The Pious Voyage

((The Inner Sea, Off The Coast of Verden/Dalen))

The voyage had gone smoothly enough after the assassin fled. What guards were injured were easily healed and returned to duty. Negligence was not tolerated and Jeke had not seen The Mother in a few days since her guard doubled. If it was not for her personal paladin, the Weapons Master would have thought she had somehow left the ship. Even so, there was only so much one could do on a voyage.

"Wow…" Jeke heard slightly behind him as he sat upon the railing, pipe trailing smoke. He turned as he raised it to his lips, a puff of halfling leaf going in to be blown out slowly through his nostrils as he beheld Joseph. "What a sight…"

"Not many things can compare to the sight of the ocean," Jeke responded. He offered his pipe of mulling herbs to Joseph as he continued. "Carefully puff that, it is rather strong. The seas are beautiful but any sailor knows that beauty belies malevolence."

"Just like most lands," Joseph responded, puffing carefully upon the pipe. "Beautiful from afar until you see the -- blah!" Jeke glanced back as the coughing ensued. "What-- cough!-- is that?"

The Weapons Master chuckled as he took the pipe back. "Hobbit leaf. Most humans call it 'pipe weed.'"

"Oof," spoke the cursed one as he coughed a bit more. "Doesn't that… uh."

Jeke chuckled as he saw the mulling effect. "Make you feel like that? Yes. It also has the added effect of making one hungry while dulling most pains. Trust me, I suffer plenty."

"Been meaning to ask, Jeke. What happened to you?" Joseph went, rubbing his eyes and giving a small cough. "When the storms began a few days ago. I saw you clutch your chest and you were winded for most of the day."

Kerron was silent for a moment, tapping ashes into the foamed water. He pulled out his pouch, frowning at the half of the pouch he had before packing the long stem pipe. Raising a finger to the end, he curled back his thumb even as his index finger touched the leaves. Flicking the thumb out, a small flame no bigger than a match flared into existence. Puffing to get the pipe started, he extinguished the flame.

"I don't mean to pry, just curious," Joseph said when he did not immediately respond.

"Tis an old wound," Jeke finally replied. "About twenty years ago, I travelled with my master to Haven to investigate rumors of a necromancer. At first, we thought he had no place to go when we finally caught up to him. But he proved to be a bit more cunning than we gave him credit for. His name was Isgil, The Wrathful. And it was not just necromancy he was looking into, it was numerous manners of Dark Arts."

He parted his shirt, showing the twisting scar that ended in a puckered stab wound upon his chest. It looked to have improperly healed but was healed nevertheless. Even looking at it, Jeke felt a twinge of pain. "He struck me with a morgul blade. Thank the gods it missed my heart. It was his last laugh. Since then, every year of the day, it is as if he had stabbed me afresh. When that storm happened, it seemed as if the Weave of Aeran had pulled every strand of magic taunt. It felt like that day, so long ago."

Jeke puffed upon the pipe, letting loose a large cloud that was swiftly carried away. "The Weave of Aeran?" Joseph asked after a moment.

"This concept mages have. I don't fully understand all the concepts but I think it was essentially the world's power. Sort of like, I dunno, life force? Anywho, all things living, material, and in between are connected to this grand energy web. Magic is…" Jeke thought for a second, trying to find the words. "Magic is like pulling strands of that Weave."

"Huh. Did not figure you a mage."

"I am not. Merely a bit versed in magic," Jeke said with a smile and offer of the pipe. "Since we are into what was before, what about you? Where did you hail from before you got the Mark?"

Joseph looked over the sea, "I come beyond Varland, a place filled with ice and snow. Beyond the kingdom known as the Timber Crag Kingdom, a place ruled by winter's fist. If it has a name, my village had no idea what it was called." He gave a sigh, "We weren't well liked, however we were guarded by a powerful man from Zatar, he saw us as…" he trailed off for a moment, "As part of the natural wildlife of the land. He was a wicked man, I didn't care for his death.

