Jul 06, 2022 8:36 PM
An unsuspecting box finds itself in the Serpent Isles
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She grabs a ring, thick silver with an oval green-blue gem, and plops it on the table.

(The level of chatter is now noticeably diminished, and while the people immediately around them are at least trying to gamely pretend they're not paying attention, a few patrons a bit farther away are actively craning their necks to get a better view.)

(A more critical eye will notice a pattern, though: the veterans don't care. The scarred ones, the ones whose eyes have the shadows that haunt the weary, those are not paying attention. It's the green lads and lasses who have yet to be tested by the sea who seem most interested, who find the conversation a spectacle.)

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Avedra holds her hand above the ring, and her eyes and amulet brighten.

The gem in the ring clouds with darkness, turning a deep black.

“Done,” she says, when it has turned completely black. “The gem will glow purple when it’s eating something. As it gets full, it’ll keep the color even when it’s not. When it’s about to break, it’ll be as bright as,” she motions to her trinket, “and when it breaks it’ll return to as it was.”

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The woman grabs one of her pistols, switches a bullet out for another bullet she grabs from a pouch attached to her waist, and shoots at the ring. The whole motion lasts less than two seconds, and the bullet is reduced to a pathetic flattened disc, while the ring is none the worse for wear - except for how it's just absorbed an amount of magic.

"Colour me impressed. What's your name, girl?"

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"Avedra."

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"I'm Sarah Fortune," she says, with the smirk of someone who knows that everyone knows who she is, "and you have a deal. You say your little bijou can do the same, but permanent?" She shakes her head. "All those years, all those fools talkin' 'bout how it'll help them get fame 'n fortune in the isles, when they could be actually usin' it. What's the price for a permanent one like yours? That is, if it ain't stuck to your person, with a name like that."

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"We're quite inseparable, I'm afraid. And yes, being horribly wasted and misused is one of my major complaints of its treatment so far."

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"Well, I'll take the shitty knockoff version, then, and give you the map you want."

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"Pleasure doing business with you!"

She holds a hand above the ring again, and its gem darkens, just a little. A deal's a deal, after all.

And then she produces the tidal map and they can get to talking navigation, and how an idiot can navigate their way right to the eye of the proverbial storm. Avedra is inexperienced, but certainly not stupid, and she's got a decent handle on the calculations necessary for proper navigation. She just absolutely wants to make this idiot proof with the help of an actual professional. Even not being one, she knows where her strengths lie, and it's not with sailing.

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Well, Sarah Fortune is a professional, alright. Once it becomes clear that what Avedra wants is to... throw herself into the currents... and end up there, there's actually a fairly reliable way to do it. A specific chain of currents that every seasoned veteran of the Serpent Isles knows about, because they know that if they get caught unawares there they'll inevitably end up within reach of the Shadow Isles and then the Black Mist will absolutely turn them all into zombies.

"But that's what you want, ain't it, sweetheart? To get all the way there. Say, why don't you indulge this pirate's curiosity and tell me your story? I'll trade ya one of mine."

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"It's exactly what I want, thank you. And... yes, all right. Though only the short version, I'd prefer to keep the private details private."

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She leans back and fidgets with the amulet around her neck, looking thoughtful. "I was sick, and this amulet was made to save my life. Long story short, it worked. Eventually, anyway; death's a bitch and I can't say I recommend it. And then I needed quite a while to... settle in, I suppose, and absorb the power necessary to wake back up."

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"And then of course once I was properly situated I threw myself overboard from the brainless idiot that had been wasting me, and here I am!"

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"...and why do you want to get to the Shadow Isles of all places?" she asks, looking rather bewildered. "The Ruined King rules there, even if you can survive the Black Mist - an' mind you, not convinced you can, yet - his armies will get ya just the same."

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"Mm. They hadn't always been like this. I'd studied there when they were still known as the Blessed Isles, and were a gorgeous center of knowledge and civilization and whatnot. So it stands to reason that there is no reason they should stay like this, either. I might be the only person in the world that can go and check. So I shall." Pause. "And I really have been stuck in the Black Mist before, for decades, around the neck of an undead pirate that was quite insistent on keeping me, it's where I got the majority of the power I needed to begin waking up. Plus, you know. Obligate manavore. Center of evil magic. Kind of an obvious thing to attempt to eat."

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Miss Fortune whistles a long, low whistle. "You been around a while, huh? Well, give the King my regards, if possible through his skull. Although he probably ain't gonna stay down, they never do, magic eating or no."

    "Wait, hold on," one of the pirates nearby who gave up all pretense of not eavesdropping puts in, turning his chair around. "So did ye know 'im? Or did ye know about 'im? Before everythin'?"

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"Probably not, but I'll see what I can do," she agrees, amused. Then she looks at the nearby pirate. "No, he was after my time, and the whole debacle happened before I started waking up at all. I've no idea of the circumstances leading up to the ruination or the immediate aftermath. I could give you a history lesson of what the place used to be like, but there wouldn't be much point."

