Session 9: Marimba Marty

Day 22; Kip's 22nd Birthday; Early Summer; November 9, 2023

The crew is attacked by four hovering constructs from the Royal Court of Natalia, who are pursuing them due to their escape from time prison. All four constructs have the basic shape of a floating cloak or hooded robe, with no visible contents whatsoever, though each has its own unique features as well. The first is covered in shining plates of armor, the second is as black as night, the third is covered in stars, and the fourth has a pair of large wings sprouting from its back. The crew quickly comes to the conclusion that these constructs are designed to counter each of them: the armored construct counters Johnny, the dark one counters Marto, the starry one counters Oliver, and the winged one counters Ren. With the help of their orcish friends, however, they stand a chance. Johnny does very well against the dark robe, though Oliver finds that it absorbs magic quite effectively. Ren is brought down momentarily by her counterpart, but Matatia in crocodile form is able to bring it down when it approaches Bessie's surface. The main obstacle seems to be the insurmountable defenses of the armored robe, but it finally falls thanks to a few area effect spells and a final blow from Matatia.

Johnny collects the pieces of the robes to make himself a patchwork outfit, while the orcs explain how they came to rescue the crew from their prison. They were fired from their previous posts, and already on their way to catch up, when they received a strange letter containing a piece of sheet music. When Lily played the tune on her ukulele, they were transported to the ziggurat, and able to get everyone out and return to Bessie. They had no prior contact with Callum. They were hoping to make contact with the crew anyway, to ask for their help. The matter bomb being constructed by the Order of Empty Sky is no trivial matter. They intend to reduce the amount of matter existing in the world, so they can more easily expand space. The orcs don't know what the Order needs to accomplish this task, or what matter they plan on eliminating, but it's unlikely to be good. They suggest heading to the Empty Sky headquarters in Bellbluff. The crew finds this a reasonable course of action, though they plan to stop in Grownde to drop off Kip, so that he can return to his people, and then in Triangle Peaks so they can speak to Zitona.

On the way back along the island chain, the crew spends some time with their new companions. Matatia and Oliver seem to have some interest in one another, having their druidic abilities in common. They spend at least one night together, and possibly more to come. Marto speaks to Lily, hoping to learn to play a musical instrument. Though Marto first asks about learning the ukulele, Lily suggests he find something better suited to his own sensibilities. They settle on the marimba, due to some similarity to the hollow sounds of books in the library that Marto is partial to. They have a few lessons, though Marto also spends some of his time learning linear algebra from his primer.

As they approach their first destination, they spot a blockade flying the flag of the Order of the Golden Flame. Barnabas refuses to bring Bessie much closer, since he and the Golden Flame are not on particularly good terms, and they have weapons which can easily take out Bessie. Instead, the crew (together with Kip and the orcs, but not Barnabas) head over to parley with the ship, hoping to find allies against the Empty Sky. Or just to find Per and punch him. Barnabas also asks them to tell Callum he hasn't had a drink in almost a week if they see him, but he isn't sure exactly where Callum is located.

The Golden Flame ship allows the crew to board, and the captain introduces himself as Jorge Calvo, second class. He seems to be a nice guy, and listens to their story, but notes that the Golden Flame is equipped with powerful weapons that outclass even the constructs of the Royal Court. He is under orders of Per Anco to detain the crew after they failed to complete their job. No hard feelings, right? He blows the whistle around his neck, which summons down the sails from the rigging to attack. The creatures that descend are large manta rays with cobra heads and nasty-looking stingers at the ends of their tails. Their flight makes them somewhat difficult to handle, but Oliver is able to blast one of them straight through with a bolt of holy fire. Johnny, meanwhile, unable to engage the flying manta rays, goes after Jorge and his crew, who prove to be surprisingly easy to deal with. Each of them goes down in a single punch, though Jorge runs down belowdecks and is chased through the dining room before he, too, falls to Johnny's fists and claws, shortly followed by the second manta ray. The remaining crew is terrified and scatters or offers up what little they have to the crew, which begins exploring the ship.

Jorge's office, which he ran through to escape belowdecks, is a horrific sight, filled with organs and incomplete surgeries on unidentifiable specimens. There is, however, a chest containing 3000 pearls, a potion of growth and a potion of water breathing. They collect a few pearls from the ship's crew, but give them back after finding Jorge's main haul. As they continue to explore the hold, they find a room covered in soft, springy moss as well as the usual wooden crates and bins. Pushing aside a crate, Ren discovers a small brain with four clawed legs which psionically introduces itself as First. It claims to have been created by Jorge, but is the first of its kind, and is not aware of any more. Marto attunes to its psychic link, and learns that the creature can magically consume another creature's brain - despite its friendly demeanor, it is actually extremely dangerous and extremely hungry. As the explorers realize this, the creature attacks, psychically lunging at Oliver, whose mind suddenly goes blank...