The Daiklave Brigade

Part II: The Black Islands

The Daiklave sails on stranger tides, and our heroes befriend Jewel the lookout.

Some distance from Starfall, the lookout – named Jewel – spots a weather-torn ship coming closer. The Daiklave sails up to her, to discover it is crewed by only women. The Storm Mothers, who hate women at sea, have been harassing them with strange storms, and in addition to this they have been assaulted by pelagothropes.

Once rescued, the women explain that they were trying to sail for Wavecrest for help. A fearsome pirate named Hastoro has stolen away all the men from Skolis Island, their home. They have been so thorough as to kill any boy-children, to make sure that the women could not call for help without facing the wrath of the Storm Mothers. The Daiklave makes port at Skolis Island and shares its provisions with the natives, who are starving. The dead lay in mutitudes on the island, and so Beya takes it on herself to immolate every body with her anima to ensure their souls passing into Lethe. The flagrant display of essence draws the worship and gratitude of the islanders, despite Beya’s insistence that their prayers should be directed towards the Unconquered Sun. They learn that Hastoro keeps his ships and men in a nearby shadowland consisting of three islands. Since the Daiklave cannot sail stealthily in the black waters of shadowlands, it is decided to let Beya, Lin Kuei, Pearl and Jewel use a smaller vessel to sneak into the pirates’ camp and see if they can rescue the captive men.

They approach the shadowlands late in the evening, and know that they cannot escape until morning. Mooring their boat at a small island, they look over their map and see that the shadowlands consist mainly of three large islands: The Isle of Twisted Stone, the Isle of the Black Manse, and the Isle of Horrors, where a terrible monster is said to dwell. The greatest ship in the captain’s fleet is moored right outside the Isle of the Black Manse, and as Jewel spies a man tied to its mast, they make their way there to rescue him. Freeing the man, they learn that his name is Coran and that he is not of Skolis Island – those men are tied to the strange rocks on the Isle of Twisted Stone, which drain the will from a man and render him a mindless slave. Coran had proven quite headstrong, however, and had been tied to the mast as punishment.

The remaining two ships in the pirate captains’ fleet are moored at Twisted Stone. To draw these away from the captive men, Beya and Lin Kuei hatch a plan where they are to set fire to the black ghost ship and release the ghost who has been bound to keeping it afloat. They leave Coran with Jewel and bring Prismatic Pearl in a sneak assault at the ghost ship. Unfortunately, a misstep leads to their discovery, but some choice inspirational word from the zenith Beya incite a small mutiny among the living sailors on the ship, who help destroy its ghostly crew and incapacitate the ones still living but broken. During the melee, Pearl use her great strength to open the hatch to the hold, and the two solars quickly descent and sneak to the bilge. They find the tortured soul bound under the ballast rocks, but before they can release it they are interrupted by a ghost holding 10 hungry ghosts on leash. Beya, acting quickly, unleashes both barrels of the pair of newly acquired flamepiece she loaned from the Daiklaive’s armory. The attack proves devastating in the cramped compartment, and she annihilates all but three of the undead, who swiftly flee from the conflagration. The master ghost retaliates with a heavy blow while Beya is still open, but quickly falls afterwards between the two solars onslaught. Beya uses her anima to release the fettered ghost, setting the ship it was bound to aflame in the process. Then, they prepare for assaulting the other two ships as they sail closer to investigate, rallying the men and providing tactical insight. Pearl’s sorcery buys them time to prepare by setting one of the ships aflame, forcing the other to stop and aid. Beya initates an archery duel with Hastoro’s legendary slavemaster and first mate as the ship approaches, both taking hits and delivering arrows infused with her holy anima. Lin Kuei takes a small rowboat and locks the approaching ship’s rudder, forcing it to be moored on the island and allowing the boarding party to attack freely. Lin Kuei proceeds to wreak havok on board, breaking people and ship alike, ending up duelling with the first mate with Beya on ranged assist. They successfully destroy the powerful ghost and capture the ship – but the ghost captain himself is yet to be seen.

Rescuing the men from the Isle of Twisted Stone, they bring all the freed captives together on the last remaining intact ship. The two Solar heroes are now both hurt, tired and short on Essence, but decide to attempt to find the captain and end him before he gets away. They sail across to the Isle of the Black Manse to attempt to ambush him, and Beya manages to sink his rowing boat after which they engage in melee and destroy two of his ghostly lieutenants – but Jewel is badly injured in the fight. The captain gets away, and without Jewel’s sharp eyes, they have little chance of spying him. Sacks of small-grained sousteel ore are found to have been carried by the slain ghosts, leaving them both dismayed and wondering where the ore was mined from.

They turn their attention instead to the Black Manse on the island. It’s an imposing structure, a wide castle with walls of black glass, with a forest of bone-like trees intwined with poisonous, thorned vines as red as blood surrounding it in a starburst pattern. Beya’s investigations yields almost instinctive insight into the manse’s properties, leaving her somewhat disconcerted. Leaving Pearl to look after Jewel, Lin Kuei and Beya sneak into the Black Manse and find a babbling, broken elemental that tries to strike fear into their hearts before being annihilated by holy charms. Splitting up to find the hearthroom more quickly, the solars quickly find trouble again. Lin Kuei finds a hall dedicated to bloody sacrifice to the Silver Prince and two cultist kneeling in prayer. Beya finds the hearthroom, which doubles as Hastoro’s bedroom. There she gets attacked by Hastoro’s lover, an insane woman whose bones and flesh have been grafted with screaming soulsteel. Disgusted at the sight of foul, ritualistic supplication and spurred by wrathful memories of a previous life, Lin Kuei kills the cultists and manages to damage the manse so badly that it begins to self-destruct due to essence buildup. The walls crack and blood supercharged with necrotic essence starts to fill the rooms, as sharp, bony tree limbs and thorny, flailing vines grow rapidly everywhere. Beya’s combat ends as the floor falls away under her, plunging her and her opponent into burning blood. The madwoman dies, but Beya succeeds in crawling up from the ooze with griveous wounds, leaving her trapped between rapidly rising essence-fluid below and the flailing hazard of the vines and trees above. Causing a cave-in she manages to create an opening to jump up through, successfully escaping with Lin Kuei through the main doors.

As morning is close, and they are both quite injured, the pair return to the freed captives and wait for dawn, beset by metallic shrieks from the monster on the Isle of Horrors. As soon as they can safely leave, they sail for Skolis Island and return the captive men to their families. Then, while their wounds are patched up by doctor Daojian, the Daiklave sails for the Isle of Horrors, with the goal to destroy both Captain Hastoro and the terrible beast that dwells there.

A grand battle ensues. The monster on the Isle of Horrors turns out to be a hekatonkhire, an ancient beast cast off from a dead Primordial consisting of hundreds of writhing hands connected to an enormous soulsteel spike, and it nearly destroys the Daiklave in the battle. Only with the combined effort of Beya and Hurricane is the beast finally destroyed, with a gambit on a mid-air point-blank shot from Beya driving the monster’s spike into its own writhing body, informing them of the beasts’ weakness to its own soulsteel bite, and an exotic sidereal charm of Hurricane’s that haves the beast strike itself with the same attack it uses to impale him. Meanwhile, Lin Kuei has cornered Captain Hastoro on the island itself, and while the man is nearly invulnerable thanks to some vile necromancy, he finally manages to slay Hastoro by shattering his ribcage and releasing some dark spirit that dwelt within it, in place of the man’s heart.

They hastily leave the shadowlands, with broken masts and their captain in intensive care – noticing, to their great relief and joy, that with both the monster and the manse destroyed, the darkness is slowly receding.


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