I accidentally killed a guy while we walked along the road. It was my own fault. I admit that. Once I realized that I could kill the little imps that skulked around Hell Harbour by simply fiddling with the healing force that Besmara allows me, filling it with something that I imagine is like the strange waters She sails, I figured I’d clean the streets a bit on our way back to the ships. I didn’t even think about it, really. With each pulse, at least one of the gruesome little fiends would die, becoming visible and dropped around us, hitting the cobblestone with an unceremonious splat. There is a bounty for dead imps here so the street urchins gasped and scrabbled for the tiny bodies. “Do it again,” they cried as they crowded around me. I obliged and another imp, perhaps it’s curiosity overwhelming it’s common sense, became visible when it died and slid off of an eave. The street children ran and scooped it up, the largest boy shoving the smaller ones away from the prize. “Again,” they cried and held up the little monster by it’s leathery wings.
Then a fat bright red man with funny little curled horns walked out of a building. A tiefling. I think I might of noticed him. He was dressed in a powder blue doublet and a jaunty bicorn spiked with a bright blue feather. He must of just slipped out while I was focused on the children. I was a street rat like them once. I knew what it was like to go hungry because a larger bully stole my dinner. I remember wrestling with my conscious about them. Maybe if I made more dead imps, I thought, some of these children might eat real food tonight. I think I remember the man whistling when he shut and locked his door behind him. He probably saw us and thought we were giving coins to the urchins so he was ignoring us. I wonder what he was so happy about. I built the energy in my heart and let it boil with the madness of the protean realms that The Black Queen sailed, then I released it and the fat tiefling died. He just tipped over while he crossed the street, the smile still plastered on his face. Everyone went quiet when he fell.
“Oops,” I think I said.
“I’d say,” Ryrun said as he walked up to the dead tiefling and began to search the corpulent man’s pockets before the urchins had a chance.
“Didn’t think that would happen,” I said lamely to Renza. She looked at me and shrugged.
Idoki leaned over the body and pinched the dead man’s cheeks. “I know him,” she said cheerfully, “He was at the final feast. I remember him because he was so lucky. He survived everything that happened. He actually dodged my fireballs.”
I racked my brain trying to recognize him. That final feast, the one that Bekendi decided to crash, was a chaotic mess even before the undead wizard started throwing spells around. He appeared from nowhere, a naked and dried corpse with bright glowing red eyes, floating above us, moaning and thrashing. His opening spell was some sort of illusion that made a bunch of the guests think they were falling. They dropped screaming to the dirt and helplessly flailed. He followed up by throwing a fireball right at us. I remember that it was also an illusion because it washed harmlessly over me. The guests behind us weren’t so lucky and I know some died there, burned by make believe flames. I wondered where this guy was standing.
“He was right beside Bekendi when he popped in,” Idoki prattled on happily, “Got away from all of the illusions. Took cover behind a flipped over table. Just the luckiest guy at the party. That woman, the cleric with the make up, even crowned him something like ‘The Queen’s Lucky Penny’ or something like that. She gave him her hat to be his crown.”
Ryrun admired the bicorn with a critical eye. He took off his own hat and tried it on before deciding he didn’t like the feather. “Maybe I’ll give it someone on my ship,” he mused and popped it under his arm and jingled the man’s coin purse, “Shall we?”
Idoki ignored us for a second and bent over the man. She said something into his ear and, with one of her clever smiles, pressed her thumb into his forehead. Then she stood up and walked away, stepping over the body like it was so much trash. “Not so lucky now,” she said conversationally, “What are the odds?”
We walked away but I looked back at the body. The children were pulling off his boots and two were lifting up his ponderous weight to try and fish off his shirt. One stole the dagger he had hidden in his boots without her fellows noticing. I noticed and she saw me watching her. There was a dangerous glint of defiance in her smirk when she met my gaze but I was lost in my own thoughts. I stared blankly at her before turning back and calling more energy into my heart to released it again. Three imps appeared and fell from the sky, one nearly landing onto my shoulder when it dropped. Ryrun spun on his toes and neatly kicked one of the dead imps, placing it smartly into the hands of one of the following urchins. He laughed and kick the next two with the same incredible accuracy, landing them at the feet of the amazed children. They cheered and gasped with surprise.
I remembered the woman with the make up. Amiska Lewynn, the priestess from Besmara’s Throne. She was the sister of another pirate. Kassata Lewynn, Captain of The Last Huzzah. Amiska was some sort of mercenary raider who had just returned from a jaunt to the far east or north or something. She wore some sort of elaborate Tian Xia make up that night. She looked like she had painted gold flecked feathers around her eyes and her red lips were strikingly bright. She wore it against bone white face paint with dark blue highlights, giving her a deathly pallor. Her long black hair was bundled up into a bun that she kept in place with two lacquered gold tasseled sticks. She held herself strangely and spoke in this weird fake accent. Like a poor woman’s idea of elegance. I remember her and Sindara liking each other, though. “A real sweetheart,” Sindara said after meeting her.
