There is an art form to naming a new ship. Do you name in after yourself? The Glory Hole Maker. After the type of hull? The Fast Clip. After a predecessor? Valdemar Duet. After a unique feature? The Sky Raider. After the journey? Plane Hopper. Something with a pun? Floats the Boat. Maybe go completely different? Blood Dumpster. Something ironic? The Dinner Party. These are the absolute worst troubles for a Captain. Seriously no bigger troubles exist. I racked my brain trying to come up with a good name. It needed to fit like a good holster, it needed to be awesome. The Dragon Holster?
I took stock of my new ship. Vandlo’s magnum opus! It had three skinny masts, a square rig, tall, narrow, sharp lined, and enough sail for a ship four times its size. With even gentle wind the ship would barely scratch the surface of the waves. Good god it was ultrafast! It had so much freaking sail it bordered comical, when all deployed the ship looked like it had a lion’s mane of sails. There were tops sails, royals, skysails, and moonrakers above the masts. A double set of studdingsails on booms that could extend out over the water and below them gliding wings just in case the ship flew. The cutter maneuvered like a crack addict humming bird! The ship could heel so violently it practically floated sideways. The spirit of the Deep Sea Current animated the ropes so minimal crew was needed. Mounted on the deck were the Water Pearl for diving and Apsu’s Golden Wings for flying. Everything I could ever want and then some! I had no doubt this ship was going to go down in history as something special. A real good name was needed. The Gambler? The Big Guns? This was hard. The Real Thing?
Axis was tiny fishbowl compared to what laid outside its golden barriers. A vast desolate rocky plain stretched out for miles and miles and miles from Axis. The River Styx was the lone escape route. At least the sky was exciting! Groteus was the sky! The God’s sad glow was so great it was an eerie daylight. I swear you could hear the Monster Moon cawing like a demented black raven. Or maybe your mind plays tricks in a planar wasteland? As we sailed on favorable winds the rocky wasteland grinded away into a granite slab smoother than a baby’s butt. Soon only Pharasma’s Dark Tower, Apus’s Flying Islands, and Groteus above were the only things in view. The realms of the Gods were intersecting. That certainly can’t be a good thing!
As we neared the Dark Tower the River Styx tore away from the ground like a ripped bandage. The Styx arched like a rainbow colored tube into the sky towards the top of the Dark Tower. It didn’t look like a waterfall; more like a normal meander. Fuck it all! Ahead full! As soon as the ship touched the upward column our reality tilted. We were no longer going up, we were going straight. The granite ground was no longer the ground but a wall to our left. The ground was the river with nothing propping it up. A nameless psychopomp landed on the ship so we knew we were in Pharasma’s domain. Ah Ha! A sweet thought occurred to me, this was probably the first time a mortal ship has sailed its way to the top of the Boneyard! The Soul Rider?
After a few minutes sailing the soul ribbon, Modron called, “Brace up pansies! Rendezvous in two cycles.” To our rear, a resplendent platinum dragon flew at the head of a V, flanked by dragonkin and hooded riders. Slate was coming in hot!
“Hide Goethe!” I roared. I didn’t want another version of that whole Apsu skyfall fight to happen again. That was the worst!
“Myrrh flag them down! Vestin get ready to negotiate! Mr. Finn prepare for battle! Everyone else get the hell off the deck!”
Slate and his party were on our stern in no time.
“Greetings Slate, fancy meeting you here! Not long ago you challenged us to follow you to the Obelisks of Fortune. And here we are” Lorenz opened.
“Very surprising I must say!” Slate replied. His riders surrounded the ship. I didn’t recognize there combination of scaly, furry, tie-dyed, ugly mugs. No one did. Completely alien bastards.
“But before we converse is that horn stealing piss drinker Goethe with you?” Slate demanded. Fuck not this again.
“He is. Goethe would like to speak with you in peace. Is that alright?” Lorenz asked. Slate nodded. Goethe came up from below deck, holding his staff in open arms. Electric breath sizzled out of Slate’s nostrils. Someone was going to get murdered for sure.
“I’ve been searching for you with a fine tooth comb…” began Master Goethe.
