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Summary[]

Join Alex, Helen, Bryn, Lydia and Ben as they continue to navigate the skies toward Svalbard. This week Azu breaks hearts, Hamid has a chat with Wilde, Cel comes to the rescue, and Zolf discovers a secret.

Synopsis[]

Coloured digital art of Azu sunbathing in the crow’s nest. She is a Black, bald orc with brown eyes. She is sitting, leaning against a short brown wall in front of a clear blue sky, looking upwards with a smile. She wears a pink tank top that shows off her muscles, and beige pants.

Azu sunbathes in the crow's nest. Art by @brinnanza on twitter. Used with permission.

The rest of the evening passes uneventfully, the conversations around the game of dart peter out into awkward silence that not everyone enjoys.

The next day, the ship is now flying over the continent — an unpopulated region of mostly mountains. Around mid-day, everyone’s going about their normal duties. Azu’s on lookout, sunbathing, and Cel climbs up to the crow’s nest to check on her. The crow’s nest is cramped, but not impossibly so; it’s spiky on the outside, like the rest of the ship. Cel offers to make the crow’s nest comfortable, making a bed for Azu, but Azu declines, because she doesn’t want to sleep while on duty. Instead, Azu and Cel cloud-gaze together. While doing this, Cel notices that Siggif is sidling down below deck, away from his normal duties of monitoring the rigging, but ignores this.

Cel asks Azu how she is. They tell Azu that they appreciate what she was trying to do with the darts game, and apologize for not joining in, saying that they were in a bad space at the time. Azu thanks Cel and talks about how she’s feeling homesick — being somewhere sunny and high up reminds her of her home, back at the farm. There were lots of people she cared about there, and it was safe. Cel remarks on how a safe life can seem strange when one’s doing this kind of work. It’s why they were so reluctant to leave their village in Japan, because they wanted to hold onto that safe life. Azu agrees. She hasn’t been away for very long from her perspective — only a few months — but it feels much longer.

A picture with a completely pink background; the sun is in the top left corner of the image. The crow's nest of the ship rises in the center of the page, with a red flag coming off the top while ropes and rigging stretches down from it. In the crow's nest are Azu (a Black orc, bald and muscular, with bright pink armor) and Cel (a half-elf with tanned skin, white hair sticking straight up, goggles, and a long brown coat). Azu and Cel are looking at each other and smiling, with their arms around each other's shoulders in a half-hug.

Azu and Cel share a hug in the crow's nest. Art by @kaleidemaran on tumblr. Used with permission.

She asks Cel how they cope with being away from home, since they’ve been away for a long time. Cel says it depends on what you count as a home. They’ve been gone from their childhood home for much longer than they were actually there; they were about 25-30 when they left. They’ve lived in a lot of places since then, some of which have felt like home, and some of which they still miss. More than anything, they miss the feeling of home. Azu agrees: it’s the people that you miss, and she wonders if she had the right people around, whether she’d feel at home. Cel says it’s strange how long you miss people, even if you still hold them in your heart. Azu agrees; she says before, she lost people from natural causes or accidents before, but she hadn’t had anyone just taken away. The conversation falls into awkward, comfortable silence, until Azu asks Cel for a hug, which they reciprocate deeply.

Meanwhile, Zolf notices that Siggif, Friedrich, and Kiko aren’t on deck doing their duties — which involved monitoring things to make sure they didn’t go wrong, as opposed to essential duties. Zolf, who was supposed to be watching people, looks for them, digging his way through the cargo hold, which feels more full than he remembers. He finds that crates have been pushed together to create a poorly concealed cubby at the very back of the cargo hold. He overhears muffled conversation through the walls: Siggif muttering angrily, Friedrich telling him to accept the situation and wait it out, and Kiko calmly asking them how long they’ll be doing this.

Zolf walks in to find a surprisingly plush poker den, with a barrel as the table and a pile of furs to make it comfy. There’s a jar of hooch in the middle of the table. Siggif is losing heavily. They don’t notice that Zolf’s there. Zolf says wryly that this didn’t take long. Siggif rises in surprises, bumps his head on the ceiling, and sits back down; Friedrich sweeps everything off the table with a giant arm; and Kiko looks calmly at Zolf. Friedrich apologizes to Zolf, stammering they were just getting to know each other and raising morale. Kiko continues to look at her cards and suggests Zolf join them. Zolf declines, instead asking Siggif about their muffled conversation. Siggif, confused, lies that he’s looking to take more shifts and accuses Friedrich of cheating (who says he’s just doing basic math.)