Amiska wasn’t too impressed with me when she met us. Sindara cares about what the other clerics think of her so when she heard that we had arranged to have some representative from Queen Bes come to the party, she went all out to greet them. I got caught up in the excitement as well and, between the two of us, we planned out a chorus of worshipers to meet her. When she walked up, I remember she wasn’t wearing the make up but she did have on this pretty sky blue silk robe over her armour. I thought she was beautiful. Something about her smile was irresistible. I, however, also saw her haughty pride when we did the little ritual to welcome her to the island. She found our whole preparations funny. I remember her looking at us with these bright eyes and trying not to laugh. She drank our rum with grace and looked disappointed with me went I took off my helmet. She did not give me much reason to like her. I remember her sister was unpleasant. She sneered at the attention her sibling was receiving and only spoke to the Admiral. I remember telling Sindara that, after the two of them had moved on, I had forgotten how much I disliked other clerics sometimes. She rolled her eyes at me and told me to grow up.
It was funny how well the two of them got along. It would of been easier on me if they hated each other. Then I could fantasies about Amiska from afar while I had Sindara. But with the two of them talking to each other, I had to learn about Amiska and get to know her as a person rather than as an object of my perverted mind. I constantly had to check myself, making sure I didn’t laugh too much at her jokes or look too long at her while Sindara was around. Not that it helped. Sindara flat out asked me what I thought of her when we were alone. I told her the truth. She was pretty but I wouldn’t put my life in her hands. Sindara just held me after that and said nothing.
Later that night some fool crossed Ryrun and got himself killed. Sindara and I had to tell Amiska’s sister that her bosun was dead. It didn’t go over too well. Captain Lewynn had made friends with one of the Pirate Lords, Shaggard, a huge bear of a man, who stood over me and demanded an explanation. The Lewynn sisters were able to keep us from coming to blows but not before he and I exchanged a few choice words. Captain Lewynn demanded some sort of recompense for the dead man and I told her that her man attacked one of Ryrun’s guests. We disagreed until the Admiral walked in and soothed everyone’s wounded egos, as he is want to do. Amiska borrowed one of our skiffs so she could row the bosun into the bay and give him last rites. As a mean joke, I offered to raise the man as a zombie so he could row himself out. I was told to stay ashore while she and Sindara went to do the job themselves. Captain Shaggard told me that if I had said that about one of his men, he would of broken my arms. I laughed and told him that he reminded me of a harpy. “We ran into a cave full last week. They shrieked a lot too,” I said, “Now they’re food for phase spiders.” He only sneered at me.
Later that night Sindara, Amiska and myself got stupidly drunk and traded stories. She told us about how much she hated her sister. Apparently, Amiska had this wish from a genie that she had helped out, kind of like how the Admiral had one from Vailea. Was saving it for a real rainy day, she said. Then she got word that her sister had gotten herself killed while plundering some forgotten city in the jungle. She sailed all the way back home from Riddleport to gather her effects and, during a night of extreme drunkenness, accidentally wished her back to life. Problem was that Kassata returned to life in the open offal pit where her bones were tossed after the charku-ka finished eating her. “I didn’t mean to do it,” Amiska wept as she explained, “How was I suppose to know what would happen? I was a thousand leagues away when I made the wish. She said she woke up screaming, naked and covered with shit and filth. She had to get all the way out of there with next to nothing. Luckily, she had made friends with this guardian creature there who hid her until she could get the gear together to get out of the area. When Kassi got back to Eleder, she was pissed. The first mate that claimed her ship? Dead. The crew who split her loot after they heard of her death? All dead. She went on a killing spree. She was going to kill me too when she found out what I had done but I talked her out of it. Now I’m stuck her listening to the ungrateful little bitch. All she wants to do is go back to that fucking city and raze it to the ground. Said there was still things there worth money and she was going to be damned if she wasn’t going to get her share.”
“Take it that this isn’t your idea of fun?” Sindara asked while we lounged by a bonfire, nibbling on some left over food we scavenged from the evening meal.
“Fuck no,” she said, staring distantly into the flames, “I’ve spent my life on the sea. From here to Tian Xia and back. Stomping into a jungle to have a fist fight with a demonic ape man sounds like Hell. There is a lot of places I want to see. Deep Mwangi Expanse is not one of them.”
I asked if she was signed on as crew and she told me yes. “Sisterly obligation,” she said with a sad sigh, “You’d think I owed her by the way she’s acting.”
“So pay your way out and go,” Sindara told her, “A lot of crews would be happy to have you. Hell, you could be a captain of your own ship if you wanted.”
“I would,” she said with a pout, “But she would kill me. And I mean that. A crossbow to the back of the neck. She’s determined to go back. That’s the whole point of her even being here. To gather some allies to help her retake the place. She’s already got the Sargavan Government on board. They lost a bunch of settlements to the Gorilla King’s apes and are looking to push back. I know she’s got Shaggy on board now. I think she was hoping to get your group but I think she realized that the Admiral’s got something going on too. I mean, why else would he invite those stowaways?”
