Requiem of Souls Chapter 3

Souls Abroad

By Artificer Urza

A lone figure atop a black stallion charged across the tundra of the Capitan region. The Wanderer had just passed the city of Capitan, but his destination was not the recently built city of Newport at the northern tip of the Capitan region. Newport was a port city with just one major attraction: it provided easy access to the Outer Sea. After the defeat of DeathEvan, there were tremors that destroyed a section of the coral reef that had previously prevented anyone from exploring the Outer Sea beyond Giant Monster Island. According to local legend, the coral reef had been enchanted, either by the goddess Tyr or the sorceress Bleu; no one is really sure which. The enchantment was made so that any ship, ocean creature or bird, once they approached the reef, would be teleported to the opposite end of the reef barrier still heading in the same direction as when they had approached the reef. With the barrier gone, so was the enchantment. This prompted shipwrights, explorers and various dukes, barons and heads-of-state to construct shipyard cities, from which explorer ships could depart to see the new frontier of the Outer Sea.

The city of Newport had been constructed to the north of Capitan, where there was nothing except scorched earth. The shipyard and docks had been made at the base of the cliffs along with a floating market managed by members of the merchant Gobi clan.

Whilst the city and floating market were crowded with people it was not the kind of place a person could remain inconspicuous, which is what the Wanderer needed. It was not the time for him to be discovered by his enemies.

The Wanderer dismounted his black stallion on the eastern cliffs, to the north of Capitan. After inspecting the drop from the cliff, he turned to his horse, placed his hands over it and began to speak in an ancient tongue. A light spread over the horse, but it made neither sound nor movement. After the light dissipated, where the horse had been, there was a small obsidian statuette, crudely carved in the shape of a horse. The Wanderer picked up the statuette and turned toward the cliff. He closed his eyes for a brief moment, but when he opened them they were the eyes of a serpent. With little hesitation, he jumped of the cliff. As he descended, his fall slowed as gossamer dragon's wings appeared from his back. After a soft landing, he turned to the water and reached a hand in his pouch. His pouch, another mystical object. It could hold an infinite amount of items as long as one could fit said items into the mouth of the pouch. All one had to do was call the name of the item one wanted and, as long as one had put it there previously, one could pull the desired item out.

"Boat!" The Wanderer intoned.

From the pouch the Wanderer pulled a wooden carved boat covered in runes. He placed it in the water and began to chant in an ancient language. As a blue light engulfed the model ship, it began to expand and grow becoming a magnificent dual-masted boat large enough for several people. There is a picture of a gold dragon on the sails.

"Thanks Bleu." The Wanderer chuckled softly.

With small effort the Wanderer shoved off, the boat moving faster than naturally possible with the lack of wind. And as the boat crests the horizon the Wanderer speaks a small prayer to Likimia, goddess of the sea and of the Gobi clan:

Your sea is Large
And My Boat is Small
Protect my life and Mission.

***********

Katt and Ryu had just arrived in Newport; it had not taken them very long. Inside the city they began to search for the tavern that Bow had told them he would wait for them at. Ryu marveled at the sights of the city and Katt chided him for looking like a tourist.

"I'm just looking at the architecture of the buildings!" he exclaimed "Don't they look familiar to you?"

The buildings did look familiar and were known trademark designs of the two carpenters in Capitan: one was a traditional brick and mortar type house while the other, which was a little less frequently seen was a wooden house usually used by forest clansmen.

"Of course I know them! That's why I don't stare at 'em." She replied. "Now what was the name of the place Bow was supposed to meet us anyway?"

"It was some tavern called Siren's Call and we should hurry: he might not be there anymore 'cause he most certainly has gotten himself into trouble by now." Ryu said a little worriedly.

They rounded the next street, and saw Bow sitting on the porch of the tavern looking a little glum although his mood changed dramatically when he saw Katt and Ryu approaching. He was wearing the same ranger outfit that he had worn since he had known Ryu: light gray tunic, green trousers hardened leather boots and crossbow strapped to his back. The only major change in his appearance was the bandages that covered his left eye.

"What the hell happened to you?" Was Ryu's greeting to his lifetime friend.

"Heh heh heh. A small…um…accident a short while ago. It's… um no big deal." Bow said sheepishly.

