Between the Lines: New Encounters

After spending a few days exploring Sylph’s Seat in the Sky, Welkin had grown bored twiddling his thumbs in his Manse and wanted something to do. He sought out Trevor and found him preparing to leave. “Where are you going? I’ve been itching to do something and staring down at passing scenery is starting to run its course.”

“I need to make some final preparations. If you’re so bored, go get used to manning the helm of your ship. Its repairs should be done by now,” he told Welkin as he opened a closet door.

“How am I supposed to do that without a crew? I can’t exactly set sail on my own. I…” *Slam* Welkin was cut off as Trevor walked through and slammed the door behind him. Welkin opened the door to find that Trevor had vanished. “How does he do that?” Without anything more to do there, Welkin made his way to the Zephyr.

The last time he had seen the Zephyr, it was in tatters. The gas bag was barely together, its rudders were destroyed, and the hull had more holes in it than Welkin could count. Now however the Zephyr was more than just repaired, it was completely overhauled. The gas bag was renewed and reinforced with steelsilk and the hull was adorned with a metal composite of orichalcum and red jade. Welkin stood there in awe and was lost for words before the magnificent vessel.

He boarded the ship and as he walked around he recalled visions of his time there. On deck he recalled the fierce battles and roaring celebrations of successful missions. In the cabin he remembered the arguments he got into with his friends and the nights of gambling around a lantern. In the helm he was taught how to maneuver the ship by the captain himself, when he had asked to be taught how he was surprised that Captain Harlock had agreed to it so readily. But now there was nothing, the ship was empty and he was starting to recall just over a week ago when the rest of the crew were slaughtered by the Wyld Hunt. Just a few days ago he had finished making graves and burying the bodies of his friends. Many of those graves, including the captain’s were empty, bodies either completely destroyed or lost to the sky. Somewhere in his heart Welkin hoped that they had somehow survived, but he knew better than to hold onto such foolish hope.

Alone in the helm he spoke to himself, “You look like the Zephyr, but it would be hard for me to keep using that name. You need a new one.” Memories of his last battle flashed through Welkin’s head again, “But I can’t let myself forget everything that happened here, the good, and the bad… Hmm, yes I think that’ll work.” Welkin placed his hand on the ship’s wheel, his anima banner flared and he announced in Old Realm, “From here forth as long as I am captain of this vessel, it will be known as the Crimson Gale!”

“Why I think that’s a lovely name,” exclaimed a lovely female voice from nowhere. “So you are to be my captain from now on?”

“Who are you? Where are you hiding?” Welkin asked the empty room around him.

The voice responded, “Isn’t it obvious, I am the spirit who watches over this ship. In other words, I am the Crimson Gale herself.” Appearing before Welkin was the beautiful figure of a woman cloaked in mist with long hair the color of the sky. “You may call me Edelweiss.”

“It’s uh, nice to meet you. I’m Welkin, but I’d wager an entire month of mopping the deck that you already knew that.”

“You are right about that Welkin, but now that you have awakened as a Lawgiver you should not call yourself just Welkin. You need a ‘nom de guerre,’ something majestic,” spoke Edelweiss staring out a window into the sky. “Just as you bequeathed a new name onto me, I shall bestow one to you as well. As long as you are my captain you shall be known as Welkin Who Walks the Azure Sky, Welkin the Azure.” Mystical energies enveloped Welkin as a bond was formed between the two of them. “Now start the Crimson Gale’s engines so that we may disembark.”

“How can we set sail without a crew, I can only do so much myself,” Welkin said as he gestured outside to the empty deck.

Reassuring Welkin, Edelweiss told him, “Do not worry, I should be able to help with that, just avoid any ship to ship conflicts. I doubt even I could keep the ship going in a combat alone.”

“Alright then, we’re launching. Let’s get this started!” Welkin shouted as the Crimson Gale’s engine began to turn and it lifted off the ground and sailed into the sky.

Welkin and Edelweiss exchanged idle chatter as they sailed the Haslanti sky. While they were crossing the White Sea, Welkin spotted a vessel flying Haslanti colors below them being pursued by a pair of pirate ships. Welkin couldn’t ignore this and made for the door, “I’m going down to help. Edelweiss keep her in the sky ’til I get back.”

“As you wish, I will create clouds around the ship to hide it. Do avoid getting lost on the trip back,” Edelweiss promptly responded.

Welkin grabbed a folding glider and leapt off of the Crimson Gale. He unfolded the glider in midair and strapped in, dashing like a gust towards the sea bound vessels. He quickly reached the first one which was already engaging with the Haslanti supply ship. He activated a charm and flared up his essence up to get the attention of the pirates. Welkin then threw out an essence grenade to clear a spot for him to land and jumped into the fray. His first objective was to stop the pirates trying to board his kinsman’s ship and then sink this one before the second ship could arrive. Luckily his essence grenades would do both easily.

It didn’t take long to clear the ship of pirates and the Haslanti sailors around him released sighs of relief. “Who… who are you?” asked one of the sailors, confused at the presence of a solar exalt.

“I’m an ally of the League, that’s all I can say,” answered Welkin. “I’m going to check below deck, you need to get going before the other ship arrives.”

“No, I’ll go with you. Kinsman don’t abandon each other, we’ll punish these pirates for thinking they could mess with the League!” said the overzealous sailor.

Welkin and a few sailors proceeded into the cabin, but found it mostly empty. It seems the pirate crew had assembled on deck for the raid. Before leaving, Welkin heard something coming from the corner of the storage room. He found a small simian creature in a cage, likely spoils from a recent raid waiting to be sold later. Welkin broke the cage’s lock and the animal crawled out and started to climb on him.

