68 – The Flute Player

“We need the Valiant Hummingbird.” You whisper.   Digging through your pack, you find your emerald pattern spider.  “How far away is the Valiant Hummingbird from the Cobalt Atoll?”

When the spider returns with its answer, Wanahton swears.  “It will not be here until after dawn.”

“Can you water elemental send a message to the ship?  I can follow the barge by air and Sasha can track me down.”

“Follow the ship by yourself?”  Wanahton watches the Fair Folk guide the dancing children down the dock.  “No, I’ll send out a message and then we will follow by boat.   You keep an eye on things here.  I’ll be right back. “   He pauses before leaving.  “Don’t do anything stupid.”  Wanahton backtracks though the mangroves.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” you repeat.  Why does everyone keep treating you like a child?  Jupiter trusted you enough to put you in charge of this mission.   Why wasn’t that good enough for everyone else?

“Come on.  What’s taking so long?”  While the Fair Folk didn’t seem to be in a big hurry, the group was almost to the end of the dock.   If Wanahton didn’t come back soon, then the children would be kidnapped for nothing.

Though, did these children actually have to be kidnapped for you to figure out where the Fair Folk are going?  What if a brave hero managed to save the children from the flute playing fair folk?   You are pretty sure you can take one single Fair Folk.   Or at least distract the Fair Folk from its flute playing, breaking the spell controlling the children.   The Fair Folk would retreat and then you and Wanahton could still follow the barge as it was escaping.   This plan had the added bonus of giving Wanahton more time to talk to the Water Elemental.

You empty your pack of its artifacts and weapons and place a sleeping Mei Mei on the empty pack.  “I’ll be right back,” you say, patting the puppy on her head.   You tie your headband across your forehead and walk outside the strands of fate.   Jade sword drawn, you hurry up the dock towards the Fair Folk.  It was paused at the end of the dock, watching the children dance and play.   What was the Fair Folk waiting for?

Weaving your way around the dancing children, you reach the Fair Folk.   The starfish skittered and crawled all over the Fair Folk’s body, sometimes even crawling up its long moonlit hair.   Its armor was much more disturbing and hypnotizing up close.   You wait for a gap in the armor and stab the Fair Folk in the lower back.

The starfish armor instantly reacts to the attack.  The starfish flowed over your sword, trapping it before it could enter the fair folk’s body.   You pull back your hand before the starfish overtake it.   Still playing the flute, the Fair Folk, takes a step back and studies you.   Cocking his head, your sword drops from its armor and clatters to the deck.   A few starfish detach from the armor and drag your sword across the wooden planks and back to you.    Suspicious, you examine the sword carefully before picking it up.    Besides the off color blood, nothing about the sword has changed.

Eyes shining with a fierce joy, the Fair Folk’s music takes on a militant beat.   The children circle around and begin to clap in rhythm to the music.  Focusing on your opponent, you discover that the Fair Folk has a very thin strand of fate, as if it was a newborn.   You loop the delicate strand around your wrist before attacking.    Your attack slices though the star fish armor and leaves a bloody gash along the Fair Folk’s side.    Yet the Fair Folk still continues to play the flute and with a spinning kick tries to knock you off of your feet.   You jump out of the way and aim your sword for the flute but the Fair Folk leans back away from your sword.  Off balance, the Fair Folk tumbles to the ground.   You quickly approach to take advantage but the Fair Folk raises up spinning on its head and kicks you in the face.

You stunned, you step back and are flabbergasted to find that the Fair Folk is still playing the Flute.   It must take some skill to keep play during combat.  You brush the Fair Folks delicate thread and steal its ability to play.   Feinting an attack on the Fair Folk’s side, you instead cut a gash in its forehead.   The Flute flies out of the fair folk’s hands and slide across the deck into the water.  The children stop clapping and fall to the deck, dazed.