"Oh yeah? Whadja do? Put your hand on some poor waitress?" Katt snickered.

"Actually, he didn't duck when I told him to!" A new voice said.

The three turned to the newcomer. It was Rand. He had been in the shadows leaning up against the wall of the tavern with his arms crossed. Ryu was a little surprised that he hadn't noticed him until now.

Rand chuckled as he continued. "He got drunk, got into a barroom brawl and didn't duck when I told him to."

"Now wait a minute, that's not exactly what happened." Bow said.

"Riiiight! As if you would know what happened. You were drunk!" Rand laughed.

Ryu shook his head in exasperation and looked at his wife to ask what to do. Katt nodded at the two, an indication he should stop the fight before it really got messy.

"Hey guys! Have any of the others come by recently?" Ryu asked them.

The two stopped in their near-fight and thought about it. They looked at each other deciding who would tell them. Rand took the opportunity.

"Bleu is down at the docks, but I haven't seen anyone else." Rand stated.

"I think saw Nina talking to a shipwright yesterday, but I'm not sure." Bow shrugged.

"Neither of you have seen Jean or Sten?" Katt asked.

Neither of them had a chance to reply as a new voice rang out from a restaurant a short walk away.

"Step right up ladies and gentlemen, preferably ladies, and try your luck. Pay one zenny and kiss this all-you-can-eat frogs legs buffet to see if he will change into a handsome prince! Those who are runners up get a date with me instead: Sten the Magnificent!"

Sure enough there was Sten, standing on top of a giant sleeping frog. He had drawn quite a crowd. There were quite a number of young women, some of which seemed to be daring each other to either kiss the frog or date the highlander.

"He never learns, does he? I shoulda hit him harder the first time." Katt growled.

"I think I'll go stop him before this gets any worse." Bow exclaimed.

"Hey Sten! What did you do to Jean to get him to agree to this?"

"Wha… Oh hi Bow! Um… I didn't do anything to him. I found him asleep like this when I got here, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to get some travel money." Sten said a little embarrassed as he held the small bag of coins he had collected.

Ryu took the bag and began redistributing the wealth back to its previous owners, while Rand and Bow handled crowd control, dispersing the people. The crowd had nearly completely dissipated when Spigot, the restaurant owner came to talk to them.

"Ya can do sometin' about 'im, ya?" he pointed to the oversized frog.

"No problem!" Katt exclaimed. "What did you feed him anyway?" She said as she sniffed at the frog trying to get a discernable scent of the food he had eaten.

"Notin' but our best Island Shi-su, ya?" He said in an offended manner.

"Oh… In that case I know what not to order." Katt Replied. "Hey Rand, can you wake sleeping beauty up?"

"One wake up call, coming up!" Rand stated in as he cracked his knuckles.

Rand's special technique: Wake; one punch, causing minimal damage but waking the target up. Rand's punch landed right between Jean's eyes, which immediately flew open. The giant frog then seemed to melt into the 'regal' figure of Jean, wearing his usual blue hauberk and rapier.

"Oh la la, mes amis. It eez good to zee you again." He said sleepily.

"Nice place to fall asleep Jean." Rand smirked.

"Eet iz not my fault, I think I am alergique to zee horseradish in ze Shi-su." He exclaimed.

"Alright, we should head to the docks now, maybe Nina is waiting for us somewhere." Ryu said as he waved the group towards the docks.

"Ah oui, Madame Nina. She said that she needed to speak with one of zee shipmasters that work for zee Windian kingdom so she would be at ze docks."

The group of friends traveled to the literal edge of the city, the shipyards, and markets and less reputable places of business having been built at the base of the Capitan region cliffs. The base of the cliffs were connected to the rest of the city via elevators designed, built and operated by the Highlanders, an imminently preferable agreement as opposed to hiring them as soldiers. The companions marveled at the construction and maintenance of the elevators and the view was spectacular: the horizon seemed to stretch on forever.

"They must have incredible sunsets out here!" Katt sighed as she rested her head on Ryu's shoulder.

"We never did get to see any good ones while we were out here last time huh? Maybe we can stay long enough to see one this time." He replied draping his arm on her shoulder.

