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The Previous Night… Wrote:The port of Badon was unlike much of the Lycian Empire. As a place of business, no one really cared where one was from or one’s beliefs. Only two questions mattered: do you have the money? Are you worth the money? Anyone who couldn’t answer in the affirmative to either had no business in Badon. Because of its focus on trade and business (and the money it brings in), the Lycian Empire had been more lenient on the city than the rest of the country. Not even a church was present.
 
It made Father Terran squirm just to set foot into town. The sin was everywhere!
 
Moreso when he stepped foot into Davros Inn. It reeked of smoke, liquor, and the unholy activities between men and women. The holy man clenched his body tightly, as if afraid to touch anything. Yet the Church demanded his presence there. The task that needed to be done could not be done by a priest. They needed a devil.
 
Wratt waved the priest over to his booth. As Terran sat down upon the sticky seat, his face scrunched up in discomfort. Wratt laughed loudly at the priest’s predicament. They both knew Wratt could laugh because of his success in his last few jobs. Not many mercenaries would work for the empire. Fewer that wouldn’t demand a small fortune for a job. Even fewer that would do the job well. Wratt Cervant, for all his misdeeds, got the job done. And if he didn’t, well, he wasn’t someone the Church would miss much.
 
“What’s the matter? Afraid a little sin will rub on you? That you might like it?” Wratt smiled as he took a sip of his ale.
 
“Can we please just get on with this?”
 
“Alright, alright,” Wratt put his mug down. “What’s the job this time?”
 
“Are you familiar with the island of Valor?”
 
“Dread Isle? That’s that foggy island sailors get superstitious about.”
 
“Yes, well, we need you to go there and find something.”
 
“Of course you do,” Wratt replied, rubbing his beard. Not many would sail to Dread Isle. Only the stupid would step foot on it. Stories of disappearing fleets were still told to this day. Apparently, they didn’t just spook the locals.
 
“Legend speaks of a Dragon’s Gate. At the end of the Scouring, the last dragons used it to escape our world and enter another. There are…accounts…that they could return through the same way.”
 
“This isn’t some ‘get the thing’ mission. This is a ‘bring the explosives’ mission.”
 
“Precisely,” Terran nodded. “Make sure legend stays legend. Burn the ruins to the ground if you have to.”
 
“Sounds like a job for multiple people. Lots of explosives, supplies to get across the island, a ship to get us there.”
 
“The Empire will compensate you and your crew handsomely, as usual. We would need you to start immediately.”
 
“Well, hold your horses. First, I need a crew…”
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Morning came to Port Badon. The town was bustling with activity as soon as dawn broke. Streetside stalls were set up with trinkets, weapons, and other items. Of course, merchants in the back alleys were always looking for customers who required something less than legal.
 
Davros Inn remained a popular stop for traveling mercenaries looking to make some gold. Jobs were usually posted by posters nailed to the walls or by word of mouth. The bartender was spreading around a particularly interesting proposal: the Church of Preservation was seeking mercenaries to send to the infamous Dread Isle to destroy some sort of pagan temple known as the Dragon’s Gate. Interested parties were to head to the docks and ask for Wratt.
 
At the docks, ships were preparing to head out to harvest the sea’s bounty of fish and crustaceans. All but one ship: the Mermaid’s Desire. Her crew was newly employed of the Lycian Empire, much to the displeasure of said crew. They were even more displeased once they found out where they were headed. Sailors were giving dirty looks at the scruffy-looking mercenary known as Wratt.
 
“What are you lookin’ at?!” Wratt snarled as he went over to the captain of the crew. The mercenary took one last swig of a bottle of rum before tossing it into the sea.
 
“Look Cappy,” Wratt said. “Are we going to have problems with this crew, or do I need to get the Inquisitors to sort them out?”
 
“No no no!” the captain insisted, looking around to make sure no one was listening. “We’re fine! Everything’s fine!” He hurried back onto the boat, carrying a big crate of supplies needed for the upcoming mission.
 
“Hey carful! Those are explosive!”
 
For Wratt, things were not fine. Initial requests for hired help were not promising. Half of the inquiries backed out once they realized they were going to that Dread Isle. The other half requested more money, more than their skills would ever be worth. He went to chug more rum, only to remember that he tossed the bottle.
 