“Why that’s a tree singer, incredibly rare and very valuable,” the sailor informed Welkin. “It seems he’s taken a liking to you, might be useful to keep him around.”

Welkin turned to him, “You might be right about that, I think I’ll call him Jack. More importantly is everyone prepared to deal with the second pirate ship?”

“I was just told that its turned around and now fleeing.”

“I’m going after it, get to port sailor,” Welkin told him. Welkin returned to his glider on the deck. He strapped in and used his Wind Jewel to lift himself off the ground and left. It was a little bit difficult, but he was able to find the Crimson Gale hiding in a cloud not too far away. He landed and was greeted by Edelweiss.

“Welcome back, how did it go?” asked Edelweiss.

“Pretty well, I even got a new member of the crew,” Welkin said relieving Jack the tree singer hanging from his back. “I’m going after the second ship, let’s proceed slowly.” Welkin grabbed the wheel and began following the fleeing pirate.

Welkin followed the pirate ship to a hidden sea cave where it dropped anchor. The sun had set and a new moon floated in the sky, a dark night was ahead for Welkin. He left the Crimson Gale and quietly landed outside the cave. He carefully moved inside the cave, but as he was not one suited for stealth he began fighting the first pirate who spotted him.

“I lost one of my ships and a lot of cargo today, so I’m not able to pay you with the usual method,” said a large man in a large hat deep inside the pirate cove.

“I see, so you’re finally using that method of payment,” smirked a charismatic man in a exquisite robe. “How much?”

“I’ll have to use the entire crew, there’s a lot I need this time,” the pirate answered reluctantly.

“That’s acceptable. Now as for your orde-” the merchant was interrupted by a henchman bursting through the door.

“Boss, there’s an intruder. We can’t handle him ourselves,” the henchman yelled. Almost drowned out by the explosions behind him.

“Fine, I’ll handle it. We’ll finish the deal when I get back,” the pirate told the smiling merchant as he turned for the door and grabbed a large ax.

Welkin didn’t get very far before he was spotted by one of the pirates and a large skirmish broke out between him and the pirates. His essence grenades kept the pirates from overwhelming him and he fought his way deep into the cave. He reached the end and found himself face to face with who appeared to be the leader of these pirates. He was very large, very angry, and immediately charged Welkin with his ax.

Their battle was fierce, but Welkin had a clear advantage and was able to dispatch the pirate captain. “Oh dear, this will not do. I don’t believe this has happened before,” said a smiling man in a robe emerging from the room before Welkin. “What to do, what to do?” said the same voice from behind him.

Welkin darted around, “Who are you? You certainly don’t seem like one of these pirates.”

“Right you are. I am Makarios, purveyor of dreams and wonders. And seeing as how you aren’t marked with my sigil, you certainly aren’t with these pirates either,” Marakios responded.

“You can call me Welkin. Welkin the Azure,” he cautiously muttered unsure how to respond to this mysterious merchant.

“I see, I see. A Solar, no wonder it turned out like this. Well, I’ve received my payment, but I have yet to provide any goods. My reputation as a merchant is at stake here, I suppose I’ll accept you as the customer who provided me with the eternal dreams of these men,” Makarios thought out loud.

“What are you talking about?” Welkin asked with great confusion.

“That dead captain over there promised me the dreams of him and his men and thus they were marked with my sigil. But now that they’re dead, they’ll dream eternally for me,” Makarios answered. And now that I’ve received my payment, I now must provide a product. Welkin, what do you dream of? What would you have me sell you?”

Welkin was taken a back, a demon was offering him anything he wanted. He took a minute to think this over this proposition, could he really accept a deal with a resident of Malfeas. Welkin desired power, but was this the right way to get it? He thought back to the night when he lost everything, and he had his answer. “Power, I want power. The power to accomplish my goals, both noble and ignoble.”

“Power, you say? Very well,” Makarios said as he began searching his robe. “Let’s see, what would suit you?” Makarios took another look to size up Welkin, “Heavy armor and a daiklave wouldn’t happen to be something you’d be interested in?”

“Not really, I don’t even know how to properly wield a sword and heavy armor can be dangerous when you’re several miles in the air,” Welkin declined.

“Hmm, I know.” Makarios pulled something that shined like gold out of his robe. “I was sold this by a rather corrupt officer from within the Wyld Hunt. These are a pair of hearthstone bracers and a breastplate collected from a slain solar.” Makarios presented to items to his customer.

Welkin thought about it once more, should he accept a deal from a demon? Even one this good?He thought about it, but the golden gleam of the orichalcum treasures before him was too much to ignore. “I’ll take it!”

“Then this transaction is complete,” Makarios announced, handing the items to Welkin. “I hope they serve you well.” With that said Makarios vanished in a colorful cloud of smoke.

With the pirates defeated, Welkin’s business was done here and he turned to leave. “I’ll have quite the story to tell Edelweiss when I get back,” Welkin said to himself.

“If you ever need anything else, the Equitable Trader is always willing to deal,” a disembodied voice whispered into Welkin’s ear.

Welkin turned to look, but no one was there, it just an empty room. This time it only happened to be a coincidence, but Welkin still made a deal with a demon even if he didn’t initiate it. Would he ever need something badly enough to reach out to such a being in the future? Welkin thought about this as he walked out of the cave and caught the sun just barely peaking over the horizon.

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