"After his death, the Iron Queen arrived. That nightmare happened. I don’t know why, but I just wandered, and well you know the rest, Jeke." He sighed.

Kerron nodded, passing him the pipe. This time, Joseph did not take a large dose of the leaf and blew it without much of a cough. "I am well travelled but even I have not been that far north. Mayhaps one day, we can go back there." Jeke puffed on the pipe as Joseph shrugged.

The two sat there, enjoying the breeze and the sea. Ever so slowly, the coast appeared upon the horizon. The pipe was passed back and forth as they made small talk about the weather, days to come, and speculating on what kind of things were talked about at religious summits. Jeke remarked that much of the time, it was tithes and money that churches worried about. Joseph had a mind that they conspired ways to take the poor and turn them into crusaders. Even the Weapons Master had to pause at that, seeing a point but saying that such workings were only in times of war.

"There is always war," Joseph replied, now up on the deck with his back to the railing. He passed Jeke's pipe back and pulled his legs in to allow a sailor to pass. The old sea dog glanced at the two with a nostalgic look before continuing to check the main lines.

"True, true… but such things have not occured since The Great War. Not even The Five Year War between Aelmere and Sarnia saw such pressing as seen in Verden and some parts of Sarnia. And there lies no war now," Jeke said, attempting a smoke ring and failing as the sea breeze snatched it away.


"That is a local war. Sooner or later, it will become larger. When that day comes, I am certain there will be a more lenient response," Jeke finished, clearing the pipe and stowing it. He swung his feet back onto the deck. "War never changes. Merely the views of it. Better to be prepared for such an inevitable event." He looked at him. After a second, he said, "You are handy with that sword. How sharp do you keep yourself?"

"Where I come from, you are taught at youth to always be prepared. Great beasts, raiders, and even fellow villagers were a threat. I keep myself as sharp as the blade I weild. It is more so out of habit."

He tapped his foot for a moment, "Do you feel that cold breeze?" He looked out at the darkened sea, night approaching. He saw a faint green glow in the distance. "Hey Jeke."

"Yeah?" Jeke replied. It was then he noticed it too. He frowned slightly at what he saw, walking the width of the ship to rest his hands against the opposite railing. As the last rays of light began to disappear, the glow suddenly flashed brighter with the slipping of the sun beneath the horizon. The green wave swept across the land and sea, washing over the ship.

The ship itself was unharmed. It was Joseph and Jeke that suddenly found themselves feeling different. Joseph fell unconscious as the wave struck his mark, the burn glowing green and slightly healed from it, the magic having a more positive effect. Jeke, on the other hand, did not feel the same. As the wave touched him, once more his old wound flared into life. He too fell, alarmed and pained on the deck as sailors cried out alarm.

Jeke let loose a howl of pain from his chest as he thrashed upon the deck. He could feel the blade once more slicing into him, a faint laughter of memory echoing in his rushing ears. He screamed out as a fresh wave of pain lanced through him.

As quickly as the wave washed over the ship, it disappeared. With it went the pain, Jeke opening his eyes. Some of the sailors helped him up as others were looking out at the sea.

"Tis the green mark! The green mark!"

"By her Holiness! The green flash!"

Jeke came slowly to his knees, waiting for the throbbing that never came. He wiped sweat off of his brow, drenched in it. He saw Joseph starting to stir. At that point, he also saw Belmae come stomping out of the deck below. "What is the meaning of all this noise?"

"Here," he responded, waving her over.

Belmae walked over and crouched. “Explain why you are shouting, you are going to whip the crew into another panic.”

Joseph slowly got up onto his feet, "How the hells did you not feel or see that! Look!" He pointed at the bright green light moving away from them in a wave motion. "That thing just swept through here like a typhoon of magical power."

"It is true!" Said the old sea dog from before. "I saw it! Bright and true like the sea is wet, we saw the green flash!"

