Dull rumbles shook the chamber like an approaching thunderstorm in dead summer heat. Tiny pebbles and crystal sand rattled loose from the domed ceiling tiles with each ominous thud. It had began. The God Groetus has arrived! I wondered how much of the Opalescence Palace’s soaring marble structure stood above us and how much was powder? Skin crawling crunches of stone giving way emanated from the walls, barely visible spiderweb cracks formed around the dove-tails, and the floor started to vibrate and shift. The Planar Obelisk chamber wasn’t going to last long! Groetus was almost at arm’s length!
We scrambled for the Current, praying with each hurried step that it was still waiting like I fucking commanded. Begads! I spent my entire life trying not to die in a cave like some pleb Kobold. It’d be cruel irony for some random falling stones to split me in two with no one to see. I always imagined I’d die on the biggest stage with the whole world watching. Maybe an execution or maybe riding a Tarrasque! Thank the drunken Gods! The Current was where we left it. As soon as the last man was on the gangplank, Apsu’s Plaque lifted the Current off the rubble and slingshotted us away like an over cranked catapult. Behind us Apsu’s Ambulatory literally faded out like a mirage, a whisper before Groetus could finished devouring the last floating island. We kept speeding with no signs of slowing into the infinite black above Pharama’s Spire. Soon the God Groetus, the once immense moon, was a pin prick and the Boneyard nothing at all. A minute after that everything was painted black.
My mind lingered on Apsu. Could we do what we pledged? Could we stop the blasted Gray Dragons? End the insufferable pakthryxl? Stop the senseless butchering of True Dragons? Stop an Apocalypse or two? How could a God entrust us with such an impossible task? Irresponsible if you ask me! Shit balls! I shook my head hard and ran my hands over my face trying to wipe away my weariness. I looked out into the nothingness of the Void searching for something. A way out? Fuck, we were in deep now! The worst part was it was by our own design. Thinking about it again how bad could that whole Final Flight thing be? Infinite dragon fire isn’t that hot….I threw up in my mouth a little at the thought. I shook my head hard again and slapped my cheeks with my open palms. It was time to get on with it; no use shitting your pants twice in one afternoon. The first order of business was to find Slate and the Obelisks of Fortune hidden in the infinite Astral Plane.
In the Astral Plane there is less than nothing. Nothing to see. No land. No clouds. Nothing to smell. Only hapless souls making their slow way to god knows where. Sometimes if there is enough soul juice a little winding stream forms, but even that is fleeting. To make things interesting, so you aren’t bored to death, up, down, left, right, far, and close all get confused like facedown playing cards being slide about happily by a small child. Direction can change on you at the speed of thought, which means falling forever is a very real danger if you don’t have your wits by the balls. We needed to find a footing. Abruptly, I spotted it. The faint bluish veins of light a billion miles off nearly swallowed by the deeper darkest. I pointed it out. Maybe it was enough souls to constitute a stream or better yet a way out.
“We must convince the Deep Sea Current that way is DOWN!” shouted Master Goethe, while pointing to the far off rivulets. By the Gods, he was right! In the Astral Plane you choose your own footing with the right thought! Dangerous but possible. The Current was unconsciously holding on to the down it last experienced on Apsu’s Islands. We all coached the Deep Sea Current to fall to the light a million miles ahead of us. We felt the deck tilt an inch forward.
“Catch-thesoulstream-withyourkeel, GoodCurrent”, Mr. Finn implored. The ship lurched.
“Reach for the water!” Lorenz urged. The sails furled.
“Aye. We know you can do it!” I encouraged. The topdeck tilted a handful of degrees. THEN. A wave of disorientation washed over me; forcing me to cling to the ropes. The dark sky abruptly tilted and fractured. “The deck is down. The deck is down. The deck is down” I chanted to myself. My belly went back into place after I swallowed my own vomit. The speeding ship safely crashed into the soul stream with a pounding thud. A second later, we were smoothly sailing, calm and peaceful, like a leaf swept away by a babbling brook on lazy summer afternoon. Ignoring the fact, that we were teetering in the middle of a tar black void on a thin slice of light made up of untold thousands of disembodied souls.