I remember those people. The traveling priest scribe of Nethys that Idoki invited and his friends. The ones who had stowed away aboard Shaggard’s ship. Well, “Stowaway” was a pretty strong word. Shaggard was ferrying a bunch of Caydenites to the party and they hopped on with them. He knew they were on board and chose to ignore them. I vaguely remembered they were nearby when Captain Lewynn’s bosun died. “Oh yeah,” Sindara said, “One of them is a Pathfinder or something. The Admiral was keen to talk to him. A lost city, he said. The same one?”
Amiska nodded sadly, “The half elf with the broad shoulders? That’s Aerys Mavato and she was Kassi’s “first mate” of the expedition. The rest of her friends were all castaways on an island together and they found the map to city in the first place. Each one ended up leading these different expeditions to the place. Looks like they decided to work together rather than against each other in the end, seeing as they’re all sitting together and stuff. Kassi saw her and went nuts. Things got pretty tense when the Gorilla King attacked. Rivals became friends to escape the city. But Aeyrs just ran, taking as much as she could carry with her. To see her here alive kind of messed Kassi up. She was talking about killing her but I think Shaggard’s keeping her cool on that score. Seeing as she’s already lost Cam to them. Kassi’s got a vengeful streak to her. I think one of the main reasons why she’s taking me to this city is show me where I made her crawl out of that pit. Wouldn’t surprise me if she’s planning to kill me and shove me in as payback.”
The next night, Bekendi attacked. I remember the fire and the blood. I tried to march up to his flank but I was sidetracked into keeping Idoki alive while the two of them traded spells. Ryrun got a good shot on the bastard. Jumped right up and cut him before he got caught by the illusion of the pit. Ryrun just lied face down in the dirt spread eagle and screamed because he believed he was plunging to his death. Renza got up to the guy also and slashed him with her whip but it was Idoki that finished him. I remember his eyes when he died. They seemed to linger for just a second longer than his body, which turned into dust and swirled upwards on the winds from the surrounding flames. I must of ordered Sindara to triage the wounded while I healed Ryrun. He took a hit from Bekendi and was infected with Mummy Rot, so I needed to cure it fast before it killed him. I remember Sindara getting the wounded together in batches and using healing energy in bursts to deal with the worst of the injuries. I think she yelled at me about how this was my fault. I didn’t argue.
After I talked with the Admiral and we figured out that we had no idea why Bekendi, who was dead when we gave his body to The Hags, had decided to come back. Back to life as a mummy, no less. The Admiral was angry, swearing to head back to Shadow Absalom to put his halfling foot up those hags collective asses. Sindara pulled me away and told me she had a few more wounded that she wasn’t sure what to do with. One was poisoned, one blinded and one under some sort of magic compulsion. Amiska overheard us and offered to deal with it. The two of them left together and I didn’t hear anything about it.
I remember ordering some of my crew to gather whatever was left of Bekendi’s ashes into a bucket. While everyone else went back to drinking and eating, Renza and I rowed back out into the bay and put him back into the chest I had placed out for Besmara. That must of been the time when that tiefling was crowned. Now that I think about it, I spent most of the night in meetings with The Admiral. I don’t even think I said goodbye to Amiska. I guess I figured I would see her again. I remember that Sindara took The Gain out early the next morning while I slept.
After we boarded Starlight Sword, I sat on the bow and made my preparations for my meditations. Before I began, I cast my message spell, sending words to Sindara to update her on what we were doing. “Harrigan’s fleet burnt the coast. We’ve shut down Quent, Rum Butter, Hell Harbour, Drenchport and ourselves. Is Amiska still at Queen Bes? Come Home Love.” My message read.
“Order received. Amiska not at Queen Bes. I know someone. Will warn them. I love the new ship. Will see you soon. Be careful Love,” came the reply.
I kicked myself for forgetting about Amiska. I realized of course she wasn’t at Queen Bes anymore. She was probably knee deep in a jungle swamp, being lead to her own grave by her bitter and vengeful sister. Poor woman, I though absently while I cleared my mind and reached out to call to my Goddess. Could use her in this upcoming fight with Harrigan. Then I promptly forgot about her again when the power of the Black Queen rushed into my soul.
Absalom is one ugly city, Amiska Lewynn thought to herself while she walked down the crowded boulevard looking for a little cafe. Too tall, she thought to herself while she marvelled at the architecture of the looming grey buildings, and the weather is awful. She checked her lovely new hat, making sure it was still securely attached to her hair. The rain was spattering down in huge drops now. Although the cold never bothered her, she hated what the wet did to her hair. It always became a frizzy unmanageable mass. But this hat was a nice replacement for the battered old one she one she had been wearing for the last month, one that she had bought at the last minute from some shop on her way out of Port Peril. This one was the latest Absalom fashion, an adorable felt and lace piece with a wide brim to keep the rain off of a lady. She bought it specifically because it could easily be rolled up into a tricorn for hot days and it had a place for a feather, when she found one she like. Although, she thought to herself, once we walk over to Shadow Absalom, there won’t be any hot days or bright colours until the mission is over. I’ll worry about that tomorrow, she thought with a smile and raised her head to let the cold rain land on her beautiful face. She savoured the feeling while, in the midst of the crowd of miserable people who were soaked to the bone by the merciless cold rain, parted around her like an unhappy sea.