"It was a green flash," Jeke said, testing his chest. "It appeared just as the sun went down. Came sweeping up so fast, there was--"

"You's two were ta only ones fafected," the bosun went, speaking up at that moment.

Belmae looked where Joseph had pointed. “My kind are not as magically sensitive as humans are.” she said, “Add the divine protection to the ship, it would have felt like any wave against the ship to me.” she added, “What is that light?”

"That was the magical wave that just passed through."

“That doesn’t answer my question. You repeating things doesn’t answer questions. If I must simplify it. What caused it, what is it, where is it coming from or going?” Belmae asked more than frustrated.

Joseph looked back at the mainland, "There, the dark sky at sea shows us, it's like a green star on land." He pointed out at the small green light that could be seen. "What it was, I have no idea."

"Tis the green mark, milady," spoke the old sea dog. This made Jeke pause. "Once, every summer of the hottest seasons when the sun and the moon align, the pathway between Death and Life open. Tis supposed to be someone coming back from the dead."

Jeke looked around as Belmae stared at the sea dog. "I had thought it was just another sea tale. By the divine, I never thought it was real…" finished the man.

"It certainly did not feel good," Jeke went, fully straightening out. "Can't say the same for Joseph," he added.

"I feel fine!" Joseph said, a bit surprised at the fact.

"Well…" Jeke said, not sure what to make of that. "He feels fine."

"Call to helm! Ship ahead!" called out the lookout in the crow's nest. People's attention swung to the man, then to where his barely perceived arm was pointing. On the horizon, lights upon the sea glowed softly in warm tones. The outline of the ship was clear to see.

While not a seaman, Jeke recognized the profile of a brig. The ship must have detected them, the ship slowly turning port. It began tacking as Belmae and the navigator raised spy glasses. "Karavossian war brig, ma'am," the navigator said, "Note the elven design."

"Mm," grunted Belmae as she studied the ship. She lowered the instrument, gaze returned to the two. "Are you well now?" She huffed, slightly annoyed in her business voice.

"I believe so," Jeke said with a pat on his chest.

"Then you can stop screaming and get ready!" Belmae said with authority. She rounded to the door and stepped back below deck.

The Weapons Master glanced at Joseph before walking to the prow. His brow furrowed as he stared ahead at the approaching warship. It had began to tack the other way now, the swan head of the figurehead now easily identifiable of elven make. Joseph came closer as well and stared out, eyeing his Mark. "Strange. It didn't even hurt when that flash happened. It was like I took too much of your pipe, only more intense, ya know?"

Jeke tilted his head to glance at the Mark. He thought for a second, his face prompting Joseph to question his thoughts. He reached out and parted Joseph's shirt. The skeletal ouroboros was now more finely etched into the skin, the lines and details of each part of bone now resembling the master crafted work of a renowned body artist. The Weapons Master looked up to his eyes.

"It marks the return of the dead to the living. The green flash…" Jeke mused. Then his voice grew serious. "This… this is necromancy. Speak this to no one, lest you draw the sharpened attention of necromantic hunters."

"What?" Joseph went, shocked at the words.

"Only reason I can think of is why you weren't affected. If anything, you look better," remarked Kerron, aware that even his sleepless bags had disappeared from his eyes. He had the look of a fully restored warrior.

It wasn’t long before Belmea returned from below deck, The Mother beside her. Bemea was holding a large Tin and Brass lantern, with a shutter on the window. Holding it above her head she pulled a small lever causing the light inside to flicker a signal to the ship from across the water. After a short series of flashes, Belmea lowered the lantern and waited with bated breath for the return signal.

“I believe that is our assigned escort to Osilon,” Belmae said at the questioning glances.

A series of flashes answered back from the other ship.

"The captain is flashing back that he is honoured to be the official escort to the Mother, that he is a member of the church himself," Belmea explained. "He says there has been a security incident ashore, something about a warehouse... he wishes to discuss it with us."

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