“Damn it all…”
"Where did I end up this time?" the cloaked man said as he examined the surroundings. He saw a sign out of the corner of his eyes. Welcome to Port Badon. The man looked up in the sky and moving his right hand around, index finger straight out, as if he was drawing something in the air. He turned away from the sign and looked back. "I was supposed to start heading east hours ago. Damn it. Well, guess heading back to Santaruz is a bust. It's what I get for staying a bit off the main road."

"Guess I'll hit up an inn," the man said as he entered the port. As he walked through, the smell of the air was distracting him. Unpleasant memories came to the forefront. Namely, his boat ride to the Western Isles with Corrin which led to his father's death. He snapped out of it, noticing his hand was on the handle of Dyrnwyn. He pried his hand away, unsure of what was going on in the back of his mind to do that. He saw a rather repulsive looking inn in front of him. Lennox looked at the name of the inn. Davros Inn. Lennox thought back to his father's map of 'exclusive'(banned) inns and taverns and this wasn't on that list. Either Maddox never set foot in it, never broke furniture over someone in it, or it hasn't been around for very long. "This might not be the best idea, but screw it."

He went up to the bar and took a seat. Within a few minutes, the bartender got to Lennox, took one look at him, and told him about an expedition to the Dread Isle; to the Dragon's Gate. To set it up with enough explosives to destroy it for good. Lennox took some time to think about it. Everything about this, except the destroying part, sounds like things Wolfram would be almost disastrously interested in, if not already involved in. The last thing Cass had Lennox do was work towards sabotaging Wolfram, so why not take part. The other kicker for Lennox was the opportunity to prove or disprove his ancestors assertion that Dyrnwyn was as strong as the Eight Legendary weapons. If this went belly up and they accidentally summon a dragon, which something called the Dragon's Gate must assuredly be used for, he can try to slay the dragon and become a legend, instead of a callous, numb monster as he believes he is. Or die.

"At least this will keep me preoccupied until I can find Carla or Illya." Lennox got back up to his feet. "Ask about a rat at the docks if I want in, right?" Before the bartender could correct him, Lennox made for the exit. What does a rat have to do with a mercenary job? Are we stowing away on a boat?
Holding close the heavy brown cloak she'd recently taken to to avoid pickpocketing hands sliding through its cut, Renata strode towards the docks to see what the men in the inn had been talking about. Mercenary work wasn't glamourous, but it was a step above being a glorified highwayman. For several weeks, Renata had lived her life on the roads between various places in Lycia, unable to stray into any highly-populated location for long for fear of arrest, and after the sum she'd received for her stolen valkyrie horse had run out she first resorted to the charity of gullible travelers who mistook her for a traveling nun of some sort before giving into the fact that it would be much more efficient to extort them outright. It was a depressing existence, living off of either pity or terror, depressing enough that Renata had decided to stake everything on a trip to Badon, where the law famously made exceptions for just about anything and anyone and a place where most of her old compatriots from the Church of the Preservation wouldn't dare stray. She thought of the tome stowed in her small pack, which hadn't been proving very worth carrying these days compared to her sword, but perhaps it could see some use against whatever cursèd abominations awaited her on Valor...

The Dread Isle. It needed no explanation on how it got its name, not even to Renata.  She'd inquired with the patrons of the bar to learn of the nature of this mission setting out for the isle soon; it had taken a mug of ale for her to ask loudly enough to be taken seriously. Renata had no strong feelings about iconoclasm, but she did have ample experience in a certain strain of it from her old life of going door to door to collect sacrilegious tomes of sorcery for mass burnings. The irony was not lost on her that this was her first opportunity to legitimately make some money, made especially ripe by the fact that no one Renata had met in this place had recognised her, not even those with ties to the clergy. The loss of her horse and her scarf, the most defining article of her appearance, had apparently worked wonders for her fledgling ability to skulk around unnoticed.
... "Make some money". My ambitions have certainly made some compromises... What began with a flowery dream of overthrowing the Church had given way to the will to survive, a feral force with which Renata had been almost entirely unfamiliar before she had murdered a clergyman on that fateful day months ago. Renata knew she couldn't let her past define her: she would keep her options open, and this mission was an opportunity to ingratiate herself to the Church, an organization that—

