Join Alex, Helen, Bryn, Lydia and Ben as they enter the treacherous Northern Wastes. This week Hamid does a bit of gossiping, Cel plays a new game, Azu hears a mysterious ticking noise, and Zolf should really come take a look at this...
It’s a couple of days later. The weather’s been getting worse, with thicker cloud cover and colder temperatures. During those days, the ship’s had its first storm, during which everyone was on shift. There was no damage to the ship.
At Earhart’s request, Zolf get everyone on deck for another briefing, this time about the fact that they’re entering the Northern Wastes. Earhart is physically healthier than before — she’s gotten Zolf to occasionally remove her withdrawal symptoms. Mentally, it seems like having a project and very little negative stimulus has helped her.
Earhart starts by congratulating everyone on their handling of the storm. She talks about the risks of the Northern Wastes, such as system failures, wild magic, and “weird creatures.” They’ll be first traveling lanes that are mostly abandoned because of high death rates, and then unexplored lanes. She warns that the ship might stop flying, and suggests that they use their judgement about whether or not to hold on. She instructs everyone to report any peculiarities on the ship to Zolf immediately — such as things stopping working, becoming alive, or entering a “space that is neither here nor there.” She warns that anything approaching the ship should be treated as hostile, because there’s no one else out here. Cel looks baffled at this.
Earhart tells everyone who’s been to the Northern Wastes to raise their hands (Siggif and Friedrich raise their hands) and then to raise their hands if they came back with all their crew (they put their hands back down.) She says that there’s no way of knowing what’s coming, so they should look out for each other. She heads back into her cabin.
Azu asks Hamid what wild magic is, and he explains that it’s spontaneous random magical outbursts, often found in the Northern Wastes. There are spells that can mimic some of the properties of wild magic, but wild magic here can happen without a caster. Friedrich interrupts Hamid to point out his large arms, and Hamid says that he only studied wild magic from a theoretical perspective. Siggif says that wild magic is when “the world goes completely wrong and sometimes it sticks.”
Cel is still confused because what the others are describing sounds like the central areas of North America. Cel passed through that area several times and there were people who lived there, along with the wild magic and megafauna. They know that in the very northern reaches of the Americas, there are groups of nomadic elves that move to avoid the Aurora Borealis (which is an indicator of wild magic). They wonder if there aren’t also people living here — they don’t want to shoot anyone who’s just here. Zolf clarifies that Earhart meant they’ll shoot down anyone approaching from the air. Friedrich jumps in, addressing Zolf formally and telling him that they don’t want to go low, because he’s had bad experiences with that before. Siggif leaves and goes to his work.
In the past few days, after Hamid first visited Wilde, he makes a point of visiting Wilde every afternoon for about ten minutes, just to chat — during which time they gossip about everyone else on the ship. Wilde’s gossip theories are that Friedrich and Siggif should get together, Kiko is going to proposition more than one person, and that someone needs to take the bullet and get it on with Earhart, for the sake of the whole team. Hamid can tell that Wilde is actively putting effort into having these conversations, but isn’t trying to keep Hamid away.
Additionally, Hamid is still trying to encourage the kobolds to explore their individual preferences and Cel’s become friends with Skraak. Everyone’s noticed that when the kobolds’ shifts are done, they tend to completely disappear. Hamid, proceeding very cautiously, is trying very hard not to intrude on their privacy, knowing that he’s not well-positioned towards friendship with the kobolds, given the relationship they’ve all been forced into. Cel knows that kobolds don’t like people knowing where they sleep; sleeping somewhere one can easily be found is a social faux-pas for kobolds. Cel suspects the kobolds are each finding warm nooks and crannies on the ship; they’re able to work out where the kobolds go at night, and subsequently avoid those places.
Additionally, the kobolds have told Cel about a game called “Hide the Fang,” in which one hides a fang and everyone else finds it. The first one to find and retrieve the fang wins, with honorary points for the more audacious hiding spots. Allegiances are formed and broken. They’ve made new rules for the ship: you’re no longer allowed to hide the fang off the ship (they lost a fang that way) and eating the fang doesn’t count.
When Azu heads up to the crow’s nest for her shift, there is a small paper package that’s ticking. Azu, who’s scared of wild magic, goes and gets Zolf to report the problem. Zolf thinks they should get Cel and throw it off the side. Together, they find Cel waist deep in the engine, tips of their hair singed. Cel goes up to the crow’s nest, quickly builds an extendable pincer hand, and opens the package the it, while Zolf stands under the crow’s nest with a hand extended. Cel finds and disables a primitive trap built into the box — that would release confetti if triggered. Within the box, there’s a large alarm clock (which is quite expensive and difficult to procure) that’s in poor condition and not keeping time well; it has a picture of a daffodil on the clock face. There’s a note under it.
Cel dangles the note over the edge of the crow’s nest for Azu. Zolf, upon hearing that it’s not a bomb, goes back to his other duties. Azu comes up and reads the note: “Sorry. Here’s a clock.” She guesses it’s from Siggif.
