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15 Lage 4260: Yield or Die!

From inside the attacking ship, the cursing grows louder as the thorn-laden branches from Raspberry's spell lash at the pirates. There's the thunk of a sword hitting it, and one of the curses turns to a scream of pain.

A moment later, the guiding air spirits pulling the boat start to turn it. The ship rotates slowly, with the Jack's hooked tentacles stretching long as they remain attached to both ships.

Raspberry screams and charges at the Jack-o-hook, slashing at it with her oversized sword, and setting off a quick instant for good measure. Chop while the chopping's good, right? And before she gets tossed off after Wintermint.

The jack o' hooks screams in pain as Raspberry's three-hander tears through a mass of tentacles, blood splattering across the deck.

Raspberry hacks at the jack-o-hooks... "Gotta be a body in there somewhere..."
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15 Lage 4260: Jack Attack

At Wintermint's command, the ship tilts to slant towards the cloud, and starts to fall downwards but drifting in the opposite direction from the tilt. The pilot's trying to manuever so they fall past the cloud.

Raspberry goes to the edge and looks over, getting out her bow. No target this time either, though... "Hey, weren't there some magic ballista bolts that did something to the wind? Did that have to hit something to go off?"

Eddy jolts to attention, as if bitten by a tick. He emphatically gestures at Dzhani, waving both arms wildly beside his head. "I've just had a brainwave! The perfect way to script the Greft Queen's Lament at the end of Act Six. Tell them to wait before starting the fight. I've got to write this down."

Eddy dashes to the hatch, disappearing inside the ship.

"Eddy! Eddy..." Dzhani sighs, watching the Orren disappear. She moves amidships, "at least he'll be out of the way."
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10-15 Lage 4260: Arranging a Ransom, Springing the Ambush

Applemind writes out a note for his mount to bring back to his people. The primes can't read it -- Common doesn't include a written alphabet, so some monsters have their own versions that are quite unlike the alphabet of Ketheria. The greft's looks like a series of waving lines and curling spirals. The inkutta gives his master a big slurp, says, "Play nice!" to Raspberry, then takes the note and flies off for the distant ship.

A couple of hours later, the same inkutta returns, with a parley flag attached to his saddle. This time, the note he carries uses the Ketherian alphabet, albeit clumsily written.

The greft offer five hundred lozens for Applemind's safe return, if the Primes will give them leave to fetch the ransom. They don't have any amber on them, but are willing to arrange an exchange point for three days' time (or more, if necessary) if that's acceptable to the Primes.

Eddy says, "Well, that's three days worth of ambush preparation we can do. And they can do. Well worth the 500 lozen price of admission!"

Raspberry says, "We were already planning to do that preparation, in case of the Cyarr."

"Hmm, well that seems reasonable." Dzhani opines, "They'll know exactly where we're going to be with the Cyarr prince they want to kill, which they probably will know anyhow if we keep the Greft on board."

"Well, I hope they don't plan... to ambush us at the same time the Cyarr do," muses Luxlead.
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10 Lage 4260: The Lament of the Greft Queen

While Dzhani and the adventurers are trying to figure out what to do with the Greft, Lt. Arnafe and Bitterroot are eyeing the inkutta. "Can you put Pattern-Fetters on it?" Bitterroot asks.

"Are we even keeping it prisoner? What does it eat?" Arnafe asks.

The Greft's shell-head seems to smile, briefly. "What he can catch. Not know if your not-magic will work on him. He knows not ... " the prisoner struggles for words, and gestures instead, a round shape with his hands. "The ball magic. He is male. Only simple spell, help stop Corpador spell." The Greft speaks slowly, his voice rough and speech awkward from disuse.

Wintermint shrugs, still watching the sky for any returning inkutta. "Let it go, unless you want to keep it around to release the greft on."

Eddy says, "Good thought, that."

Raspberry says, "I kind of wanted to keep it... although not as much if it doesn't know the ball magic."

Eddy stares pointedly at the greft and the inkutta in turn, studying their mageria.

Raspberry wanders over near the inkutta, trying to judge how tame it is. If it bites her, that means 'not very'.
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10 Lage 4260: Greft War Party

    The Three Winds
    A wooden oval-shaped airship, with a single-story nine-room flat-bottomed hull. The top is a flat deck with a canopy covering one end. Googly eyes are painted all around it -- top, bottom, fore, aft, both sides. Two ballistae are set on moveable mounts on either side of the deck.

Most of the crew and adventurers are gathered on the flat top deck. The lieutenant and Bitterroot, the Herethroy guard from Verdant, are standing by a ballista. At Dzhani's command to the pilot, the ship abruptly cants to the starboard side and starts to fall preciptiously. "You want down, we got down," the pilot tells her. The sleeping elemental has been rousted and the three winds are all amassed on the port side of the ship, pushing it to starboard even as it lists in that direction.

Raspberry clings to the ballista for dear life! "Are you planning to ram them?!"

Wintermint knees down on a midhand, and snugs her crossbow to her shoulder. Tripod steady, when the 'cloud' clears the railing she snaps a shot at it.

