Federation-Apocalypse Session 180a – Driven with the Wind

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THIS is your "Crew"!?

The cook was most impressed with his new place of business. Not only did it have plenty of seating, an excellent layout, secret escape routes, and built-in conveniences, but the granite walls and vaults, asbestos hangings, and other fireproofing tricks might well stand up to pretty much any fire – even one of his worst. He provided lots of second and made up some EXCELLENT (and very generous) sack lunches for the young mage who’d built the place!

Raphael was inspecting his ornate ship’s wheel. Definitely enchanted, and the style was similar… the odds looked good that this was the right item! Particularly since the protective spell on it was good enough to get it through the cooks repeated fires! OK, having to come up with something that had an “equally interesting history” in trade was a bit weird – but he could surely come up with something. .

Marty and Kevin were both most pleased with their meal!

Raphael pessimistically considered just how long it would be before he was serving chicken roasted over lava after he – somehow – burned this eatery down.

Marty promptly stationed a Thrall nearby in case that happened – because this guy was good!

While they were eating, the cook busily told stories of the good days out at sea exploring, sailing, and partying.

Kevin listened closely… After all, they were going on a trading expedition tomorrow! With Platypuses! And Enemy Otters!

And it might be good to know something about what local sailing voyages were like – even if you could count on the cook to focus on the most exciting bits.

Marty listened to! He had a good deal of zenni riding on that bet!

It soon became apparent – at least to Raphael – that the cook was deliberately withholding some details, but he could make out some bits… First off, the pirate captain had seemed to target specific ships and convoys as opposed to whatever happened to be found. Secondly, given the travel times specified, he was fairly certain that the base they launched attacks from and resupplied from could not be the cove he’d found. Third, most of the treasure and such they captured was not brought back to the city. That they tended to bring back piecemeal to keep from arousing suspicion and to keep mages hunting for large concentrations of wealth finding their lair.

It looked like the captain had been targeting specific trading groups based on prior history and power. Priority was given to the larger companies and ships while repeatedly ignoring the smaller ships going about their business. Targetting would be changed every time they went to port and the captain had time to talk with the local pubs and underworld a bit. Whatever criteria he was using, it wasn’t cargo though.

Well, they HAD started off as a legitimate group that had gone pirate because of debts and grievances. Even if a lot of the crew had been added or replaced later, that kind of company tradition tended to carry over – at least in part. Once you went pirate, things tended to slip a bit unless you were Captain Blood.

Marty tried to subtly steer him toward that island with the teleporting creatures on it.

It was an island they had stumbled upon after a particularly fierce battle with an Otter convoy. The main ship wasn’t going to be able to make it far since the mainmast had been cracked – so they needed some logs to shore up the mast for the journey home for full repairs. The captain had known of an island some ways north of the shipping lanes with substantial forests that no one had bothered with. Leading the trio of ships there, the captain and some of the crew went on repair duty while the rest of the crew scavenged for supplies and food. The crew had finally gotten the repairs somewhat done when the foraging crew came back running and told the rest to make sail and get out of there. At that point two monsters broke out of the forest and started attacking. They took substantial losses fighting off the creatures long enough to get out into the open seas – and had to fire off some pretty potent spells to get away.

Well, that gave them a better idea of where the eggs had come from.

As far as the otter tactics went… there was a heavy reliance on mercenaries, infiltrators, and some sort of aquatic ally. The infiltrators were usually fairly easy to find (the Thralls had found quite a few would-be infiltrators) and the mercenaries made the fight tough, but it was the aquatic allies that continually fouled up attempts to manuever and at the end escape. It took everything they had to get away with most of the ships intact.

They never did find out what kind of creatures the Otters were using; they’d never before encountered the tactic and had been unprepared for it. They’d mostly suspected dolphins at the time – but, in the years since, the reports of Otters working with penguins had sounded more and more convincing. Both were pretty well suited for getting under ships and doing all sorts of nasty things to the hulls.

Kevin considered all of that. He’d never gotten any Neodolphins to sign up, but the Thralls could always transform. A few of them could run anti-sabotage duty beneath the ships, then. Their smartclothes could let them use dolphin-form (for the sonar) and still breathe.

Meanwhile, Raphael was inquiring about the planned platypus route.

(Cook) “Used to be an old trade route the we frequented. Getting silks, gems, and various rare woods from the tropics to the South. Platypi and a few others had some good contacts down there that gave them business, but the Otters never did make many inroads there and had to get their wares from another location even further South. That ended up with them losing quite a bit of money compared to the Platypi and others. That resulted in them taking less orthodox ways of trying to squeeze the competition.”

Marty translated that as “sabotage”. It could have just been bad luck, but the Otters did not strike him as terribly reputable.

Kevin had to agree; they hadn’t yet heard of a single person DEFENDING the otters business practices – and they had tried to use arson to win a bet. He was willing enough to presume that they were obnoxious!