Coloured digital art of Kiko playing cards. She is a Japanese woman with black hard in a bun, wearing a blue shirt. She has a mole near her mouth and black panted nails. She sits with both elbows on a table, resting her chin in one hand with a bored, annoyed expression. In front of her are various cards, and she holds a few in one hand.

Kiko just wants to get back to poker. Art by @coralreefskim on Twitter. Used with permission.

To Kiko’s “wry and calculating” looks and questions, Zolf (first subtly, then outright) suggests the three may be planning a mutiny — Siggif is confused, Friedrich is shocked, and Kiko is amused. Friedrich asks to see Zolf outside for a “delicate matter” but Zolf says they can do it here. Siggif mumbles something inaudibly several times, until finally Kiko, annoyed at the interruption and picking up her poker chips, jumps in and says that Siggif fancies Azu, and is wondering if she’s available. Zolf bursts out laughing in relief. He says he can’t provide any advice for Siggif, but tells them off for playing secret poker while they should be doing their jobs, because they’re “basically flying on a bomb” and need it to keep working. Friedrich apologizes and starts lumbering out, but Zolf grabs him by the collar and tells him not to bluster — they can have recreation time, just off-shift, and they don’t need to be so secretive about it.

Kiko puts down her cards in frustration and asks again about the mutiny. Zolf replies that Earhart’s going through some difficult times, that there have been some complaints about her, and that he’s making sure no one shares those complaints. He doesn’t want any kind of big fight. Friedrich and Siggif, still arguing about Friedrich’s supposed cheating, say they aren’t planning a mutiny, and Kiko says Zolf shouldn’t worry; she mocks Zolf tone in saying everything’s fine. Zolf tells them all to get back to their jobs, and suggests Siggif actually talks to Azu (he takes notes.)

Meanwhile, we focus on Hamid. The kobolds have been ticking along happily and Earhart’s spent the whole day in her cabin, so he goes to find Wilde. Wilde is in the depths of the forward bow; this used to be a guest cabin, and is now much more cramped, with a bunkbed-desk.

Wilde asks Hamid if there are any problems, and Hamid says no — he wants to talk to him, even though they weren’t close before the time skip. Wilde cuts him off, saying that he’s fine and Hamid needs to stop asking. Hamid says he doesn’t believe Wilde, and they all care about him. He asks the anti-magic shackles that Wilde continues to wear. Wilde replies that he hasn’t managed to track down the Cult of Hades, remarking that the cult has been very absent — the party’s departure in Rome felt like an “opening move” in the game of espionage, but has had no follow-up.

Hamid says that it must be hard for Wilde to be without magic for so long, and that it’s okay if he’s not okay — they’re his friends, not just his employees. He knows that Wilde experienced a betrayal that now causes him to cut himself off during quarantine, and is sympathetic to how hard that must be. He offers to try to understand and help. At this point, Wilde starts absentmindedly to rub the scar on his face. Hamid continues: they might all die when they leave the ship, but for now, they’re all together, and they can help Wilde carry the burden.

Wilde sits back. He comments that Hamid likes “to dig” — a positive and negative quality. Hamid says that he likes to think of it as helping. Wilde takes a deep breath.

BREAK

Wilde takes another deep breath, then gives a long sigh. Finally, he says that there’s no winning (Hamid jokes that this is about the conversation, Wilde quips back, and they both laugh) — the world has irreparably changed. Hamid agrees. Wilde continues: they’re just buying time until someone makes a big win, but that doesn’t seem to be happening, and he doesn’t see a way out of this. Asking Hamid not to tell the others, Wilde talks about their mission being “an exercise in futility.” Hamid asks if Wilde’s lost hope, but Wilde just responds sarcastically.

Hamid says that for nearly 2000 years, the Meritocrats have stopped bad things happening in their lands — Wilde interjects that “the meritocrats are dead, dying, or hiding” — and the people have never had to face something of this level on their own. Wilde interrupts, asking Hamid what he thinks the Harlequins are doing; Hamid says it’s a war, but Wilde says the Harlequins aren’t on the front lines, so Hamid guesses they’re picking up the pieces, filling in for the meritocrats. Wilde responds that they’re maintaining things to salvage them later — and you don’t salvage things that can be saved. Hamid says this isn’t about getting back what’s lost, but defending what remains.

