunted one has a clever idea and Papa’s own chains proceed to constrict and choke him to death.
“What the hells, Papa!” exclaims Akane. (Papa is using his shadowbound chains on himself to manifest a shade of his haunted one. It requires bringing a victim below consciousness without killing them. The funny thing is, Papa can remain conscious below 0 hp!)
Without releasing the stranglehold, Papa’s hand somehow manages to react and catch the chariot rail before his black and blue body collapses. An inky effeminate nimbus slowly manifests in the chariot. In shadow form, Gash goes on to explain, “It would seem this flux is created from elemental guardians. Perhaps the primal dragons are already asleep. Please take my hands and be quick about it.”
Everyone does as instructed. Immediately the astral environs dim and the energetic flux shrinks significantly. For the moment, Gash appears as a normal ostiarius kyton. Her lovely make-up is a mix of body-length tattoos and dyed scarification. Her lavish jewelry connects with an imaginative circuit of body piercings. It’s difficult to distinguish between her taught skin and lacquered leather gown.
“As I expected, the obelisks contain a dimension of shadow,” says Gash, “but why is there no elemental shadow in the flux? Dearest Araris, please make good use of this shadow walk spell. It’s back to the mindscape for me if he wants to mend.” The half-orc and kyton regard each other for a moment before Papa cracks open a fresh healing wand and Gash fades into his consciousness.
The scouting party dives into a shade of the elemental flux. Fire, earth, water and wind effects assault them, but they break through it in a fraction of the time with only superficial harm and Akane dangling from a rope.
The spell ends and everyone is primed for action. As Scandrannon banks around the pentagonal landmass, charcoal dust is seen piled around the bases of four peripheral obelisks. Between three sleeping primal dragons, Slate takes rubbings of names carved on a fifth. Unfortunately for Slate, his work on the obelisk of shadow is destroyed by a fiery arrow courtesy of Araris. The next arrow he knocks is pregnant with justice.
Slate immediately bounds toward the central obelisk’s apex as Scandrannon closes ground. During the relative eternity Slate flies through the air, Papa’s sends in his chains and Araris takes careful aim, but Akane responds with superior alacrity. With a great leap after running weightlessly across the half-orc’s own line of attack, she knicks Slate’s shiny tail with her blade.
Then, he disappears.
(To be continued…)