(Cook) “We always figured sabotage was likely. Difficult to prove though. I suspect now that they’ve finally become the dominant group these days, their activities have become much more overt.”

Marty could not wait to put egg on their faces. Could they fire rotten eggs out of the cannons, actually? He was pretty sure that some spell would suffice for that.

They headed back to the cove to try out their new key.

Raphael opted to try it from the inside. It would be less of a trip if it didn’t work!

They took one of the small boats.

When they got close to the door to the cove, the wheel began to float in the air – and hung there pointing at the door.

Well it WAS a kay and a wheel – so Raphael spun it slowly to the right. With a flow and spark of magical enchantments unused for many years the wheel turned smoothly and quickly. A sound of grinding stone could be heard as a ray of light appeared in the middle of the door. A flow of water began to enter the cove as the water levels equalized. After a few moments, the door had opened wide enough for the biggest ship in the cove to leave through.

(Marty) “That’s not a bad way to hide your port of call there!”

(Raphael) “Finally… Now what do we do with the rest of the day?”

Kevin was quietly checking his list… Still nothing from the wolf-matron, they were all right with most of the other clans, the rabbits and panthers were sorted out, the dragons he’d made were doing well, the lizard guys were settled down, drafting the panthers into Kadia was complete, the Fox kid was doing all right, the nine-tails was apparently moving towards the powers of light (although he still suspected that she might be whoever was in the role of a local creator goddess anyway).

There really wasn’t much of anything LEFT to do locally (unless they got entangled in the local politics – which Marty might through his marriage and Kevin might because he’d be keeping an aspect present) except the trade expedition! A good thing they were about ready for it! The Thralls on repair duty even had Raphael’s damaged ships pretty much ready to go, and Kevin had brought in more for crew – so all they needed to do was to load some supplies and go!

Raphael closed his door.

They spent a little time on final preparations – fireproofing and protective charms on the ships, some nets which could be deployed to make an underwater approach awkward, instructing the Thralls on a few illusion and protective charms to use.

Kevin really wasn’t very worried. The Otter Clan might have a lot of wealth and influence in the city – but when you came down to it, they were just one clan – and not all that big a one at that. Worse, everything they spent over the 100,000 was pure loss, and merchants were averse to loss. At this point he figured that it was even odds that the Otters would cut their losses while they had the chance.

They might call in some allies – but unless they could get some of the people who were after them anyway (which was part of the POINT of dallying around in this world!) that still wouldn’t get them up to “major threat” level.

The next morning the platypi were making the last preparations to make sail – despite the jeering otters. The head platypus walked up with a clip board.

(Platypus, cheerily) “Things are going well, and we should be ready to make sail within the hour! I am Captain Hurston, and I will be your interface to our people on this voyage. May I ask how many people you are bringing and if you have any ships of your own?”

Marty used his own magics to produce a quick list.

(Hurston) “Very good, and who will be in command on your side?”

(Kevin) “I shall be taking the Nightwind Voyager as an escort vessel! We should already have some of my agents assigned to your crews! I believe that Martin of House Macaw will be taking the Lissefea… Raphael? Were you planning to bring your own Flotilla?

(Raphael) “Why not? It sounds like fun. Admiral Midwater… I like the sound of that. The ships will keep their names as we are restarting their old mission. and I think they should meet away from the city.

So he was going to set sail with the Salty Jerky, the Sour Grape, and the Cold Fish.

Hm… It might be a good thing that – while the Nightwind Voyager was already in port, and was known to be going – it hadn’t been revealed that it was a specialized warship, not a trader or a raider. Raphael’s ships were semi-forgotten (and wouldn’t have been ready to go without a lot of Thrall-work, and wouldn’t have been crewed without drawing on Kadia), so their presence probably wouldn’t be full expected…

(Hurston) “Very good, and do you have any suggestions as to how we should arrange our ships? I currently have seven ships in our fleet, in addition to your five.”

Kevin had no actual piloting experience, and so deferred to some of the people who did… He kind of suspected that it would be best to be to one side of the convoy and upwind – so he could easily swoop down on anything that threatened them – but for all he knew in front or behind would be better.

Fortunately Marty had a pretty good idea about what a captain did other than pose and throw spells at enemies. He’d acquired some actual sailing skills on a previous pirating trip… He and Raphael eventually concluded that – for the initial trip before the wind – putting the Nightwind Voyager and the Lissefea up ahead and to the sides, and allowing Raphael’s small flotilla to join the end of the convoy, would be best. Kevin and Marty were a good deal more impulsive, notorious, and combative than Raphael was, so he could watch their backs when something attracted their attention or they got attacked.

(Hurston) “Our own ships are merchant vessels, but they do have weapons of their own. I’ve been told to expect attacks on this voyage.”

They set sail within the hour.

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