A gaping hole appears in the hull of the barge and seven more Fair Folk covered in Starfish armor step onto the dock.   An eighth, short eared Fair Folk exits the barge, his body covered with spiny sea urchins of deep purple.  “Rory!   Stop playing with the flame haired child and load up the children.  “

“A thousand pardons, my lord.   The flame haired child is an envoy sent by She of Whispering Bells.  I felt it was my duty to entertain the child until you arrived.  ”

She of Whispering Bells?   Who was that?  You look around and see that the children were rousing.   In the distance you can hear shouting.  The Fair Folk’s spell was broken!  All that stands between you and saving the children is nine Fair Folk warriors.

The Fair Folk Lord’s pearlescent eyes glance at your brow.  “How exciting!  I didn’t realize the Sovereign of Secrets had champions.   Load her up with the rest of the children. ”   Jupiter.  They are talking about Jupiter!   You feel your forehead and realize that your headband was knocked askew when the Fair Folk kicked you.  You quickly adjust it to cover your glittering caste mark.   Come on.  Wake up!

“I believe the child is male, my lord.”  Rory corrects.  You see Tri rousing and motion her to start helping the children get away.   Tri rubs her eyes and after taking in the situation, starts waking the other children.

“Does it matter?  Stop making excuses, Rory, and…  Now look at what you done.  They children are running away!”

“Go, go, go!”  You yell as you block the Fair Folk’s way.  The village children clumsy run down the dock back towards the approaching crowd of adults.

“Maiden’s titties, Svante!  What have you done?”  Wanahton yells over the commotion.

“Leave me alone!  I’m busy!”  You parry a high kick from one of the Fair Folk and dodge a punch from another.   You just needed to buy time to let the children escape.

“We should retreat, my lord.  We would have to kill the adults to recover the children and there will be no one to tell Our Lady’s Admiral what happened here.“

“Shh!  I’m thinking about how to get out of this mess you got us in, Rory.”

“Of course, my lord.  Take all the time you need.  It’s not like we have a mob of angry villagers coming our way.”

“Retreat!” the Fair Folk Lord shouts.   “We cannot recover the children without killing everyone.   Rory, Our Lady will hear about your failure here.”

Rory pales.  “Yes, my lord.”   The Fair Folk retreat into their barge, hole closing behind them.    The barge pulls quickly away from the Shogunate dock at shocking speed.  No wonder the Desert Fox was unable to keep up.  You are unsure if you can keep up even with your cloak.

“Svante.”  Wanahton reaches you.   “What happened?”  Mei Mei runs up to you, tail wagging.

“I couldn’t let the Fair Folk take the children.  I’ll tell you more later!”  You concentrate on your cloak and it transforms into a set of owl’s wings.   Your caste mark burns on your brow.  “Keep an eye on Mei Mei for me!”  You yell at Wanahton as you leap into the air.

Hours later, you wonder if the barge will ever stop moving.  Your shoulder and back are sore and your eyes burn from the speed you have to keep up to follow the barge.   As the sun rises, the barge can be seen in better detail.  It looks nothing like what a ship should be, but rather like a wrinkled raisin that absorbs all light that hits it.   The barge comes to a complete stop and you circle the barge to see what happens.

The barge lifts itself vertically and bobs in the water.  Then it starts to slowly spin in the water.   Suddenly, the barge splits itself open like a grotesque flower.  A trebuchet sits along the edge of each petal of the Float, though you do not know what it uses for projectiles.  Fully grown trees emerge from the mossy ground with gossamer cocoons attached.    As the sunlight hits the cocoons, they crack open, revealing a shocking number of fair folk.  There must be over a hundred of them!

In the distance you can see the spray of a whale.    As the whale surfaces, you notice that its front right flipper is scared white.   The whale dives again and a few hundred feet from the Fair Folk Float, you see a large eared desert fox paddling though the sea.   It leaps from the water to one of the petals of the float.   After shaking herself dry, the Desert Fox sneaks though the float.

What do you do?

  • Observe the Desert Fox and see what she does
  • Step outside of Fate and land on the Float
  • Introduce yourself to this “Lady”.  Being an Envoy of Jupiter must mean something.
  • Go look for the Valiant Hummingbird
  • Other

((I flipped a coin to break the tie. ))