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    "'E killed 'is missus, see?" the pirate says enthusiastically, while Miss Fortune rolls her eyes. "And 'is missus were a spirit, so them spirits got all screwy-like, an' set a curse on the isles."

        "Bullshit," says another pirate, since now this is a crowd event. "It's his wife went killed 'im, and his dyin' scream was the Black Mist -"

    "Well what do ye know?" says first pirate, looking affronted.

            "Well I know he was sideways, if ye catch my drift," says a third pirate, elbowing her mates and guffawing, "an' he was cheatin' on his lady with a boy."

"No one knows what happened," says Miss Fortune, who has been rolling her eyes so hard it's a wonder they haven't rolled right off her face. "And people like stories."

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Avedra snorts. "Yes, I can tell." She returns her map (now with little notes written on it) to her box, and closes it back up. Then, deciding that she's heard enough pirate gossip for the day, picks up her box and stands to go. "I'll ask for that story another time, I think, we've too many listeners for any interesting ones."

Then she pauses.

"Oh, and do be careful with the protection charm. It will absorb all it can, but if there's more magic than it can swallow, the leftovers can still do harm. This being why my trinket can't protect wearers from the Black Mist entirely."

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"I'll keep it in mind, sweetheart," says Miss Fortune as the sounds of heated drunken arguments start to pick up while people discuss (read: shout) their pet theories about what the fuck happened in the Shadow Isles and with the Ruined King.

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She gives a friendly little wave and departs.

There's a deadly cursed set of islands she's got to get to, and now she's got a much better idea of how to do it. She's curious about what's going on there, too.

Once she's found the perfect spot to embark from, she returns her amulet to its place in her box, shuts it, and fastens the latch securely. Then with more cheer than strictly necessary, she tosses it out to sea. Her body fades away before it hits the waves, and she's off.

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It doesn't take long; the box is light and the currents are strong. Within a few hours, she's hitting the shore again.

This time she's definitely where she wanted to be. She can feel the recognisable cloying taste of the Black Mist around her, and despite it being early afternoon the skies are dark and stormy.

The beach isn't sandy and pretty. It's rocky and bleak and cold, with the biting wind not made any better by the perennial wetness of the more mundane kind of mist that also seems to be everywhere. The ruins of a port city she might recognise surround her, with glowing green-blue wisps of magic keeping debris and even entire ruined buildings afloat here and there. There's enough light from the Mist that it should probably have been named the Green-Blue Mist, not the Black Mist, and it is enough to see by even with the sun entirely hidden.

And of course, here and there, the dead.

There's not an army, nor even groups, for the shambling corpses will turn on each other when lacking other prey. People, their bodies not entirely rotted away as the Mist reanimates them too quickly for the rot to properly settle, but dead nonetheless. Not doing anything, really, just standing around, looking agonised, occasionally staring at bits of architecture and having fits of despair that express themselves as loud keening wailing that can be heard for miles. It happens enough that the background noises are entirely dominated by those wails, most of them from unseen sources in the distance partaking in their own brand of suffering.

But the sight isn't as ghastly as that of wights, ghostly creatures that used to be spirits of all sorts, distorted by the Mist into mockeries of their former selves. Their forms shift chaotically, at times expressing memories of death and horror played on repeat before recoalescing into individual shapes. They make no sounds, but their pain is felt nonetheless.

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The sight is heartbreaking, especially knowing what this place once was. And these poor souls, suffering so. She’d remembered a little, from her time asleep with the undead pirate, but not with much clarity. It’s worse than she’d thought it’d be, and she definitely didn’t think it’d be nice.

Her box washes ashore, and she opens it and manifests to see if any of the denizens will come try to kill her or something.

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None are close enough by to immediately take notice of her.

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Good! Then she’ll tuck her box away somewhere it won’t get lost or washed away or anything. The tidal map and compass can stay with it. Best if she just just keeps to the essentials, so she can easily flee if the locals change their minds about attempting to murder her.

The capital is further inland, though, if she’s even on the right island. Which, she might not be. She’s not sure yet. It’s been such a long time, and everything’s so different. But inland she’ll go, skirting around the restless dead as she can.

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Beyond the port city she's walking through are the ruins of the highroad that leads further inland and eventually to the capital. It's... probably not a great idea for her to follow along it, if she's trying to avoid the locals, as even though they don't tend to be in groups per se they do still cluster around any remnants of civilisation. Conversely, steering too far away means that she's walking mostly blind.

She does eventually run afoul of one of the dead, though, while creeping past some buildings in another small town. His skin is greyish-green and he looks emaciated and sickly, but the only giveaway of his death is the way he's got an exposed fracture on his femur.

He doesn't attack her when he sees her, though. Just stares.

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