Wilde argues that the goal now is lose less quickly. He explains that the Harlequins only tolerate his cell’s work and he’s generally regarded as a kook. Hamid argues that after Sasha’s letter, nothing’s impossible. He talks about the how, by sheer chance, he found the party and the motley crew somehow stopped Kafka.

As Hamid’s talking, Wilde turns his back on Hamid and opens the small shutter to see out from the bow. Hamid gets a eerie flashback to the last time he saw his father. He shudders, but continues: when Ancient Rome’s empire was destroyed, parts of the empire didn’t fall instantly, and Sasha managed to survive and live a life. Now, they won’t get back what they lost, but they can still save the world. If they can find the centre of the problem and burn it down, then maybe they can win the fight — and he thinks the team they have can do it. Wilde’s not alone.

Wilde interjects that he never said he was alone, and makes a joke about his number of “partners,” to which Hamid gives a wry smile. He apologises for getting off-track, and brings the conversation back to the magic cuffs. Wilde says he gets used to the lack of magic, foundation’s really improved recently, and “when in doubt, make ‘em laugh.”

Hamid suggests that the magic targeting Wilde requires an arcane link to the person from whom it was taken — and Wilde’s changed a lot in the past few months. Wilde dismisses this, saying Hamid’s adorable when he’s trying to be profound (Hamid raises an eyebrow) but personal growth won’t overcome the weave of magic. There’s really not much they can do at this point. Hamid excuses himself, saying that it was a pleasure to talk to Wilde and he’ll be back. Wilde closes the door after him and Hamid hears him slumping onto the bed.

It’s now the evening of the next day. The silences on the ship are becoming more comfortable, and darts have become popular — Azu has set up a leadership board. Earlier in the evening, Siggif accused Friedrich of bribing the kobolds to bump the ship whenever Siggif was throwing, but the game is continuing now. Azu finds herself next to Siggif, who’s “sitting very close for someone who just wants to be friends.” He offers her some chewing tobacco — Azu, who’s never tried it before, takes some to be polite. He shows her how to chew and spit it. Azu cautiously chews it, making a face at its taste; it’s flavoured with paprika, cinnamon, and another mystery flavour. Azu asks Siggif how long he’s been doing this, and Siggif says he started when he was a kid, when stuck out at sea, to stave off hunger. Azu spits overboard, and Siggif gives her pointers, putting his hand up to her shoulder as he spits. Azu turns, removes his arm from her shoulder, and clarifies to Siggif that she doesn’t want to be romantically involved with him. Azu sees Siggif trying to hide his disappointment as he stammers that that wasn’t his intention.

A four panel pencil comic. In the first two panels is Kiko, a Japanese woman with chin-length hair dark hair. She is looking forward with a head-tilt as she says “Well if ever want a conversation that isn’t awkward —“ Kiko turns to leave, waving and looking back “— come find me.” Azu, a bald Black orc in a fluffy jacket and Cel, a white half-elf with fluffy blond hair, wearing goggles, stand in shock, with ellipses by their heads. In the last panel, Azu is burning with embarrassment, while Cel’s goggles fall down their nose; they look to the side at Azu and say “eeeeey~.”

Kiko has a proposition for Azu. Art by Art by @dainesanddaffodils on tumblr. Used with permission.

Friedrich comes over, hands Siggif the darts, but Siggif just goes below decks. Friedrich tells her not to worry about it being awkward, because Friedrich’s awkward most of the time. Azu worries that she’s hurt his feelings, and Friedrich lies badly that she didn’t. He reassures her that rejection’s become normal to Siggif at his age, and that wouldn’t make a good partner anyhow. Azu is horrified, and says she’s sure Siggif will make someone very happy. He tells a rather depressing story about an old woman and man back home in Svalbard who were together for a short while — before Cel comes to rescue Azu, calling Azu to play darts and rejecting Friedrich’s offer for them to hear the story instead.