Cel encourages Azu to get going on romantic “entanglements,” particularly with Kiko. Azu says it’s a bit complicated. She was going to be married once, but her fiancé couldn’t come with her to follow Aphrodite. They’re still friends; he’s a pot-maker and a nice person. Cel asks if it was a difficult decision to leave him behind, and Azu says yes and no — she felt a calling that she couldn’t refuse. She tried to move on, but that didn’t go well — she dated a woman who wasn’t as serious as her. Since then, Azu’s avoided romance, but now that she’s adventuring and doesn’t know how much time she’ll have left, she’s thinking she should just go for it (but not with Siggif.)
Cel says that they’ve been married a few times. They’ve lost people, some of whom they’ve grieved and some of whom are “happy lessons.” They say it’s up to Azu to decide what kind of relationships she’s open to, and they’ll stop pushing if it makes Azu uncomfortable — they just think Kiko’s cute, and Azu agrees. Azu’s says it’s not uncomfortable, just unexpected.
As Azu’s talking, Cel notices a fang behind Azu’s left ear that’s been there the whole time. Cel’s eyes keep flicking to it, trying to concentrate. Azu asks if there’s something behind her, turning around, and Cel grabs the fang. While turned around, Azu notices something on the edge of the horizon: a very unusual rock formation. They agree to go talk to Zolf about it, and Azu says she’ll talk to Kiko later.
Zolf’s currently in the kitchen, cooking dinner, where Draal has been continuously underfoot, smelling and tasting things — Zolf doesn’t know that they’re looking for the fang, but suspects they’re there for something else other than the food. Zolf keeps shouting “what do you want?” at Draal, who responds with a double thumbs-up and “nice!”
Azu and Cel come in with Hamid, who they’ve picked up along the way. Azu says there’s a weird mountain, and Zolf goes to get Earhart. Hamid considers his navigational charts, which get increasingly blank further north: he knows that there should be mountains here. Barnes, from where he’s steering the ship, asks if everything’s alright, and Azu tells him what’s going on; he’s nonplussed.
Hamid scampers up into the crow’s nest and has a look. He sees subtle shifting colours along the horizon, and notices that the rocky outcropping doesn’t look like a proper mountain: it’s spiky and composed of various parts. Zolf sees that it’s not directly ahead. Earhart pokes her head out of her cabin and Zolf taels her what’s going on. She says that they’ll increase elevation and be fine. She climbs up to the crow’s nest, where Hamid tells her that there’s something odd about it. Earhart pulls out a looking glass, then a second one, and combines them into binoculars through which she looks. She tells Barnes to increase elevation by a couple of hundred feet. She warns people that it’s going to get colder, and tells everyone to get on shift. Hamid suggests they skirt port wards, and Earhart agrees.
She climbs down and starts “captain-ing.” They increase their elevation to just below cloud cover (anything above makes it easy to get lost and lose track of elevation.) Meanwhile, Zolf rouses everyone with the alert bell. Everyone takes their positions.
Everyone starts to see the shapes and colours on the horizon — Cel recognizes a borealis. As they draw nearer, they realize it’s an enormous skeleton, and what they thought was a mountain was actually a collapsed ribcage. Cel knows the skeleton as ursine, and Azu thinks it died about a year to a year and a half ago. The elements have stripped the skeleton, leaving picked-clean, crumbling bones. Azu doesn’t tell anyone this. Hamid is muttering swear words to himself under his breath.
The kobolds are crowding the rail to get a good look, and eventually holding each other’s tails so they can look off. Cel, who’s never seen any creature this big — their biggest creature in North America was about 3 stories high, whereas this one’s about 20-25 stories — is scientifically impressed. Earhart takes it in stride, glad that this “nonsense” is at least dead. Wilde pokes his head up on deck, staying at the bow, and makes a “get a load of that” gesture at Hamid. The two exchange innuendo-filled quips about its size.
As they skirt around the skeleton, they move closer to the lights. Carrying on, they see another enormous skeleton of a significantly older creature. The “mountain range” is actually a collection of corpses as far as the eye can see. Earhart increases the elevation into the cloud cover, and they drop from view. Hamid grabs one of his maps and, in the appropriate area, writes “Ursa Major.”
- Alex: "Wilde is of the very considered opinion that he doesn't know who is gonna take the bullet for the team but it might help everyone if Earhart got some action while she was up here." (Helen and Lydia laugh)
- Bryn: "Hamid actively grimaces."
- Alex: "Any time that come up he starts talking about like, the nature of altruism and in times of great hardship sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, and then he looks to Hamid, or the one."
- ―Wilde tries to get Earhart laid.
- "There are very few things scarier than the passage of time."
Dice rolls & mechanics
- Cel Knowledge (nature) about North America: 14
- Hamid Sense Motive about Wilde: 21
- Azu Perception on the paper package: 18
- Cel Disable Device on box: 34
- Cel Perception on the fang: 20
- Cel Slight of Hand on the fang: 21
- Azu Perception on the horizon: 23
- Zolf Sense Motive on Draal: 22
- Hamid Perception on the horizon: 30
- Cel Knowledge (nature) on the skeleton: 31
- Azu & Zolf Heal check on the skeleton: 18 (Zolf), 32 (Azu)