Ted flew the group back through the sky. About halfway there, Quinn looked up from the journal for the first time.

“Do you smell smoke?” he asked curiously.

“I smell it too,” Rysarian said, looking around.

“It’s not the boat, is it?” Phoenix asked, standing up and walking around.

“The boat’s running just fine,” Ted spoke up.

“So it’s not the boat,” Phoenix said.

“We’ll keep our eye out,” Rysarian said. The first sign was smoke in the distance that slowly got thicker as they approached the island. Soon, they could make out large shapes around the island. Three large pirate airships were on the side of it. One, the closer one to the group, was firing its canyons on the island, destroying everything there. The further one, on the opposite side of the village, was waiting further away from the land. The last was the largest ship of the three and it was firing on the island as well. It was more difficult to see past the black burning buildings and columns of smoke.

“Stop the boat here, Ted,” Phoenix says before they flew too close. She looked over the village, but not seeing any people on the island. There weren’t any ships from the caravan that she had come with, so she hoped that they had been able to evacuate everyone. “What do you think we should do?”

“We could turn around and fly away right now,” Rysarian spoke up.

“But I don’t know if the people are safe. I promised to report back to the mayor. And Ted is part of the caravan that was here. We should figure out what happened.”

“And how would we do that?” Rysarian asked. Phoenix pointed to the three pirate ships.

“We ask one of them,” Phoenix said. “With force.”

“That island is on fire,” Quinn spoke up, looking up from the journal again. Phoenix and Rysarian looked at him for a second, then went back to their conversation.

“So which boat should we go to? I think the one that’s not firing, since that’s probably the one in charge and that’s would be where the villagers would be if they were taken.”

“I think this closer one,” Rysarian disagreed. “The pirates would be distracted because they’re firing. We could sneak up on them.”

“We can sneak up on the other one,” Phoenix said. “Ted can fly us under the island and up by the boat, you can help hide us. You’re the sneaky one.”

“I can’t hide a boat!” Rysarian retorted angrily.

“Quinn, what do you think we should do?” Phoenix asked, turning to the human. He looked up and surveyed the whole situation again.

“I think that far one. Even if they spot us approaching, it would take them time to aim a cannon at us,” Quinn said.

“Sounds good to me,” Phoenix said. “Ted, can you get us over there? You, help him out,” she added to Rysarian. He grumbled, but went to help the pilot. They flew the small boat under the island and came up on the side of the far ship, keeping the boat low and glancing up over the railings. Phoenix notices a group of the villagers on the other ship, women holding children close to them and crying. The men standing protectively on the outer edges of the group as the pirates fire on their homes.

On the deck of the ship they had approached, there were about ten pirates, all looking the other direction. They were gathered to the far side of the boat, watching as an old man stood on a plank and talking to one of the pirates.

“Looks like the mayor,” Phoenix spoke, barely above a whisper as their boat dropped back down to be hidden.

“It looked like one of the pirates was talking to him, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying,” Rysarian said. “She seemed upset.”

“Ted, could you get us closer? Keep us under the boat so they can’t see us,” Phoenix directed. Ted nods, understanding the serious situation well. He takes them under, keeping in rhythm to the rise and fall of the airship.

“-have to tell us. You would be the one to know. We need the cypher. You don’t want us to stay here. Just give it to us and we’ll leave and you can go back to your little hovel,” a woman’s voice was saying angrily.

“I don’t have it. I don’t know what you’re talking about!” That was the mayor. “Take whatever you need from the village. We don’t have much. Please, just don’t hurt my people.”

“You have to know. This is the start of the path. It’s here!” the speaker got more frustrated.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about! I don’t know anything about a path!”

“We were told the runes were around here and you’re the only people living in the sky! you have to know about it!”  

Phoenix motioned for Ted to take the boat back to the other side.

“Runes? You think she’s meaning in the keep?” Rysarian asked.

“Doesn’t matter. We have to save the mayor,” Phoenix replied.

“Why do we have to do that?” Rysarian asked.