"Well? Whattaya want; knitting lessons?!" The impatient grunting of the mercenary in front of whom Renata was now standing jolted her back to the real world.
"I want to speak with Wratt," Renata replied with a no-nonsense flatness.
"Heh," Wratt replied with a sly smile. It had been quite some time since a young woman asked for him by name. His eyes gave her a once over. The first thing he noticed was her face. It was like she was trying to look tough, but her youth portrayed her expression as a pout. It reminded Wratt of a spoiled child from a noble family who wasn't getting her way. The rest of the woman was hidden behind a brown cloak, one that wore the road. He couldn't tell whether she was a merc or a rebellious rich kid who wanted to play the part. He couldn't see any battle scars, which suggested the latter. He wasn't hopeful about this latest prospect. Then again, he wasn't expecting a lot of fighting, so maybe she'd do just fine.

"Yeah, I'm Wratt. Who's asking?"
"She's askin', didnae y'see'r lips go?" a voice from belowdecks answered, unhelpfully. Its owner staggered up the steps from below.

Apollonia lifted a bottle of brandy in half-greeting, half-threat to the girl in the brown cloak. The resemblance was actually not too far off, if one were about fifty feet away and myopic. Their hair color was similar, and she found herself only about an inch or so taller than the... swordswoman? She had to squint slightly to get the weapon at her side to come into focus. Yes, the differences started at the eyes, and continued on down to the rest of her. She stood at a perpetual slant, her left hand gripping her bottle and now resting on the battered tome case attached to her belt. The other clung to a quarterstaff that seemed like the only thing keeping the Ilian from toppling over entirely. What had at one point been a lovely blue robe was now stained with travel and travel-adjacent things, and her hair, though tied back, looked as though it had been done by someone with only a passing familiarity with hair and how it functioned.

It was not yet midmorning, and the alleged sorceress was already well on her way to being truly day-drunk. 

"Cannae b'expected to lead 'nexpedition f'yer head can't wrap 'round a girly-girl 'n her ways 'n wiles," she continued sagely. Her thick accent, Ilian with more than a little Sacaen, mixed with the drink to create a truly formidable exercise in unintelligibility. She took a couple of deep swallows and wiped her mouth with the back of her arm. "Cap'n says y'r sparklers're 'bout secured, give'r take a couple chains'n wringable hands'n such," she addressed to Wratt.

The dark mage, for her part, had been found sprawled across a few crates of provisions when the crew were loading up. When asked, none too kindly, about what the hell she was doing using the Desire as her crash zone, she'd mumbled something about spooky islands and magic hands, hurled a fistful of silver coins to the sailors, and officially invited herself along for the ride under the job title of "'Fficial Liasoning Such'n'such Twixt the Folks What Run the Ropes and Us Blood'n'Guts Kids." In the 45 minutes or so since she'd blissfully ignored the ship captain's objections that he had not, and could not hire her himself, its duties seemed to involve butting in where a sauced witch wasn't called for. Such as right now.
Wratt was not going to pretend that he understood a word of what Apollonia said. She seemed to be a resident of the underside of the docks, judging from her messy hair and disheveled outfit. Then again, he dated uglier, so who was the mercenary to judge. Her choice of drink gave away her actual origins. Ilian brandy: the choice of drink for Ilian workers who wanted to forget they were in Ilia. She smelled like home to Wratt. He grabbed the bottle from Apollonia's hand, took a swig, and shoved the bottle back to her.

"OK, Tipsy," Wratt said to Apollonia, "sounds like you're already working for me. Share some of that liquor with the crew and maybe they'll grow balls, quit their whining, and actually do their damn job. Hell, might even bring you on Dread Isle if you sober up. Are you good at anything other than being snarky?"

Wratt kept his eye on the other blue head. It was at the mention of the Dread Isle where most inquiries either walked away or began making elaborate demands.
Renata took a moment to formulate a reply: she hadn't expected that the first person she'd approach would be the leader of the expedition himself. She'd expected someone hired by the Church to look a little more proper, but to her any hint of lower standards was welcome. "Quite," she murmured with a nod in bewildered reaction to the stream of noises that had come from Apollonia's mouth. Renata had understood less than half of the words. "I am a traveling mercenary," she said to Wratt as her eyes took a pass over the docked vessel. Her gaze rested on a couple of stevedores hauling supplies onto the ship, trying their best to pretend they were taking a circuitous route around the deck for any other reason than to avoid bumping into the borderline-drunk mage who seemed to have made herself quite at home on the ship already.