As they got out of the elevator an old friend greeted them: Kilgore. The man who had once asked Bow to steal from Trout walked up to the companions with a broad smile.

"Bow! How have you been? It is good to see you again!" Kilgore exclaimed as he shook Bow's hand.

"Kilgore! I'm sorry if you're here to ask me for another favor, I'm not in that business anymore!" They both laughed at the small joke. "So Kilgore, what brings you here?"

"Well actually, I was commissioned by the Windian government to provide the new prototype battleship, the Nina for a special expedition to the Outer Sea." He smiled self-importantly.

"Wait a minute! YOU'RE the shipmaster Nina's gonna get the ship from?" Sten stated, shocked, from his position sitting on Rand's shoulder.

"Gee, monkey-brain, nothing gets by you, does it?" Rand laughed as he shook Sten off. "Let's review the evidence, shall we? First, the Windian government commissioned him and Nina IS the government out here. Second, the ship is called the Nina, which may have been a coincidence if not for the first point. Last the ship is going to the Outer Sea, our destination. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that he's the ship's master!"

"Oh monsieur Rand, monsieur Sten, there eez no need to be angry with each other, especially on the beginning of another aventure!"

"Oh, Ladon! You should show us to the ship." Ryu said as he began to laugh at the antics of his friends.

As they approached the docks Nina and their ship's captain met them. The man, who was introduced as Amos Trask, greeted them warmly and told them what he expected of them on this voyage.

"Ye'll not be lazin' about during this trip! I expect ya ta pull yer weight on my ship, or ye'll find yerselves swimmin' home, got it? And if ye dare cause any sort 'o trouble on my ship, I'll pop yer tiny little heads off yer twiggy little necks and mount them on me trophy wall. Bwahahahahahahahahahahaha!" he laughed long and loud at the last.

"He's not serious, right?" Bow whispered to Nina nervously.

They all nodded affirmative to the captain and prepared to continue on their way when Bow stopped them.

"Where's Bleu? Nina, you must have seen her around here, right?" He said as he scanned the docks.

"Yeah that's right! Have you seen her Nina?" Ryu asked.

To his surprise she blushed bright red as she pointed behind him. He turned to see Bleu, sitting on a barrel, her indigo hair flowing in the wind. He could see why Nina had blushed: she had been embarrassed for Bleu, who was wearing a simple and revealing two-piece bikini, her serpent's tail replaced by a pair of very attractive human legs. Ryu felt his throat catch and his mind go blank. At least, until he felt someone tugging on his ear. He turned to see Katt, his wife, glaring at him.

Ooh, I'm in for it now. He thought.

He turned to Bow hoping for some kind of support, but found his friend had his mouth open with his tongue dangling out, staring at Bleu.

My sentiments exactly! Ryu thought as he shook his head at his friend.

He turned again to his wife to find she wasn't glaring at him anymore; no, she was glaring at Bow. Worse still, her tail was all fluffed out, making it look twice as large as usual. Ryu had seen her mad like that only once and he backed away because he knew what was next. She calmly took out her staff, never loosing her glare, and swung; smashing the poor unsuspecting Bow on the head.

"Jerk!" She growled, "You'd think he'd never seen a woman before!"

"Um…Bleu?" Nina asked timidly. "Maybe you should change into something else before something happens?"

"Kid, the idea of wearing something like this IS for 'something' to happen." Bleu said.

She winked at a sailor on another pier who, consequently, wasn't paying attention to where he was going and fell in the water.

"Oh, alright, I'll change." Bleu said in an exasperated tone.

She snapped her fingers and was immediately attired in her typical outfit, except her legs, which were still human, which she had adorned with common leather trousers. However, they didn't leave much to the imagination. The newly reunited group then proceeded to the pier at which they were to depart, reminiscing along the way. Sten was apologizing profusely for not having attended Ryu and Katt's wedding, but swearing he would visit to see their child Ray. They arrived at the pier and marveled at the sight they beheld: the prototype Man 'O War Windian ship, not truly a ship but a sea-faring fortress. Gun ports lined the sides of the hull, and heavy bronze and iron cannons poked their formidable noses at any would-be opponent. The cannons were the heaviest then made and could fling a fifty pound iron ball nearly a kilometer. It was heavily decorated, displaying the Windian royal colors and family crest.

