Captain Ward’s eyes opened wide in surprise as he saw the adventurers bringing Simon’s body on board. “What happened up there?” he asked Trish.
“Simon fell to a blast sent at him by a vampire,” said Trish grimly, “We have taken our revenge on the creature, but it still leaves us with a dead friend.”
Stepping onto the deck, Prospero said, “Captain, do you know of anyplace nearby where we might be able to look into having Simon resurrected?”
Captain Ward considered for a few moments before answering. “In these waters, the closest place would be the Priest Barrens, but that’s more than a week’s sailing away even if they can do resurrections there. Your friend would be beyond anyone’s care or help at that point. It wouldn’t be so bad more rimward, but with the heat in these seas, his body won’t last more than a couple of days.”
“I have an idea, Captain, if you are not opposed to travelling to the Priest Barrens?” asked Prospero.
“No, certainly, if you can think of a way for us to get there, I’d be happy to go. They have a trade center there as well, which will help me replace the crew members I’ve lost so far on this cursed voyage. There are always dangers in the Sea of Steam, but this trip feels almost as if the Gods themselves are against us,” replied the captain.
Prospero went to the shroud of his friend, knelt, and retrieved an item from Simon’s lifeless body. He walked to where Ellisandra stood near the ship’s cargo hatch, still in shock from her companion’s death. Prospero pressed a small ring into Ellisandra’s hand, “Take this ring, apprentice. You have a much better way with words than I do.”
Ellisandra started to object, but Prospero stopped her, “No, apprentice, you are the one for this task. This is the Ring of Storms, there are sylphs bound within that can help us with this task, but they will only answer to the one who summons them. You must summon one of the sylphs and persuade it to help us or Simon will be truly dead, and a stalwart champion against Chaos will be gone forever.”
Ellisandra took the ring and bowed her head. “I will do my best master,” she replied, slipping the ring on her finger. She ran her thumb along the gemstones and finally came to rest on one. A name came to her mind, then to her lips, “I summon you, and command you to appear, Aeorod”.
As the invocation was spoken, the wind began to pick up, and the sky darkened as black clouds rushed to fill the air. The water around the ship began to chop as the wind created waves that crested ever larger against the side of the vessel. As the winds grew ever faster, a funnel began to form over the water away from the ship, but Ellisandra continued to concentrate on her summoning.
Without warning, the torso of a giant burst forth from the water next to the ship, with seaweed and kelp draped over his blue-green shoulders like a cape, and wielding a gigantic club made of coral. “Who is disturbing my rest with this storm,” cried the giant, who then plucked a crewman from the deck, popping the hapless man into his mouth and beginning to chew, as if the ship was nothing more than a snack plate at a dinner party.
Screaming, the remaining crew ran to man their battle stations, turning the ship’s ballistae towards this new enemy. The giant took a swing with his club at the tiny figures on deck, missing them entirely. Trish ran forward and attacked, but the rune swords glanced off the giant’s rubbery skin, as Walac launched arrows towards the creature without effect. Prospero turned invisible, scrambling to get out of range of the giant’s wicked coral club, even as it swung forth across the deck again, fortunately missing everyone due to the violence of the action of the wind and sea. Both ballistae thrummed as their bolts struck the giant, causing it to stagger with the force. Brine dove from the side of the ship, transforming to his shark form as he arced towards the water. Once in the water, Brine was surprised to see that the creature was actually a giant merman, but as his eyes rolled back in his head and he wounded the giant with his attack, his shark instincts took over and he thought no more about it. As Brine continued his attack underneath the waves, Prospero cast his sentinel spell, creating two fighters who began to attack the giant relentlessly. Walac fired another arrow, this one striking the giant in the face and hanging like a bizarre decoration as the creature howled from all of the attacks that were scoring his body. With a final sweep of their swords, the sentinels severed major arteries in the giant’s neck, and as filthy black blood spurted from the wounds, the giant toppled backwards and fell beneath the water, the wave from his passing lifting the ship briefly into the air.
Meanwhile, the whirlwind was taking a more definitive shape, as Ellisandra had continued her summoning during the fracas. With a clap of thunder, a being appeared; a being that looked somewhat like Maelstrom, but much, much larger. Large enough to lift and carry the entire ship easily! With a voice like an angry storm, the being called out as it moved closer, “Who has summoned me, Aeorod?”
Ellisandra shouted to be heard above the storm, “I have summoned you, Aeorod, oh, mightiest of storms! We have great need of your assistance.”
The wind and waves quietened ominously, like the calm before a storm, “Explain yourself, and I may let you live, little one.”
“Our companion fell fighting creatures of Chaos, and we would save him if we can. The port of Priest Barrens is our only hope for his resurrection. Without your help, oh mighty one, we will never make it there in time,” said Ellisandra.
Aeorod’s countenance became even darker as he leaned closer to the ship, his voice like the moans of a storm before the rains begin, “And why should I help you, who would keep my brothers and me enslaved in your ring?”
Ellisandra stared, unable to think of a reply, when Prospero said, “We are not the ones who placed you within the ring, and if you help us in our time of need, you will enable a great Chaos fighter to continue to bring justice to those who so richly deserve it!”
Aeorod considered this line of logic, “You speak well, little man, and there is truth in what you say. Competent fighters against Chaos are needed and in somewhat short supply. I have seen through the lens of the ring what this fighter is capable of. I will help you, but first release my brothers from the ring to help me carry your ship.”
Ellisandra had recovered herself from her momentary lapse, and began to flatter the elemental, “But surely, oh mighty Aerod, your winds are more than strong enough to carry this paltry ship, even on so great a journey as this?”
Laughing, the elemental stretched his arms wide, “I am marvelously strong, little girl, let me show you”.
Brine changed to human form just in time to scramble aboard the ship as the elemental picked it up. “Perhaps a little jaunt might be in order, after all,” said the elemental as he sped off at a tremendous rate of speed.
Three times over the next two days, Aerod stopped and tried to get Ellisandra to release his brethren from the ring to help him, and every time, Ellisandra flattered or cajoled the elemental into taking them further. On the evening of the second day, the company approached the shore near the Priest Barrens, when Aerod placed the ship back into the water and said, “This is as far as I will take you little one, and no amount of flattery will convince me to go further this time. I bid you farewell, and I now go to find those who imprisoned me within the ring.”
Without further conversation, the elemental popped out of existence, leaving the ship on the now calm sea. The crew began to unfurl the sails, and Maelstrom assisted in filling them with wind once they opened. The ship picked up speed as they sailed in to the Priest Barrens. “Let’s hope that our luck holds out,” said Prospero as he watched the coast grow steadily closer.