Again, Renata's attention returned to Wratt. "The Dread Isle? I've already offered my sword to such an expedition. Is the ship already preparing to set off?" It was almost a lie: although Renata had made clear her intent to join the mercenaries, she hadn't yet made any sort of contract... then again, she could scarcely imagine the crew of this ship caring all that much for such a formality. Whatever the case, she'd decided she would not be turned away from this opportunity.
Lennox roamed the docks, walking right past a woman talking to an old man. He didn't know who to ask, so he was looking for a group that looked like it was waiting for people to approach them. He noticed a small gang of guys, maybe seven total, and he approached them. They all shot him rather dirty looks, before looking amongst themselves. "I'm here looking for a rat. Have you seen one?" Lennox asked, only barely keeping track of what the barkeeper told him. The assembled group looked amongst themselves again while the one farthest from Lennox began inching away from the group.

"You some sort of enforcer? Hired muscle?" One of them asked, acting as the spokesman for the group.

"You can say that. I was told to ask around for a rat." The six of them talked amongst themselves trying to figure out what happened. "Well?" Before the spokesman could say anything, one of them began running away. "Oh, he's running." The group looked to Lennox, confused, before looking at their comrade scurrying away. Most of the group began running after the guy, but the spokesman stayed behind. "This has to do with the Dread Isle, right? Guess that scared him off."

"Uh. No. We've been looking for a rat in our group, and you just weeded him out." He said watching his men chasing the traitor. He looked back to Lennox, "Dread Isle? Oh. You're looking for Wratt! He's the relic over there, as tall as you are." He took out a bag of gold and tossed it to Lennox. "Here, take it. We're even, merc." He said before walking away, in the direction of the rest of the gang.

"Huh. Wratt? Rat? I should have paid a bit more attention. I kinda zoned out after Dread Isle." Lennox turned around and headed back towards the woman and the old man, noticing that his count was off and there was another woman there as well. "Are you Wratt? I'm here to offer my sword to your expedition to the Dread Isle."
"Tipsy" snatched her bottle back as he shoved it into her hands again, leveling what likely would have been a piercing glare if her eyes were at all focused; in practice it was more of a broad-spectrum wave of 'fuck you' offered to everyone present. She carefully avoided any talk of her actually being useful, and fixated on the far more galling instruction for her to share.

"Unb'lievable. Come here outta the goodness of my heart, an' ye tell me to give up m'one great love. Disrs... disser... The cheek!" she grumbled, carefully wiping the mouth of the bottle with her sleeve and swigging again. 

Even so, she began to sway her way over to a gaggle of the crew who seemed focused on beating the everloving tar out of some other man. There was another merc they'd just left behind, but she just squinted at him a little before addressing the group. 

"S'problem here, gentlemen?"

"Wha- Oh. It's you," an older man said. The exasperation almost wasn't painfully evident this time! "Nothing you need to worry about. Someone came aboard looking for Wratt, asked for a rat, and this moron cut and ran."

"Ah HA!" the sorceress cried, bottle lifted high. Everyone winced. "Spy! Maling'rer! Triskter've men'n women!" The informant gave a sidelong glance to the people holding him for an explanation. He got none.

With her heretofore-unoccupied hand, Apollonia pointed an interdictory finger at the captive, and drew a small circle in the air. The gesture was oddly precise for her. "Alley-oop!" she chirped. Purplish light flared and crackled under the men's feet, and they scattered--all except the rat, whose eyes widened in terror.

"Wait! Wait, don't kill me! Don't turn me into any--"

His pleas were cut off as a ripple of unseen force lurched out from Apollonia. With a "hurk" of surprise and pain, the spy was catapulted back over the stern, ass-over-teakettle, until he landed with a splash in the water below. She looked around for a second or two, nodded once with satisfaction, and set her sights on the hatch.
While Apollonia was off being drunk, Wratt was sizing up the two interested parties. While the girl was less obvious about her origins, the new guy was talking proper. Though his clothes were that of a simple traveler, the fancy ring on his finger wasn't. Yet another rebel noble playing with swords perhaps? The scars on his arms suggested some battle experience. He'd still be useful for carrying gear, if nothing else.