"This isn't a ship, it's a floating fortress!" Sten exclaimed. "Why do we need so much firepower, Nina?"

"Well, there have been rumors of pirates in the area, mostly just Evrai fanatics. The main reason is that we need a heavy deep-water ship and this one stands the best chance of making it across the ocean. The captain may seem a bit gruff but he's the best there is: if anyone can get us across it's him." Nina replied.

Ryu jumped onto the gangplank, crossed his arms and smiled the roguish smile that made people trust him so much.

"All right people, after this there isn't any turning back. If you want to go back home now, I wouldn't blame you, I would understand." He said.

"One last adventure, buddy!" Bow shouted enthusiastically.

"Never regretted going with you the first time. Ain't gonna start now!" Rand said raising his fists to the heavens.

"Where you go, I go." Katt smiled, displaying her wedding ring.

"I will be able to compose new songs for new places!" Jean mused.

"Wouldn't want it any other way!" Sten said.

"New sights to see, new magics to learn." Nina laughed.

"Okay since that's settled, can we go now?" Bleu asked impatiently.

"Alright, all aboard who's going aboard!" Ryu said as he led the group on board towards new horizons and uncharted waters.

***********

Garr woke on the edge of a small outcropping connected to the face of a cliff. He got up and checked himself for wounds. He found the broken haft of his *naginata and that his scimitar and dirk were still in their sheaths. To his relief, he found the protective amulet, a mystical amulet that protects all the Urkan people who wear it from disease and illness, was intact around his neck.

Ouch! That is the last time I try to ride a sandworm bareback! He thought rubbing his sore backside.

Hope that Gaist and the sand-flyer got through ok.

Garr examined his current situation. Getting back to the sand-flyer would be extremely difficult: the climb back up would be on a vertical cliff: impossible without the right equipment. It was the same for the way down. All he could do was sit, wait and pray to the Goddess that Gaist could find him. He was contemplating making a signal fire when he heard someone singing.

     "The minstrel boy, to war hath gone!
     In the ranks of death ye'll find him.
     His father's sword he has girded on!
     And the harp he drags behind him."

Garr snickered to himself; there was only one person he knew who would sing that song while everyone else sang the praises of the Goddess.

"Gaist! Are you trying to bring back that sandworm with a mating call?" He shouted.

"Oh, ha ha! His Seriousness is trying to make light of the situation hmmm? Perhaps I should leave you to your own devices?" Came the reply.

Garr waited for something else to be said or done. He was not disappointed when he saw the butt of Gaist's Beast Spear descend towards him.

"Grab on to this! I'll pull you up!" Gaist shouted.

It was not without effort that Gaist lifted Garr. When they were both catching their respective breaths Garr took the opportunity to see what Gaist had with him. All he could see were some small supplies and a beacon. He knew that the sand-flyer had not survived the run in with the giant sandworm.

"So, I guess were on foot for now?" Garr asked tiredly

"Yeah. The beacon is on so they should find us soon, but I don't think we're going to be allowed to stop our patrol. We'll probably head back with the next convoy." Gaist replied.

"That means we'll never make it back in time for Gatz's ceremony!" Garr cried out.

"Why does it matter? We'll get to see Gaw's and you'll get to see mine… Say you're not worried about that special weapon thing are you?" Gaist said as he turned to his friend.

"What are you talking about?" Garr asked nervously.

"Well, I have my Beast Spear, Gaw has his double-handed six-foot long Ogre Blade and even Gatz has those Dual Axes of his. You, on the other hand, haven't got anything." Gaist pointed out.

"Those weapons are family heirlooms. My father died fighting during patrol, and my mother died when she gave birth to me. I don't have a family to be given such things." Garr said as he turned away.

"Look, Garr, you have always been like a little brother to me, so I'll find you a spear that will be yours and yours alone, ok? Now we got a long ways to go and it's better to travel at night when it's cooler, so, let's get a move on!" Gaist said as the two friends began to walk southward.


Author's Notes
* A naginata is a Japanese spear that has a long blade at the end, like a sword, instead of a simple point.


Chapter 4

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