While the party is trying to catch a few moments rest, Gronk inquires of Corky whether there is anything he knows of that may disrupt the operation of the Bubblesneezer Cannon. After some thought, he produces some research and a demonstration about how a large volume of star metal can disrupt the Tablenhelm liquid metal for short periods of time. This should render the cannons non-functional and should return them to operation within minutes. The volume of star metal required for a device that could disable the High Guard battery is massive by any standard.
At the appointed time, the party proceeds to the wharf where they meet up with Sir Robert and his men – composed half of old men in their fifties and sixties, and half of boys who could be their teenage sons. After a short bit of planning, they row out into the bay on several launches. On their way out to the Stiletto, the necklace Vladimir received from the beggar woman in the marketplace becomes freezing cold and shatters, and time seems to stand still. He is visited by the same woman, dressed now in nobles garb, who walks beside him on the water. She tells him that he has been touched deeply, and that “She” will be able to sense him wherever he goes. She raises a hand in parting, revealing a delicate ring with a blue gem on her finger.
Upon arriving at the Stiletto, Moriel uses a lasso to yank a sailor off the rail of the ship, allowing the rest of the party to achieve the deck before the Peacekeepers notice. A pitched battle between the platoon of Peacekeepers and the party ensues. After several grievous wounds, the party emerges victorious, and Sir Robert’s men climb the deck and begin to set the ship to sail. It is quickly found that all of the supplies brought by Sir Robert and those on the ship itself have spoiled (a result of a failed spell by Banagher during the fight).
The crew of the Decimator, the largest warship in the Penshin Navy, notice the disturbance and set sail to intercept the Stiletto, signaling her to heave to and prepare to be boarded. Sir Robert sets the Stiletto on an attack course, a patently suicidal maneuver weighing the Stiletto’s eight captured guns versus the Decimator’s twenty. At the last minute, Sir Robert flings open his robes, revealing his mithril plate armor bearing the Seal of the Emperor and the Seal of the Order of Leopold upon its breast, he casts a spell and launches himself into the air, then casts a series of fireballs down upon the deck of the Decimator, exploiting a weakness in the design of its powder magazine and causing the entire vessel to detonate, leaving nothing but splinters and a burning keel.
The Stiletto lines up for its shot against the flotilla of troop transports, and Vladimir takes aim and fires the twenty rounds from the model gun in just a matter of seconds. The thought of batteries of full-sized automatic cannons seems to horrify the watching crew, none more than Corky, who flies into a rage and begins beating on Vernon and screaming. He takes Vernon and wraps his bindings around the model gun, pulls the spite pin, and launches the whole incredibly heavy mass over the rail of the ship, taking Vernon to the bottom of the bay with it. During the exchange, the warping sensation of the Tablenhelm WayGate is felt by all.
The shells detonate as expected and shower burning naphtha down on part of the flotilla. Sir Robert adds a few extra shots from the Stiletto’s guns in passing, but it becomes clear that, at most, only a few dozen of the two hundred troop transports will be destroyed by the attack. Banagher seems to become awash with power, being overwhelmed by the rush from the WayGate’s opening, and manages to rain down a shower of fire over the flotilla, setting the whole thing aflame.
The chapter ends with the Stiletto sailing off into the night, lit by the raging bonfire behind, and Sir Robert and his crew singing the Imperial anthem.
Somehow they got to the meeting place without being noticed, with both Corky, the gnome and the girl they had rescued. It all seemed too easy. Had it not been for Gronk clearly knowing and trusting this man, she would have assumed it was a trap. But the human was waiting for them, with his people, and three large rowboats, clearly intended to take them out to the ship they were stealing.
Though few of the group seemed to have any experience at all with boats, they got out to the stiletto without capsizing, and more impressive, without anyone hearing them. As they approached, Moriel noticed someone, a sailor it seemed, standing close to the rail, at the spot where they had planned to board the ship.
A whispered discussion started on how to take him out, and someone suggested dragging him down with a grappling hook. She told them to wait, then pulled out her lasso, hoping that she looked more confident than she felt. Not that she did not know how to use it, but she had never had to do it from a boat, one that was moving whenever she did. No good letting them see her uncertainty, though.