“Because I promised I would help them!” Phoenix snapped back. Quinn was ignoring them, still looking through the journal. They weren’t sure if he had even paid attention to the conversation they had overheard.

“So what do you think we should do?” Rysarian asked.

“Well, they’re all facing the other way, so we could board on this side and surprise them,” Phoenix said.

“That would be a good idea. I could go first, maybe take one out before the others even notice,” Rysarian said, finally giving in to the idea.

“Ted, take us up a little,” Phoenix said. Ted nodded and raised the boat enough for them to catch onto the railing to easily climb up onto the deck. Rysarian jumps up to it. “Ted, when we’re all up, take the boat over to the other side to catch the mayor, just in case.” Ted nodded.

Rysarian climbed up onto the deck in silence, looking around at the pirates. Besides the female pirate interrogating the Mayor and a dragonborn standing beside her, Rysarian counted seven others. There were two deck hands with their back to him just a couple steps in front of him. Four more stood closer to the middle of the ship, one with a sword. Another was standing with his arms folded beside a cannon, and a female pirate leaning against the mast, seeming to be falling asleep out of boredom, but also had a sword. Rysarian approaches the one in front of him, covering the pirates mouth and bringing his knife up. Somehow, he cut the pirate’s ear as he brought the blade up and the pirate jumped away, spinning and yelling out in surprise. The other pirates turned to stare at the strange, blue haired elf that suddenly appeared on the deck. The female pirate with the large captain’s hat interrogating the mayor doesn’t pay much attention. The dragonborn beside her glanced back, rolled his eyes, then stepped closer to the mayor, expecting the crew to be able to get rid of the little nuisance. The lady pirate next to the mast stood up straighter, looking intrigued at the new development.

Quinn pulled himself up over the edge of the boat, taking advantage of the confusion the pirates were experiencing and pulling out a dagger from his robe. He stared at it for a moment, as if forgetting what he was doing, but twists the handle and it begins to whir. After a moment, it extends into a staff. Quinn points it at one of the pirates, holding his hand out towards Rysarian. The hair on everyone’s arms raise as the air fills with static. A bolt of electricity shoots out of Quinn’s and jolts Rysarian, filling him with energy. At the same time, a wave of thunder explodes out of the staff and slams into the pirate in front of Quinn.

By this time, Phoenix was on board and, after looking around, lets out a large breath of ice, freezing several of the pirates that weren’t paying attention. It doesn’t last long and the two pirates close to Rysarian close range. One was still slowed by the cold air and Rysarian’s able to dodge the swinging arm, but the other pirate kicks out at him and hits him square in the shin.

The three pirates in the middle had surrounded Phoenix, figuring she would be the most dangerous in the battle as she stood almost a foot taller than the others. They had also seen their Dragonborn comrade fight and they’d rather not want to face that for long, so they ganged up on her. The first on take slashes out a knife and cuts deep into Phoenix’s arm, blood seeping out of the wound. Her deadly look had the other one missing, the third one getting so nervous that he stumbled and stuck his sword into his fellow pirate’s foot.

The lady pirate by the mast casually walks over, pulling out her sword and swung it through the air, attacking the pirate with the knife. The sword whistled in the wind, the sound reverberating a tune that seemed slightly familiar, but no one could place it in the middle of the battle. The sword cut down the pirate’s arm, spilling blood onto the deck, with the music still ringing in his ears.

Rysarian attacked the pirate in front of him and Quinn attacked the one beside him. His aim was strong and waves of energy from the attack filled Rysarian and Phoenix on either side of him. Phoenix, annoyed at the pirate that cut her, swung her giant hammer at him. And since he was already disoriented from the music, he didn’t have a chance of avoiding the deadly blow. The force that Phoenix put into the hammer carried it into the pirate in front of her. She somehow felt better after the death of that pirate. The pirate she had hit, wounded and grieving over his fallen comrade is too distracted to retaliate, but the other one beside her lunged forward, striking her in the forehead. The pirate beside Rysarian attacks him again and makes another cut on the elf’s arm.

A cannonball shoots over their head as the Cannoneer finally attempted to aim the cannon at them. The lady pirate that had randomly joined their side goes over and stabs at him with her sword.

