The Summer Empire

Snake in the nest

Our session begins with a bunch of pirates swinging from lines onto the Aurora after hurriedly leaving with a load of dye destined for Lanun. As Petrichor, Autumn Oak and Mara fought off the invaders, Bartelby ran down to the cargo room to secure the dye, then to his office in the ship, came back up on deck, and—waving official papers in their faces—loudly proclaimed that they were official traders from Lanun, and they were fully paid up on their licenses, and why were these pirates attacking us. The losses on the pirates’ side led them to parley with the Aurora crew. Mara took the most wounded pirate to the infirmary, where she discovered they had cargo in boxes and human form. Mara also noticed that all of the pirates looked a little worse for the wear prior to the fight, but pirates aren’t known for their healthy lifestyle so she let it slide. Mara carried the good news of cargo to Bartelby without telling him exactly what it was. To his surprise, it turned out to be a white-haired teenage girl. Bartelby asked Autumn Oak to check out their ship, so Autumn Oak looked into Twilight and saw that their ship’s totem was a wolf spirit. Far from being a strong predator, though, the wolf was weak and sickly, just like the ship’s crew…

With the pirates sent off with references that might get them mercenary work in Lanun, the Aurora’s crew settled into the mess. Mara spoke to the girl, and it turned out that her name was Pav, and that she had been taken away from her parents while they stopped in a market somewhere in the lower reach of the floating islands. She revealed from the Capital in Patria, and Bartelby recognized the names of her aunt and uncle—Wren and Ash—as being similar to the naming style of House Aundae, one of the dhampir families ( Dhampir Houses). House Aundae was also a business consortium that made a tidy sum dealing with rogue spirits, and with that sum came the opportunity for wealth for us. The crew decided to change course and take Pav back to her family…for a modest reward.

Autumn Oak summoned up ravens to dispatch messages to a contact Bartelby had in Patria to drop off the dye and a message to House Aundae that we had found one of their members who had been kidnapped and were coming to the Capital to return her. After the messages were sent, while Petrichor read the winds, Autumn Oak went down to consult with Aurora about the state of the ship. Aurora was a bit uneasy about the new passenger, and referred to the starving wolf spirit of the other ship, but Aurora was suitably cryptic.

In the middle of the night Bartelby woke up to a knock on his door, opens it, and found Pav standing there. After asking why she’s there, he led her down to Mara’s room and put her back to sleep, and then stumbled back to bed himself, feeling far more tired than even waking up in the middle of the night would have led to.

In the morning, after breakfast, Petrichor moved a storm out of the way to shave some time off the Aurora’s trip to Patria. Pav asked him about what he’s doing, and after the ritual was completed, she gave him a quick hug and then head off elsewhere on the deck. Petrichor sat down, feeling more tired than he should have from just manipulating the weather, and while Autumn Oak and Petrichor discussed the weather patterns and how close they can safely get to increase their speed, Mara went to Bartelby and asked for him to restock her medical supplies, since fieldwork and research is part of the reason she signed on with the crew. However, Bartelby was as tightfisted as ever, and eventually Mara stormed out onto the deck, muttering imprecations about Bartelby’s purse. Soon Bartelby came up on deck, and with the whole crew there, the questioning started again. Pav eventually admitted that she didn’t really want to go back to House Aundae, because she didn’t feel like she was “special,” and she didn’t have any powers like her aunt and uncle. Bartelby went back down below, and a still-annoyed Mara told Pav that Bartelby would be a great person to go draw next to—a suggestion that Pav eagerly agreed to.

Pav made a drawing of a grub—part of Autumn Oak’s breakfast—and Aurora, which Bartelby later offered to Autumn Oak as a sacrifice to take to Aurora. Autumn Oak said that a sacrifice was usually something valuable, and Bartelby spun a grand tale of how he had always wanted to have children but his constantly-moving lifestyle meant that he had never been able to, and the drawing of a happy child was of inestimable value to him and Aurora should find it so as well. Much to Autumn Oak’s surprise, Aurora accepted the sacrifice.

Later, the crew were talking on the deck about what to do about Pav and how she still seems odd. She was drawing pictures, but her drawings and her speech were more like that of a six or seven-year-old rather than the thirteen years she claimed to be. As they discussed, they felt an overwhelming sense of danger from Aurora, and Autumn Oak ran down to the engine room. While Bartelby found Pav crying amidst a pile of chocolate wrappers with a broken lock to one of his cabinets, Autumn Oak communed with Aurora and received a vision of Pav walking by and the a sudden sense of loss, and all of the pieces fell into place. Autumn Oak ran up to the mess in a fury and summoned up vines out of the floor and walls to entangle Pav, and as Mara looked on in horror, Autumn Oak blamed her for draining the ship and for draining the pirates and their ship before that. He said she was a lamia, and that she wasn’t safe to have on board.

Bartelby performed some tests to see how safe Pav was, and after two attempts to touch her with bare skin left him sweating and slumped against the wall, they bundled her off to her room, locked her in, and settled down to discuss what they had to do. Autumn Oak was adamant that they had to take her back to her family, since House Aundae would surely have a better idea of what to do with her than they did. Mara was torn between letting her go free and the knowledge that Pav probably wasn’t in a proper state of mind to decide. Bartelby thought that Aundae probably wouldn’t pay up and wouldn’t want anyone else to know they had a lamia in their family because of the association with the Nobility, but Petrichor pointed out that if we did that and Pav hurt anyone, we would be partially responsible. Bartelby mused that maybe House Aundae would just kill her, and she might be better off in the still-Noble-ruled nation of Calas. That drew an explosive reaction from Autumn Oak, who categorically refused to go to Calas for any reason and stated that there was no way they would hand Pav off to Alexis and Flauros. Bartelby asked why it was so bad, but got no reaction from Autumn Oak except an angry stare and eventually agreed that they would not go to Calas. The crew decided that they would take Pav back to her family, because while they might know what to do with her, we definitely had no idea.

The landing in Patria was uneventful, but two representatives from House Aundae were waiting for the Aurora at the docks and boarded the ship. They introduced themselves as Wren and Ash of House Aundae, and while quite cold and imperious, things seemed to be going okay until Autumn Oak noticed that Wren was an adept and was prying into Mara’s mind. He accused them of bad faith dealings, and things soon escalated as Autumn Oak called the House Aundae members “Noble-spawn” and Wren used her powers on Autumn Oak and sent searing pain shooting through his whole body. As Autumn Oak dropped to the ground screaming, Petrichor ran to the scene and Bartelby ran to the engine room, where he—knowing Aurora’s opinion of him—told the ship-spirit that Autumn Oak was in danger and she should take off immediately and make as many evasive maneuvers as possible. Mara rammed into Wren, breaking her concentration and freeing Autumn Oak from the pain, and the ship lurched, throwing most of them off their feet. Battle immediately commenced, and Ash and Wren were pretty quickly bested. Petrichor whistled up a wind and blew Ash off the ship (though the ship wasn’t high enough to kill him) after disarming him and taking his sword, and once that happened Wren was subdued, knocked unconscious, and dropped off in a rural area, then the ship took off again.

The session ended with the crew planning to go back to House Aundae’s headquarters, return Ash’s sword as a gift of goodwill, and offer a detente—no assassins sent after us in exchange for not revealing Wren’s unsanctioned mind reading and Pav’s existence. As for Pav, the university Mara attended is in the Capital, and Autumn Oak suggested that she write to the university and see if there was anyone there who could train Pav, or knew someone who could do so.

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