“Let’s see if this thing works”, I jawed. I pulled out Besmara’s Planar Map from my crotch pocket and flipped it open. Dazzling glitter swirled over the parchment and took shape like sand castles made of stardust. Three beacons appeared in the abstract approximation of what I could only guess was our far out surroundings. One beacon chased another while the third beacon kept a safe distance. Well that helped!?
“It’s broken!”, I lamented.
“FuckingPirateQueenie”, coined Finn.
Lorenz shrugged and sipped a glass of wine. Sparkling I think this time.
“Let me illuminate. A planar map doesn’t point to the path out. It points to three options. The three powers of the plane or so the legends say”, lectured Master Goethe.
“How do we pick one?”
“Easy! We go to party!”, I commanded, pointing at the two dots traveling together. Twice the treasure in my mind.
Suddenly Tiny, who was on lookout duty, growled “Big fish ahead!”
Two hundred yards ahead in the meander there was a belly up black lumpy whale being digested by a hefty looking purplish shark. There seemed to be some kind of man made skiff drifting near the feeding frenzy. It looked like a shiny green kayak of exotic design, but it had a raised seat and hand holds. The sailor in me told me that thing couldn’t float for shit. The pirate in me said “finder keepers”. The others were also interested in it. A fired a shot to scare away the shark, which only pissed it off and it charged us like a bat out of hell. When I say the shark charged us, it charged in a line directly at us, bypassing the soul stream arc and cutting across the void. It had no trouble with down it appeared. Luckily Mr. Finn was intrigued and did his voodoo to tame the huge shark. Mr. Finn decided to name it “Climber”, since it looked like it was climbing up to us. Interestingly the shark had a fine leather saddle on it. What a weird place?
We examined the the hulking mass of the dead fish. The blubber was beginning to strip away to expose white bone and veins. It vaguely reminded me of Shipbreaker, Besmara’s pet. The size was about right. Well, if Shipbreaker caught a horrible disease and was riddled with tumors. Damn, It gave off a creepy aura and foul smell! After getting past its grotesqueness, we saw that the colossal fish had several large harpoons stuck in its right loin. A fairly recent kill we reckoned. What kind of ship could kill something this huge?
“Whalerzsoutherez?” Mr. Finn questioned.
“I guess whales can’t catch a break even out here…” sighed Vestin.
“We need to get closer to retrieve the vehicle. I postulate it is a highly advanced alchemical machine” urged Mater Goethe.
“I’ll ride it over!” I boasted and took flight.
“Wait…Captain..you should be…”
I landed on the mysterious single person craft; instantly I started flipping switches, pulling levers, and kicking it. The machine made “rev-rev-rev-rut” sound, but it didn’t move. What a piece of junk! I gave the others a shrug. From behind, a high frequency screech pieced me from teeth to toes. I covered my ears with both hands; I didn’t want the sound to get in my head. Then it turned into soul shattering roar. I reflexively shut all my orifices even harder. Then my world went black!
Yup I gotten eaten by the dead whale. It was a Bakekujira.
Not my proudest moment.
What can I say when treasure is involved the blinders go up.
My crew did their thing while I was almost crushed to death.
Mr. Finn had to be cut me out of its belly.
Again not my proudest moment.
Let me see, what did we learn other than I need to be more wary of floating whale carcasses? We retrieved the alchemical craft, which got Goethe fully erect. There was a note inside of it that mentioned business with the Nexus Caravan. We found a body of a Shulsaga hunter inside the Bakekujira’s belly, probably Climber’s rider. Lorenz diplomasized so much with the dead scaly bastard it came back to life for an instant to tell us about the intricacies of Astral Leviathan migration patterns and that the Astral Whaler was on its way. Like I said already, a ripe weird place.