Rysarian returns the attack on the pirate that had cut him and the pirate falls to the deck. Rysarian takes the chance to step back, finding partial cover on the side of the mast from the pirates close to him. Quinn slices his staff like he had before, cutting into the deckhand close to him. Phoenix swings her hammer blindly at the two pirates in front of her, but can’t see through the blood spilling into her eyes and misses.

The lady pirate swings her sword across the chest of the Cannoneer, shattering a cannon that had strapped to the chest and exploding into him. He stumbles, but catches himself. Straightening  up, he forgets about the cannon and punches the lady pirate in the face, giving her an immediate black eye. One of the pirates in front of Phoenix, also standing beside Quinn, swings a punch towards the human, knocking into the man’s arm.

Rysarian responds by sneaking around the pirate and stabbing him in the back, but miraculously missing all internal organs. Quinn’s staff shortens to a dagger again for the close combat and he cuts into the pirate’s stomach, who falls to the ground dead. Phoenix is swinging her hammer, but only catches a glancing blow to the pirate’s arm in front of her as blood is still spilling down her face. The pirate attempts to retaliate, but his arm is too hurt.

The Cannoneer again tries to punch the lady pirate, but misses, his injuries taking their toll on him. The lady pirate swings her sword at him again and cuts down his arm.

Rysarian and Quinn team up against another pirate, Rysarian stabbing his light blade into the pirate’s shoulder, Quinn stabbing the pirate through the chest. The two let the man crumple to the ground. The Cannoneer, still swinging wildly at the lady pirate, misses once again before she cuts into him. He finally falls to the ground.

By this point, Phoenix, frustratedly wiping the blood out of her face, swings her hammer in a dreadful blow onto the pirate in front of her, smashing in the pirate’s face until it poured more blood than was on her own face. He swings a punch back at her, but she doesn’t notice it in her anger. Rysarian risks a short teleport and lands behind the pirate, stabbing the man in the back. As he falls, Phoenix grabs him and tosses him off the side of the ship in frustration.

As the sounds of fighting ended, the Dragonborn pirate turned around to look at the bloody group, several of his crew now dead on the deck. “What do you guys want?” he asked.

“We just came for the mayor,” Phoenix replied.

“You can have him,” the Dragonborn said, tossing the mayor into the middle of the deck. He laid there quietly.

“But you don’t think you’d be allowed to leave that easily, do you?” the Pirate Captain asked in amusement as the group of fighters thought they could relax. In a quick blur of movement, she sliced her sword through Rysarian, causing him to stumble and cough up blood, barely alive. The Dragonborn breathed out a lungful of poisonous gas, Quinn barely avoiding it and Phoenix choking on the toxic air.

The lady pirate, truly showing how mutinous she would be, attacked the Captain, also pushing Rysarian past Quinn and healing him. Rysarian stumbled, feeling after-effects of the Captain’s attack and taking the chance to heal himself as well before stepping up to the Dragonborn pirate and attacking him.

Quinn twisted his dagger into a staff again and held it towards the Dragonborn pirate, his hand held out towards his Dragonborn ally. Darts fly out towards both beasts, but the pirate is injured while Phoenix is given strength. Phoenix takes that energy and swings her hammer at the captain, marking her as Phoenix’s enemy, but missing her in the swing. The Captain runs backwards and climbs up the mast of the ship. All attention is turned toward the Dragonborn pirate, who attacks Rysarian. The lady pirate takes position on the other side of the Dragonborn, causing him to be flanked, as she cuts into him with her sword. Rysarian pulls out his rapier and slowly twists it into the side of the Dragonborn.

Quinn pulls out a cord of barbed wire. No one really knows where he had it or where he got it, but he lassoes it around the Dragonborn and entangles the pirate’s limbs until he’s unable to move. The wire cuts into him at the same time. Phoenix steps up and swings at the trapped pirate as well. He swings angrily back at her, missing the first time, but he lashes out again. She doesn’t notice the impact.