Taking a deep breath, she handed one end of the rope to Gronk, who nodded. She was going to assume that he knew what to do. Then she threw, and, holding her breath, watched as the loop landed exactly where she wanted it, around the sailor’s neck. She and Gronk yanked, and the sailor plummeted down into the ocean.
As the poor sailor surfaced, Gronk was waiting for him with his flail, sending him back under permanently. For a brief instance, she felt sorry for him. He had been a sailor, not a soldier. But he was also working for the Kisharans, the ones who had invaded these lands, who had all but annihilated the halfling population in the south. So, even if he was not a soldier, he was still a part of the enemy. A pawn, and a small one, most likely, but still an enemy.
Noone seemed to have missed the sailor yet, so they readied their grappling hooks, preparing to board the ship. Moriel threw hers, feeling it catch, giving it a yank to make sure it held, then grabbed another grappling hook from one of the humans, handing him her own rope, before she tossed the second hook. That too caught, and then she was on her way up, trying hard not to think about what she was doing.
All of them, save one, reached the railing without being noticed. The last human seemed to be stuck down in the rowboat, trying to get up. Not that they would have time to wait for him. And then someone, she thought it was Banagher, stumbled and cried out. There was no way the men onboard could _not_ have heard that. They all turned, and chaos broke out.
There were two sailors left on the ship, who both rushed towards the signal lamps, while the Peacekeepers moved towards them. Moriel concentrated on the sailors, hoping the others could take care of the Peacekeepers. People would hear the sounds of battle soon enough, but sound carried oddly across water, and the lack of signal lamps might buy them more time, if people had trouble locating the source of the sound. Also, less light meant that they would not make quite as good targets for anyone within range.
The fight was not long, though it felt like an eternity. When it was over, several of the others were badly hurt, including Poppy, but they had all survived, at least, unlike their enemies. For now. They still had a fleet to destroy, not to mention getting back to the north. But they had Corky. There would be no new cannons. No more new inventions to tear the northern armies apart. The Kisharans still had their magic, but things were looking better.
The other team, the sailors who had boarded with them, seeing that the enemies on the deck had been dealt with, quickly took control over the ship. They clearly knew their job, and soon they were on their way.
Moriel hoped that their leader also knew what he was doing. He seemed confident enough, but another ship, the big one, was heading towards them, clearly preparing to attack. The human was talking casually, saying something about a powder magazine and an elevator, not that she really caught much of it. She did suspect that Gronk’s friend had something planned, though. He seemed far too calm not to. Probably something flashy, something meant to impress.
She was not mistaken. Suddenly he threw back his cloak, revealing a shining plate armour of … mithril? He sprang into the air and started flinging balls of fire towards the approaching warship. Moriel stared for a moment, before realising what she was doing. Hoping noone had noticed, she did her best to look unimpressed.
The great ship exploded.
When the black cloud of smoke settled a little, all that remained of the recently proud man-o-war was a rain of wooden splinters and a burning length of wood that had nothing in common with a ship.
They were drawing closer to the fleet now, and one of the humans set up the small cannon, firing towards the fleet. The cannon was far less noisy than she had expected; barely more than a popping sound. In just a few seconds, it fired twenty or so shots, and above the fleet, the tiny cannonballs exploded, raining fire down on the ships.
Corky let out a scream and grabbed the gnome. Before anyone could react, he grabbed the rope they had bound the gnome with, tying the other end to the cannon. Yanking the small pin he had shown them earlier from the cannon, rendering it useless, he then pushed it overboard. It plunged into the sea, dragging the gnome with it. Obviously, the poor halfling had finally realised at least part of what the gnome had tricked him into doing.
She looked towards the fleet. Though it was clear that they had done some damage, they had probably not damaged more than a tenth of the ships. Though impressive, it was not, by far, enough to stop the coming invasion. And a truly horrifying thought was what cannons, like the one they had used, but in full size could do, loaded with naphta and used against armies of men, rather than ships.
