“Love is the ship that carries us. Faith is the captain. Hope is the world.”
My uncle said this to me, many times. Over the last day, I’ve thought about his words in different ways.
This story is about what we on the Lodestar are focused on doing; saving a little girl just a bit taller than yourselves.
It begins early one morning when everything was soft and blue; my favorite time of the day. It’s the blue that’s the color of hope.
I had plans to work on a project with the new forge on the ship – the Vagabonder’s design from my idea. Before you raise your hands, Glitt and Padda, yes, you’ll get a tour later.
But my hopes and plans were dashed when a scream ripped the air on deck. It was the kind of scream that knew it was the last and it pealed the morning of all its softness.
We all were on the deck in moments to find a hapless Dayjen on his back in a puddle of his own blood and the blue morning air behind him torn with a green glow that closed as we drew near. Dayjen’s chest was torn clean through; his body was dead but he had one more thing to say.
He said, “I’m sorry. I tried… You have until sundown.” With that, his soul fled the corpse.
We found a Harrower card in his young hand: The Crows. Later we found a small apple tree seedling potted under Talitha’s bed. You tilt your heads now, but it’ll come into play later.
We took Dayjen to the temple of Sarenrae. Fin gave a generous donation to give the young man another chance at life.
Now here’s the part I love about us, the crew. When we each get a chance to use our strengths and we choose to use them, we become a strong force, like something that was written down to be told to a crowd like you. So after Fin did this wonderful, generous deed, Miss Echo steps up and looks into this magic mirror to find out where little Talitha is.
This mirror gives even the strongest of our magicians a headache – King Cai won’t even try to look into it! Well she gave it a glance and found out exactly where our girl was and the nai-elf barely batted an eyelash!
We followed her instruction and came to an old set of ruins on the outskirts of town. Into them we went, some of us feeling more nervous than usual. We came to a room with a dusty painting, a life-like doll, and a bowl of apples. The doll spoke to us with an invitation to enter; the only price of admission was a life. We felt the need to dust the portrait and doing so gave some of us the compulsion to eat the apples. Poor Mobius succumbed to the temptation and was poisoned.
We came to a door with a card-shaped slot and a table with a Harrow Deck card laid on it. After some discussion Mr. Carbunkle used magic hand and placed the card into the slot. Unfortunately it was the trigger of a spell that attacked our dear Bramble, who disintegrated in the moment of a broken heart. No time to panic or morn, I saved her holy symbol and breastplate. A little girl must not be lost.
The next room was a real time waster. A timer was running down, and a button nearby merely reset the clock. Not knowing what would happen, we continued to press the button for some time. We had to risk to proceed, and so we let time run down and waste away. When the counter hit zero, the doors opened.
We entered a large room with hanging platforms and demons. They prowled forward and suddenly a cage caught a few of us, pulling us down into a pit of acid. While we tried to free our friends, the demons attacked. This battle was my strength, and I felled a creature with only a few swings. But it was not fast enough – another companion, Crackers, fell to their might as he tried to keep us safe.
Thankfully, the cage was broken and the demons felled. We carried the fallen and moved to the next room. A bridge crosses a sea of fire. We quickly infer that the flames carry no heat and we quickly move on.
Platforms hovered in the air. On the far side, like looking in the mirror, stood several of ourselves looking to shatter us. And we fought them, discovering their make up was of cogs, wheels, and dark magic.
I found out later that this whole time, many of us were staving off spells that fought our wills. This served its purpose to wear us down, and more so when we came to the next room. A toymaker’s domain, but more like a place of nightmares than children’s dreams.
More of the automatons were building duplicates. After we broke the toys, and their pudding pet that was hidden, we looked into a closet to find body parts and corpses. The toymaker used these to make his macabre magic. We also found in the collection some samples of ourselves.
We came to the final door. Beyond it was a great amphitheatre adorned with apple trees. Our enemies, the Blackwings stood in wait for us. We knew they were well prepared, for there were multiple versions of their leader. The druid summoned a prehistoric creature and the toymaker sent an evil mask after us.
We split into groups, focusing on the druid and toymaker. Fin himself went after a good deal of Lannis but fell into a pit. He fell forever, but jumped out with a great leap, more of a help to us than he hindrance to him. We fought them as hard as we could and when the diminutive toymaker fell, the others soon made their escape.
We found what they claimed to be our prize; a little girl that was relieved to see her companions. With a simple misnomer, we realized she wasn’t the Talitha we’re looking for. She was also a duplicate, left for us to distract us from our quest. They stole more than our girl, they stole our hope.