Session 5: Life is Short, Pull the Lever

Day 9-17, Early Summer; July 27, 2023

Though Johnny's injuries weigh heavily upon them, the crew decides to finish exploring the observatory before returning to Zitona and the safety below. In one final room, they discover a strange and complicated machine, with many tubes, dials, and wires protruding from it. The machine has a single, large, imposing lever, marked with a label in many major languages of the world, reading "Do not, under any circumstances, pull this lever." They theorize that this lever might result in resetting the stars, or perhaps the entire world. Still, their curiosity tempts them - Oliver, in particular, wants to see what happens, as does Kip. They draw straws, and Marto gets to decide. For now, he decides to leave the lever. They can talk to Zitona and gather more information - it's always possible to come back. It may not be possible to recover if the lever does something truly catastrophic.

When they return to the cabin below, Zitona explains that the observatory belongs to the Order of the Empty Sky. They are interested in space, but haven't been to this observatory in some time. She doesn't know exactly what the lever will do, but suspects that it won't have any real impact on them. They still decide to leave it for now, and spend one more night in the cabin, allowing Johnny to recover. In the night, Oliver tries to sneak up to pull the lever on his own, but Johnny hears him and stops him, offering him a shiny rock if he doesn't pull the lever.

Zitona gives Marto a copy of The Fold, allowing him to continue his studies without her. She doesn't seem to have any interest in coming with them, especially when they decide that their next adventures will take them to the edge of the world. There, they can perhaps learn more about the plans of the Order of Empty Sky, investigate the dome of the sky, and show Kip something that certainly no scooter has ever seen before.

The journey to the edge of the world starts out smoothly. They sail past Owlin Parliament without incident, despite Ren's fears. They also find a nice atoll where Johnny picks up some shiny rocks, including one that he gives to Oliver to fulfill their earlier agreement. He also ends up giving shiny rocks to everyone else in the group, to Oliver's chagrin. As they sail on, they keep an eye on the dome of the sky, and calculate that the horizon ends about a hundred feet or so from the edge of the sky. According to legend, anyone who gets too close to the edge is liable to fall off.

As they near Gull Island, Marto suddenly spots a great, hulking beast rising up towards them from the depths. Johnny tries to maneuver the boat away, but the beast gives chase, and rises up beneath the boat, picking it up onto its back and stranding them there. The beast is truly massive, several hundred feet in length, with crests like an alligator's rising fifteen feet on either side of the boat. Ren flies up to investigate the beast, and spies that it has a massive scar on one flank, a blowhole near its head, a colony of barnacles on the other flank, and some artificial-looking machinery near its tail. After informing the others, she flies back to investigate the machinery.

Meanwhile, Marto tries to follow after Ren on foot, traversing a waterfall that cascades down the creature's crests. Oliver heads the opposite direction, through some seaweed that is clutching its back. Marto is defeated by the waterfalls when he tries to climb up to investigate the source, and is swet further downstream towards Ren. By this point, Ren has investigated the machinery, realized that it is probably agitating the creature, and attempted unsuccessfully to remove it. She runs into Marto on her way back. Oliver, however, is attacked by the seaweed, which at first appears completely natural, but then begins moving and twisting. Its poison sinks into him, and almost immediately brings him down.

The rest of the crew hurries to Oliver's aid, though Johnny is knocked out along the way, and Marto struggles to make it back through the raging rapids in time to help. Kip helps out with a fireball from one of his canisters, and Ren fulfills her traditional role of bringing it down. As Marto stumbles back along and everyone is getting their breath back and eating goodberries, a new voice greets them from above: a piratey halfling descends the ridges and introduces himself as Barnacle Barnabas.

Barnabas is a Termite Folk in the Order of the Golden Flame, though he seems perhaps a bit disconnected from the order and the rest of his people. He doesn't seem to know his own class, for example, and seems to be disdainful of their work. Still, he does try to get them to give up The Fold, having apparently heard from Per that they have it. When they refuse to give it up, he invites them back to his place in the barnacles, where he offers them some scotch.

The Order of the Golden Sun, according to Barnabas, has nothing to do with the sky. Instead, they are focused on life: the burning fire of the soul is what their name refers to. He knows that the sky is just a dome, but seems unconcerned about it. He is more concerned, perhaps, with his love life. His old lover, Callum is still on Natalia, and the two seem to be having some sort of long-term spat.

When the crew turns in for the night, they are careful to set up watch, as well as an alarm spell to warn of any intruders. Their paranoia is justified, when Ren's watch is interrupted by a small, eel-like creature slinking in under the crack of the door. Ren grabs the creature and Oliver's magic enables them to speak with it and interrogate it. Though Oliver initially names it "Slippy", it calls itself Silk and admits to working for Barnabas and coming in to look for The Fold. They stuff it in Laverne for the night (listening in, Johnny picks up the pass phrase).

In the morning, they go to confront Barnabas, tying him up in his sleep. He agrees to let them go, and they begin to take pity on him, since he was heavily intoxicated and depressed when they found him. Ren also uncovered a stack of letters sent by Callum, who is apparently extremely worried about the old pirate. Perhaps moved by pity, they ask Barnabas if he wants to come with them to the edge of the world. They agree to help him get cleaned up and then take him back to Natalia to try to win back Callum. Reluctantly, he agrees, and Barnabas, Silk, and the leviathan Bessie join the party as they continue on their way.