Moriel went over to Corky, trying to figure out what to say. She was never good at this stuff, but she felt she had to say _something_. Before she could think of anything, she noticed Banagher mumbling to himself. Or perhaps to his goddess, though the tiny pieces of … conversation? she could hear sounded more as if he was either discussing with himself, or someone else was talking through him. Suddenly his back arched, and a black cloud started gathering above the fleet.
A memory came to her then, a flash of a conversation, if any of her little talks with Banagher could be considered conversations; they mostly consisted of her asking a question, and him answer with as few words as possible. But this one came back to her now. Her asking him if his goddess could destroy the fleet, and him answering yes. She had half expected he might have been bluffing, or at least exaggerating. It seemed he had not. She could hardly breathe as she stared across the sea towards the fleet. The cloud hung over the fleet, and the fleet only. Whatever was about to happen, it seemed the city would be left alone at least. And then fire started raining down on the ships. She thought she could hear screaming. The rain itself was quiet, though, eerily so. A silent, lethal rain of fire.
Banagher’s back was arched, head thrown back, caught in the spell. Instinct, or perhaps something else, made her step over to him, taking care not to touch him. Just in case. When the spell let go, he would fall. That, she was certain of. She was not entirely sure why it mattered, but he, or his goddess, had just done what the rest of them had not been able to do. The least she could do in return, was to catch him when he fell.
Suddenly he went limp and collapsed straight into her arms. By then, the entire fleet was aflame. She lowered him gently to the deck, then straightened to look back at the burning ships.
A thought had been nagging her for a while, but only now did it start to take proper form. Noone had ever told her the details of the pact with Tahlâ€™Mearis. Only that the elves were not to interfere with Kishara’s invasion, and in return would be let alone in their forests. There had been other elves in the north, other elves who had joined the northern armies. Only a few, though. But how many, she wondered, would it take for the Kisharans to consider the pact broken?
She did not think that she, one single elf, would be sufficient. But the ones hunting them knew, of that she was fairly certain, that one of the group was an elf. And as she stared at the disappearing, burning, ruined fleet, she could not help but wonder how much it _would_ take for the Kisharans to decide that the elves were involved, and whether this would be enough for the Kisharans to attack them.
And as the Kisharan fleet shrank to nothing more than an orange glow, the crew started singing.
â€œSo the ocean doesnâ€™t smell like crapâ€ says the Halfling perched in a crowâ€™s nest.
The seagull, having recognized the same Halfling that stole the cinnamon sticky bun from the market the other day, figured heâ€™d perch upon the opposite mast to see what new antics the bugger was up to. Of all places to run into the little bugger! The ocean was the last place! Sheâ€™s gutsy and gets around but still really dumb. She probably canâ€™t even swim! The gull watches atop the tallest mast as the Halfling swings her feet from the side of the crowâ€™s nest, talking to the wind.
â€œThe ocean smells like salted fishâ€ she concludes.
The Halfling sighs.
â€œI almost died today. It was my second time almost dying. Something always happens to stop it. I have angels with me. A fire angel saved me last time and this time it was a water angel. Maybe it was my Ma or my Pa who sent them? Maybe I have a life for every person taken from me in the village? Or maybe it was the ashes? Iâ€™ve eaten many ashes, which means I have many lives. This makes me immortal. Itâ€™s been proven twice. I wonder how many more times I have? Maybe itâ€™s forever? What will I do if itâ€™s forever?â€
The Halfling looks to be giddy and close to falling off the edge of the crowâ€™s nest. Probably too much ale, thinks the seagull. Itâ€™s been said that the little buggers like to drink and eat a lot. The gull watches on to see if she falls.
â€œAlive forever! The world would be blessed!â€ she stands tall and dances a jig along the edge of the crowâ€™s nest, whooping and hollering as she goes.
The sailors look up and shake their heads; all thinking the poor Halflingâ€™s fighting the madness.
The seagull gets a little nervous and takes to the sky.
The Halfling catches a seagull out of the corner of her eye, and stops the jig to watch it fly. It hovers close to the boat, tips a wing towards her, squawks and flies away.
The Halfling shrugs, makes mention of some â€œcaptaining duties,â€ slides down the pole, and skitters away to the lower decks.