The deck dips to about a twenty-degree angle and then stops dipping, so the rail will ensure that no one falls off, even those who don't have a good hand- or foot-hold.

With gravity almost meaningless to him, Luxlead seems to pay the change in the ship's orientation and direction little mind, simply raising his eye tendrils for a better look at the mysterious cloud. "So what do you suppose we've..." He stops when a bolt flies out at it. "Whoa."

"Okay, good, yip!" Dzhani barks as her command is obeyed promptly. She braces herself and brings up her bow.

As the ship stops listing, the lieutenant and guard try to push their ballista from port to starboard. Raspberry's ballista is on the correct side already, however.

Raspberry casts her 'mighty archer' spell, hoping that it'll work on the ballista, and tries to take a careful shot right at the center of the cloud, since she can't see any specific target.

The ballista shot goes exactly where Raspberry aimed it. Apart from the gust of wind the projectile carries with it, which stirs the cloud briefly, the cloud does not seem the worse for wear. There's no sound of impact, and a few moments later Dzhani sees the bolt falling from the other side.

Raspberry says, "Crap. Did I get the right cloud?"
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6-10 Lage 4260: Their Heads in the Clouds

The party doesn't meet Baron Verdant, though they do find out zie's a co-lover, but zir majordomo is more than willing to hire them on for the handover. They can tell the majordomo isn't too pleased with the whole plan. "Better you than me," she tells Dzhani. "If you ask me, we should've argued less for money and more for them coming to us to deliver it. 'Neutral space', my hindfeet. Anything that's not Prime territory may as well be theirs. Ah well, wasn't me as negotiated it and won't be me risking my shell ten miles away from solid branch. Good luck to you."

Dzhani decides not to mention those details to her family, who blesses the journey. "Who's going to start a fight way out in the middle of nowhere?"

Yemec is sorry to hear about their departure. "Maybe I'll go looking for that floating Temple on my own, fur-girl," he tells Dzhani. "I don't wanna outlast my welcome here any more than I already have. Can I get a letter of recommendation or something from waterboy to give 'em if I find 'em?"

"Sure Yemec, Eddy can whip something up." Dzhani agrees, her voice sounding a little distant as she keeps gazing off the branch. "You'll be okay finding them?""

Sebkha ohs, swipes a nearby napkin, and composes some prose extolling Yemec's talents and virtues and commending him to the Templars.

"Sure," The mewellicap answers Dzhani. He accepts the note without even looking at it, tucking it into a pouch on his harness. "Thanks, waterboy!"

Eddy says, "May the wind always be at your back, Yemec!"

Dzhani brightens up and waves enthusiastically, "Yes! Good fortune!"

Raspberry says, "Unless you start being a bandit again, then fly into a storm and die!"
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4 Lage 4260: A Prince's Ransom

It's been a week since the party returned to Treverre. Eddy's newest ballad, of the eloped orren lovers, is a great hit in town: many minstrels are performing it in taverns and on street corners, and often they'll hear Primes humming the melody line or singing the chorus as they go about their business.

The group has had time to shop and spend their latest riches -- whether by paying bills or acquiring new possessions of both practical and impractical nature. Dzhani's family insisted on her staying in town for several days, at least; she's hardly been outside the longhouse since she got back. But her mates do appreciate the lozens she's made by adventuring, and the family's agreed that she can take another assignment if she finds one she likes.

Their time out of town may have been too long for Dzhani's kin, but it hasn't been long enough for Baron Swordswort or those sympathetic to him to forget their exploits. Raspberry and Wintermint get a significant amount of unfriendly attention. No one's dared to attack the bugs, but Raspberry came upon Eddy being shadowed by several Primes at one point, who melted away upon her arrival. Luxlead, on the other tentacle, has hardly noticed the difference between this and how a Khtsoyis normally treated.

Luxlead did get word to Doomdrifter about the orren and mewellicap villages, "Hrmm. Mewellicaps would be ... good herders for birds," the retired pit fighter mused. "I'll give it a shot. Be nice to have company."

Eddy has been trying to find out where Hhresh Huu's main temple is currently so they can get Yemec packed off to it. Dzhani found a farmer willing to put up the mewellicap outside the city for a while, but she's sure that won't be a good permanent solution for him.

So it is that the party plans to meet up at the Fox in Flames again, where a Rassimel singer is giving a lively rendition of "The Orren and the Lake" while the tavern's eponymous fox is chasing a waterform otter up the staircase.
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22-23 Thory 4260: When You Don't Come Back from the Lake

The mewellicaps are gone for a few hours; in the sky above, the sunlamp is full of flame by the time they get back. They return laden with goods stowed in the pouches of harnesses, or in underslung slings that cross the torso diagonally from one wing-shoulder to the lower edge opposite. They're also marked by some minor fresh wounds: Joella, for example, is sporting a purpling bruise on one eye stalk, and blood trickles from a new gash on her wing. An obviously young mewellicap, perhaps half the size of the others, trails behind them, eyestalks all but twisting around each other as she tries to stare at all the adventurers at once.