"What's the deal with the cloaks?" Wratt asked Renata and Lennox. "Y'all cold or something? And yeah, I'm Wratt. We're taking that boat to Valor, blowing up some ruins so the Church can...fulfill some...divine...whatever. The point is they pay well. It's 8000 gold. Take it or leave it."

"And if you got any secret magic talents, keep 'em secret until we leave port. Imperials'll do more than dock pay if they find out." Wratt added this after seeing Apollonia use her magic on some guy. He really didn't need that kind of trouble on such a simple quest.
As she witnessed the sorceress cast forbidden magic, Renata's shoulders shifted under her cloak before she stopped herself, sword hand halfway to her weapon's sheath. She felt a pang of regret for how it had apparently become instinct for her to react to sorcery with unconditional violence against its caster... It was another item in a long list of things she'd learned under the tutelage of the church which she would have to un-learn as quickly as possible. Just startled, not provoked, she thought in the hope that everyone present would be convinced of that.

"For the rain," Renata replied to Wratt in regards to her cloak. It was an ironclad explanation in her mind: she figured that since there were waves of water in the sea, and she'd seen the waves get smaller and smaller as they drew closer to the coast, surely any part of the sea far enough from the coast would have waves so large that they were indistinguishable from eternal rain. She hadn't been on an island before, but surely an island hadn't enough land to keep the waves from becoming any smaller, hence it would likely be raining on the Dread Isle. She couldn't imagine how anyone could build anything in such conditions, let alone have it last long enough to be considered "ruins" hundreds of years later, but if she knew anything from her flight from the church it was that human beings are resilient beasts.

"My name is Natalia," Renata abruptly introduced herself using her mother's name as a pseudonym; her mother would have no doubt disowned her if she'd known her daughter would end up in Badon. "I studied the blade in Thria until recent circumstances compelled me to search for employment." Although the idea of a school of martial arts in Thria was a tall tale, even Renata knew of the importance of making sure one's narrative was at least halfway true lest someone press her for details: she could say she was from a dime-a-dozen village just far enough from the city that no one would be able to visit it, but close enough that Thria was the closest city to go to on errands, and Thria was the city she knew best thanks to her life of affiliation with the church. "With your permission," she continued to Wratt, "I shall board the ship and find quarters in preparation for our departure."
Lennox just stared wide-eyed at the drunk. She just used magic, out in the open, in Lycia. He looked around quickly to see if there were any keepers like Yuri nearby. He didn't see any, so he let out a sigh of relief. He didn't want to be dragged into something he wasn't prepared for, or mentally preparing for. Wratt made a comment about keeping secret magic talents to themselves till they leave port, which was a wise decision regardless. Waving magic around haphazardly regardless of magic's state with the church shouldn't be permitted anyway. "No worrying about me. No magic in my branch of the family."

"As for the cloak. Well, it was supposed to be fashioned into a coat, but I couldn't think of a suitable design at the time. It also has a lining of mail for added protection." Lennox explained. He smirked before his next comment. "I thought about throwing it aside for dramatic flair, but it makes a good improvised distraction when thrown in an opponents face. Especially when a cluster of mail hits them in the head." He remembered the man he did that too back in Santaruz. He couldn't quite recall if he lived or not, but Illya killed them all anyway.

"This is sponsored by the Church? The Preservation of Sanctity church? Hmm..." Lennox wondered how good of an idea this was. He was almost certain they were collecting relics. Now they are trying to destroy the Dragon Gate. What exactly is the Emperor's endgame here? Lennox took a coin out and flipped it. He saw the outcome in his hand and sighed. "Hmph. This sword on my back was forged specifically to be a dragon slayer, to rival the Eight Legendary weapons. Obviously it never had a chance to be used against dragons to test that, but hypothetically if this job goes belly up, I'll get a chance to test that out. I want to make it clear though, no one is to touch that sword. It's...temperamental, to say the least. It's safer that way."
Raye's mistimed misadventure in this tumultuous time already had a bit of a rocky start. She very nearly died, not that it phased her that much. Some kind strangers freed her and returned her precious dragonstone. With that she went on her way.