While the group is focused on the Dragonborn, the Captain, still above them, climbs across the sails and down the ropes to land behind Rysarian.

The lady pirate slashes into the Dragonborn, weakening him and making him slow to defend himself. Rysarian, noticing his now dangerous position between the Dragonborn and the Captain, tumbles out of the way. The Dragonborn sends an attack after him that disorients him enough that he’s only able to deal a glancing blow to the Captain. The barbed wire cut into the Dragonborn again because of his movements.

Quinn, deciding it’s time to change tactics, put away his dagger staff and pulled out a pistol from his robes and pointed it at the Dragonborn and pulled the trigger, sending an explosive bullet of light into the Dragonborn’s face. Phoenix also attacked, the swing of her hammer so well aimed against the Dragonborn that it stuns him as she steps past him and swung a blow at the Captain as well. The Captain responds with an attack of her own, but directed at Rysarian, who falls unconscious at the loss of blood. The Dragonborn attacked Phoenix, causing her to stumble, feeling faint. The lady pirate swung her sword again at the Dragonborn, but turns her attention to Rysarian, sending him healing energy in time for him to get up and attack the Captain again.

Quinn fired his gun again at the Dragonborn, then turned to Phoenix and gave her a quick healing infusion. She swings her hammer at the Dragonborn but, still feeling weak, misses. She takes a deep breath, steadying herself, before attacking again, hitting the Dragonborn, and then using the force of the hammer to carry itself into the face of the Captain, breaking her nose in the process. Angered, the Captain attacked Phoenix again.

“Wait a moment!” the lady pirate spoke up. The group stopped for a moment to look at her. “Why is this still happening? You’ve already given back the mayor. Your crew is dead, and you know how dumb I thought this idea was since the beginning. Why are you still fighting?”

“I would rather die than lose my ship!” the Captain said, preparing to continue with the battle.

“But why are you doing this in the first place?” Quinn asked.

“We are looking for a cypher,” the Captain said, breathing heavily, blood splattering out of her nose. “We are wanting to get through what is called the Path of Fortune. We need the cypher. We have sided with the man who wants to go through this.”

“Well,” Rysarian spoke up, his voice strained, “why don’t we show you where the cypher is?”

“What do you know of the cypher?” the Captain asked. Rysarian cleared his throat.

“What would we get from showing it to you?” he asked.

“It doesn’t help you to destroy this village!” the lady pirate added.

“I would like to say something,” the Dragonborn said, holding his hand out to the Captain. “I have seen the prowess of your fighting. With your iron-skinned Dragonborn, fighting with the cleverness of the elf, and the magic power of the human, I believe that you could be beneficial to this quest. I find that this way would be honorable. What say you?”

“Sounds good to me,” Rysarian said, a hand to his side as he winced. “I guess I can’t really disagree,” the lady pirate said, not being on either side at the moment. The Dragonborn looked at Quinn, who shrugged, and at Phoenix, who simply waited defensively, but didn’t argue.

“It seems like we have an alliance,” the Captain said. “I believe we could work well together, with your help in deciphering the clues.”

“Could we bring two more?” Rysarian asked. “What two do you speak of?” the Captain asked back.

“Well, the mayor, for one, and we have a friend who has piloted our boat.”

“That is acceptable to me,” the Captain said with a nod. “We could use the help of the villagers, if they are willing. It seems we have had a loss in our crew.”

“It’s not like they have much to go back to, anyway,” Phoenix muttered.

“It seems we have come to an agreement,” the Captain said, holding her hand out to Rysarian.

“Yes, I believe so,” Rysarian replied, shaking hands with her.

“We must gather our members now, call a meeting, and decide our course of action. Meadowlark will be in charge of diplomacy and communicating your needs to us.” The lady pirate, Meadowlark, steps forward and nods.

“Agreed,” Rysarian said. Ted, who had been listening on his boat below, comes aboard and the other ship is informed. The villagers are let up onto the deck of the boat, the Isis Maru, and a meeting is called by Captain Charlotte to decide where each person will belong. After talking with the new crew, positions were assigned and the Isis Maru was on its way.

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