At a gesture from Joella, the mewellicaps dump their burdens on the floor of the pavilion. About a third of the items from the list -- of those that were stolen, as opposed to broken or spent in the orrens' defense -- are among them. None of them look in good condition; the fish-drying rack is missing a half-dozen slats and one leg, the cloak is filthy and looks like it had been lining someone's nest, the hilt on the knife is missing its wrapping, and so forth. In addition to the looted items, there's a few pieces of jewelry, some redfeather baskets and awnings, two packets of a purple powder Luxlead recognizes as a hallucinogen, a small stoppered vial containing several doses of what (judging by the shape of the container and the color of the liquid) is most likely an aphrodiasiac that's outlawed in Prime society, a sealed bottle of aged brandy, a few other miscellaneous goods, and 112 lozens in amber and terch.

"That's what we've got to offer," Joella says. "Is it enough?"

Eddy poses for the benefit of the young mewellicap, the very portrait of a fearsome Prime adventurer. A fearsome, fluffsome angorra Prime adventurer, mind.

The 'capling makes a little strangled noise and scoots backwards to hide behind one of the adults.

Dzhani looks at the goods with the critical eye of someone prevented from doing the household shopping (she always overpays for too little). "Hmmm..." She is instantly distracted by the 'capling, "Oh hi! Oh you're very cute. Would you come out? I'm very nice."
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22 Thory 4260: Ransoming the Mewellicaps

When Luxlead talks to the prisoners about ransoming them back to their people, the ones who were surrendered seem about as accepting of the idea as one could expect. They don't know how much their people will pay for them, and obviously they'd rather they were simply freed, but they recognize that of their available plausible options, this is as good as it gets.

The two turncoats, on the other hand, are upset and resentful to be regarded as prisoners. "We were on your side! You don't need to hold us captive," one of them, Ooowell, says.

The other, Yemec, says, "You should set us free now. We'll go back to the settlement with you and can help you convince the others that paying the fine is the best solution. But make them pay, out of their possessions. Not the rest of us who wanted no part of their attack."

One of the captives mantles his wings at that. "I didn't hear you disavowing the raid before we set out!"

Yemec retorts, "Would you've listened if we had? You didn't listen to Joella or Isce!"

Raspberry grumbles, and says in a low voice to one of them, "Do you really want us to go there and tell them you're traitors? I mean, your friends here'll tell them, but you can come up with some story, and if we treat you the same as anyone else, it'll be more plausible. Plus if there's more of you to ransom back, they'll be less likely to go raiding again, won't they?"

Dzhani recognizes the challenge of conflicting loyalties instantly, and like any good Cani, jumps at the opportunity to become a part of it. "It's okay," she consoles, "I know sometimes you change your mind once you're in the middle of things, or you are talking without knowing what you're saying and you find out you've agreed to all sorts of implausible stuff. There's also the slight... slight possibility you had help changing your minds. Anyhow, that's all in the past, we're working towards a future."
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21 Thory 4260: I Remember Now

Meiniayne Outward is a little village, with a bit over twenty adults and a dozen or so kids. It's little more than twice the size of Dzhani's longhouse, and not a tenth as well organized. Most of them return when Clevercatch and the other local defenders go to fetch them, although a few must have hidden in unlikely places because they're not located initially.

They hold a village meeting to decide what to do about the mewellicap, both the prisoners and the ones who fled. It is loud, chaotic, and drives Dzhani to distraction (why doesn't SOMEONE have affan on this? Can't you choof? What's wrong with you people?)

There are five mewellicap prisoners, three who surrendered either before or after being killed/knocked out and revived, and two who switched sides mid-fight and who adamantly insist that they were on the Primes' side all along and never wanted to hurt them. The turncoats say that not all of the mewellicaps from their settlement approved of the attack. Interrogation of the other three corroborates that. The other prisoners are all bitter and angry at the two turncoats, and at any imagined or actual improved treatment the turncoats receive.

The mewellicaps have various reasons motivating the attack. Interrogation and talking to the villagers gives the general picture of people who resent their nonprime status and who resent the norren getting treated like primes even more. They figured if they're going to get treated like monsters they may as well act like monsters, and thought that having monsters attack the village would at least get the norren kicked out for causing trouble/ being dangerous nonprimes. They've not been the best neighbors even before this -- they like fighting and this isn't the first time they've attacked Meniayne Outward. They pillage the nice stuff that the villagers have (various minor practical enchanted items like stoves, washbasins, self-filling ewers, as well as ordinary goods like blankets, clothing and furniture. Much of which the mewellicaps can't even use, but this doesn't seem to deter them from coveting it. Last, they have a specific grudge against the Primes because the chromodon used to control the territory where the village is located, and the chromodon treated them better (they say) than the Orren do: the chromodon was friendlier and offered better trading terms. (The Orren villagers do sometimes trade goods with some of the mewellicaps, in fact.)

The villagers aren't sure what to do, either with their mewellicap prisoners, or about the mewellicap village, or about the norren.

Various suggestions on the prisoners emerge during the town meeting:
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