Returning to her wandering she ended up following behind Lennox after he separated from her, not with him but in the same general direction. It seemed like if she got into trouble again having someone that had helped her before nearby was probably a good idea. While her traveling was mistimed it was obvious to her the reasons why, but that did little to dissuade her from continuing them.


So, the dragon girl eventually made her way to Badon, arguably a more dangerous place for her then the rest of this Empire but for entirely different reasons. Wandering around she eventually made it to the docks, spotting Lennox and someone else that looked familiar.


Approaching them she asked, "Oh hello. Are you getting on this boat?" The question didn't seemed directed at any of the people standing there in particular as her gaze was focused more on the boat itself. It was the first time she really got to see one. "May I come along?"
That voice. Why was he hearing that voice? He left that voice back in Tania, roughly. Lennox closed his eyes and took a deep breath before turning towards the source. Raye, the 'dragon' girl. Okay, girl may be insulting considering she looks about his age, but her innocence and attire emanates that she is just an oversized little girl. Her outfit wouldn't be out of place amongst Maria's clothes, and she's ten. Lennox nervously began laughing. This was a church mission and Lennox inadvertently led Raye right to them. He led her straight through Lycia with people probably observing him. This is going to be trouble.

"Do you even know where this boat is heading? I don't think you'd want to go..." Lennox paused, realizing a connection. The Dragon's Gate + A dragon girl. That will only mean trouble. She must have heard of it before, and she might fight to protect it, if she discovers the mission. Crap, I'm going to give up this mission and help her, aren't I? How would he go about acquiring a boat back when everything goes south, Lennox didn't know, but it was then he realized this isn't ending well. Alternatively, he could just abandon this endeavor and leave. Avoid the trouble before it rears it's head.

He looked down at her and realized he couldn't. He shouldn't have separated her from the others if he wanted to go down that route. He should at least follow through. Besides, he knows what he's been dealing with, Raye doesn't. Or at least, acts like she doesn't. He turned back towards Wratt sayng, "I don't know how much help she'll be, but I'll try to keep her out of trouble." He turned towards the drunk mage. "She probably won't be an issue compared to her, anyway."
Tiras was in hell. His stomach was so empty, and yet, here he was, penniless, standing in a food market. Smells assaulted his nose and his stomach ached in response. Soon, he promised himself, soon. He made his way (slowly, dragging his feet) through the food, and the fish, until he came to the docks. He was looking for a man with a job. He checked the hand-written flyer again. Dock... Is that a three or an eight? Or a seven? As he turned the flyer different angles, he managed to stub the toe of his green boot into the pier supports.

"Hrg! Blast'd! Elmin! Dam'd! Fugn! Pole!" He hopped around, armor, sword, cloak, and all, holding onto his toe with both hands and cursing in grunts.

He fell in front of a group of people waiting at the end of one of the docks. He got a closer look at them once he stood back up. There was a shifty-eyed fellow, a big guy with a ridiculous-looking sword, a young woman, a cloaked person, and someone had obviously just been thrown end over end off the nearby ship. "Hi. I don't suppose this is where I could find a...," he furnished the flyer again, "Wrath... Servani?" He looked to the shifty-eyed one who appeared to be in charge. "I am looking for work. Any work is good work."
Wratt found himself with additional crew. The first was a young-looking woman who seemed to have a propensity to dress like a child. He was about to dismiss her as a sightseer, but Lennox assured him she would be a problem. Wratt highly doubted that, but then additional help arrived in the form of Tiras. He appeared to be garbed as an armor knight, an odd appearance considering their sea-venture. Still, Wratt could use someone of Imperial appearance; it might get them some credibility should they run into any Imperial forces along the way.

"Hired," Wratt said to Tiras without any further discussion. "You know, fuck it. Everyone on the boat. We've delayed long enough."

And so, Wratt and his crew of five joined those of the Mermaid's Desire and began the hopefully uneventful journey south.
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Under the mast depicting a very detailed and very topless mermaid, Wratt and company were on the open sea. Badon had faded into the distance as the ship left the bay behind. The only sounds around them were the waves rocking the boat, the gulls calling, and the heaves of the seasick captain. Ironically, the only crew that dared to take them included a captain who couldn’t handle the sea. Fortunately, the crew seemed capable enough to navigate without the captain. Their initial reservations on sailing to the Dread Isle had lessened since they set sail. Just as well, for Wratt was below deck, showing the new hires (the ones that were interested) where they were headed.