Cel, with hands on Azu’s shoulders, steers her away; they lean against the side of the ship and talk. Cel asks her if she’s okay, and talks about how much they hate chewing tobacco — Azu agrees that she didn’t like the experience. She talks about Siggif making the moves on her, and Cel double-checks that she’s okay. Cel says that they’ve had relationships across genders and species, but they draw the line at chewing tobacco.

As their conversation is wrapping up, Kiko comes over to the side of the ship. She comments on the awkwardness of the conversation and asks Azu how she’s doing. When Azu replies that she’s fine, so Kiko turns and, heading below deck, tells Azu to come find her if she wants a conversation that’s not awkward. Cel raises their eyebrows as Azu stammers, dumbfounded, about her romantic pursuers.

Quotes[]

Azu: "I, uh… I’m feeling a bit homesick, actually. With the seeing — cause it’s sunny and high up and —"
Cel: "Is that what your home’s like?"
Azu: "Yeah. Well, yeah, sunny and high up. I used to work on a farm, so I would be in the sun all the time and there were lots of, you know, people who, you know, I cared about and who cared about me and it was, you know, safe and nothing, you know, went on fire or was trying to kill me."
Cel: "It’s weird how that kind of becomes strange, right — like you do this kind of work and you forget… like, I — yeah, I get it, it’s why I was so reluctant to leave the village. Like, when you find that, gotta hold on, y’know?"
―Azu and Cel spend some time in the crow's nest together.

Cel: "It’s the feeling of home you end up missing, not the specific place."
Azu: "And it’s the people, you know? Sometimes I feel like if I had the right people around, I would feel at home again."
―Azu and Cel bond over feeling homesick.

"It’s strange how long you can miss people, y’know? It can be so — I try to tell myself that they still live with you, y’know, in your heart, but the thing is, that’s not the same as being able to share a joke."
Cel

"It’s one of the greatest ironies of my life, that I managed to somehow still end up with a ball and chain."
Wilde

"I’m a kook, Hamid. I’m a joke. I’m… I’m the one who’s still chasing dead leads in dead cities with — admittedly, until recently — dead compatriots."
Wilde

"Oscar, we just got a letter from a friend who died 1800 years ago. Nothing is impossible. I was a kid lost with no direction wandering through the streets of London. I bumped into a “friend” from university. I was in the right place in the right time in Prague and… with two other friends — I didn’t do much but Kafka was stopped. Look at the people that stopped Kafka. A street kid from Other London. A goblin paladin of Artemis. The least appropriate hero you’ve ever met. And me. Sometimes the unexpected happens."
Hamid

"Now, I need you to know, Hamid — you know, I care about you, and I — please don’t repeat to the others, you’re adorable when you’re trying to be profound."
Wilde

Helen: "I wanna make it clear that she is not in any way frightened or intimidated because she could [BEEP]ing snap this guy- Oh, I swore, I swore! Sorry." (Everyone laughs)
Ben: "But you’re right, she can [BEEP]ing snap this guy."
―Helen gets carried away.

"If Siggif had a coin for every time he’s been rejected, he would not be owing me money."
Friedrich

Cel: "I’ve had relationships across genders and, and species, but the one thing that I — it’s chewing tobacco. You know, like that’s the one, that’s the line. There’s a definite line around that thing that you then step back from and then throw an explosive across the line."
Azu: "Please don’t explode Siggif."
―Siggif has a crush on Azu

Hamid: "Hello, Oscar."
Alex/Wilde: "Problems?" (sighs) "I was gonna call you Bryn, why am I calling you Bryn? Where am I? Who are you? Oh, god, there's microphones everywhere."
―The fourth wall crumbles.

Dice rolls & mechanics[]

  • Helen roll to see how the evening conversations turned out: 5
  • Azu & Cel Perception check to see Siggif: 25 (Cel), 24 (Azu)
  • Perception check to notice the crew are gone: 29 (Cel), nat20 for 30 (Zolf), 16 (Hamid), 23 (Azu)
  • Zolf Perception check to find the crew: 19
  • Hamid Diplomacy check to talk to Wilde: 32
  • Hamid Perception check to hear Wilde slumping on his bed: 19
  • Azu Sense Motive on Siggif: 28
  • Azu Sense Motive on Siggif after breaking his heart: 22
  • Azu Sense Motive on Friedrich: 28

Plot Notes[]

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