What happened next broke my mind. They had a civil conversation! Goethe sort of apologized. Seeing Goethe swallow his pride was weird, very weird. He has changed so much since coming aboard. He is like a different Goethe. Maybe his intelligence has pushed him past mortal squabbles. Recently, his animosity for Myrrh has nose-dived too. Or maybe I’m giving him too much credit. Slate is not to be trifled with. I’d apologize too to save my bacon. To end their childish feud, Slate took back his broken platinum horn and broke off one of Goethe’s good horns. Slate looked strangely satisfying! So did Goethe. Were they going to make out? They say tender love is blind. Sadly no love making went down. And that was that. The Strangely Unsatisfying?
“Now that you buried the hatchet. Shall we talk of an alliance?” Lorenz mustered.
“Of course, Of course” Slate chuckled. Suddenly, the riders broke off like angry birds. A great shadow swept over the ship. Slate eyes went wide like a forest fire.
“Sorry my friends, our conversation will need to be saved for another time. I recommend you dodge” Slate said before taking off.
Damnit! What now? Who the hell was interfering? That Colorless Bastard? We were so fucking close! I turned. Then I shit by captain’s pants. Groteus was smashing through Apus’ Ambulatory like a sledgehammer. The flying islands were collapsing! Comin’ right for us! How the fuck does a ship dodge an avalanche of boulders a million times your size? Dodge? Go fuck yourself Slate! …The For Fucks Slate?
We huddled, we planned what we could. Luckily, after seeing Slate take off we realized the ship was sailing on a tube and not a flat plane. We had much more potential to maneuver than I thought possible. It was time to test it. We dropped the gliding wings for extra maneuverability. The first few islands were peanuts, only the size of small mountains, and we were able to dodge them by going around the Styx soul tube. It was still way too close for comfort; I could have hopped on the passing peaks if I wanted to. …Island Dodger?
The next island was the size of all the previous islands combined times ten or twenty. I saw no daylight. Mr. Finn pointed to a narrow passage. Goethe began erecting wall of the force to cushion the prow. Myrrh started praying. Lorenz did some casting. The ship snuck into a canyon that was on the falling island. We sailed thought the narrow upside down chasm expertly until a dead end appeared. The ship exploded through the earthen barrier with a combination of Goethe’s shattered walls of force and mud splatter from Lorenz’s mud magic. If that island barrier was a foot thicker we’d been goners.
We dodged another super-sized island by reversing gravity. The ship was pulled off the water to the ceiling of the Styx tube. The rocks scraped the keel of the ship. Begads, another super close call! Then we saw it. An island so big all hope was extinguished. It was a literal wall of black. The sky was coming to crush us! Turning the wheel did nothing while we were stuck in reverse gravity. No combination of walls of force or mud would prevent our annihilation. Things got quiet while we waited for the inevitable. …The Sitting Duck?
Myrrh walked to the prow of the ship in the hush. He reached into a bag and pulled something out by its hair. A severed human head! He screamed something out into the abyss in a secret language. It was the first time I’d ever heard him scream. He raised the head high, it looked a little familiar like I’ve had dinner with this unfortunate person. Goethe in particular was taken back. Not sure why. The severed head dissolved into a blood mist in Myrrh’s hand; he was left holding a grip of hair. Suddenly, I got the sensation I was being watched, but I didn’t see anyone doing the watching. The impossibly big island spun toward us like a tectonic throwing star. Debris, lava, trees, mountains violently broke off from its surface. And we sat there with two thumbs up our poopers. No daylight, no path to safety. No time. …The Time Out?
In the last possible moment before we became one with the tumbling titanic island, we were saved by a Red Mantis Claw. A huge insectoid red claw manifested out of thin air from our port side, it was equal in size to the incoming avalanche and packed a supreme wallop. Was this Myrrh’s God? The mighty claw struck the center mass of the incoming landmass and utterly obliterated it. The impact ripped out my ear drums and tore off my eyelids. Fortunately, the ensuing shock wave pushed the ship out of the reverse gravity well and we regained a bit of control. Rock pieces the size of bluffs and peninsulas and smaller debris like houses and castles whipped by in a flurry. The meteor shower lasted forever.
I got hit square the chest by a terminal velocity rock and that was all she wrote. I saw my ship above me disappear behind an asteroid with me not on board. Goethe was with me plunging to bottom of the abyss.
The Dashed Hopes?