“There it is, the Dragon’s Gate,” Wratt said as he pointed to the interior of the island of Valor. “We’ll land on the north shore, hike south, find this old building, and do a bit of redecorating.”

Wratt held up one of the mines from the crate as an example of his idea of redecorating.

“A few of these on a support column ought to bring the old building down. That’ll satisfy our superstitious overloads. The way everyone acts about this place, there shouldn’t be anyone else on the island. Easiest paycheck I’ve ever made.”

The mercenary had a smile across his face. Finally, he wouldn’t have to deal with some idealistic teen hero looking to fight him to save the world or something.
Renata stewed in the middle of the group, trying her best to concentrate on Wratt's explanation. The voyage had been nothing like she'd expected; it had actually been mostly devoid of rain, which was pleasant at first, but as soon as Badon had faded from the horizon the friendly sun and zesty sea air became hostile without warning. She'd expected a ship this large to be as stable as the earth itself, but instead the experience so far had been more like being trapped in a demon-possessed barn. Although everything Renata had assumed about the sea turning out to be wrong allowed her to forsake her cloak without suspicion, it was hardly worth the cost of falling to the floor and retching whenever she tried to walk. She'd had to concentrate so much on simply holding herself together that she hadn't even gotten a chance to mingle with her would-be comrades— without knowing any of their origins, there was a chance she would have to explain the make of her armour once the time came to put it back on and disembark.

"I volunteer for the scouting party," Renata interjected as soon as Wratt left an opening. "If no one lives on this island, we'll have to forge a path through the wilderness." She attempted to rise resolutely from the crate she'd made a seat of, but the relentless swaying of the ship had other ideas, so she aborted the motion, pretending that she had only meant to sit up tall. It wasn't like she would be convincing anyone that her sudden zeal was for any other reason than to leave the confines of the ship as soon as possible.
"I'll go with you. I'm wearing green. If nothing else I'll blend in," Tiras added. He was quite happy to have been able to eat recently, though he'd had to get used to the ship's rocking for a bit. He was more used to horses than ships, after all. He turned to Wratt, and added, "I'm not a bookworm, but I have heard stories, and read a few, of Marquess Hector's sojourn here hundreds of years ago. According to him, there were many ruins upon the island, most of them massive in make and hardly damaged despite a thousand years of wear. Can we be certain that the Gate will be so easy to find?"

The task left an ashen taste in his mouth, but could he really betray his first employer and not get the short end of the stick? If he blew up the mines himself, well, he'd be blown up, along with the ship and his 'comrades,' such as they were. If he blew them up remotely (first off, how?), could he lie convincingly to Wratt that it hadn't been him? And if the man picked up on the lie (as Tiras' past history of lying had proven he was bad at it), could Tiras fend him off and/or kill him? Too many questions, not enough certainty, so, he resigned himself to destroying history for the sake of money, working for the people who had killed his master.
Lennox just sat nearby, glowering towards the sea. The last time he was on a boat, was just hours after burying his father. An expedition to the Western Isles to, he thought, bring his father back to Etruria. Instead, he only helped his father's eventual killer to his target, betraying his trust. The more Lennox thought on it, he realized he might be doing the same. Heading to an island with one intended goal, while secretly having a contrary goal to the mission. That is, if Raye intends to protect the Dragon's Gate. If she is okay with it's destruction, Lennox won't become his cousin Corin. While it doesn't exactly equate—Lennox isn't about to kill Wratt's father—it still didn't sit well with him.

His ears picked up a few useful tidbits that might make his decision about the Dragon's Gate even harder. Ostia has ties to this place through one of it's Marquesses and the ruins upon this island. This place seems more and more likely to draw his uncle-in-law Wolfram to the island. Ancient knowledge and the period of time prior to King Zephiel's war were both high on Wolfram's list in interests. With Wolfram not in Bern anymore, he easily could have gotten here before he did. How he would commission a boat to travel here would probably affect that, but he's a little too resourceful.

"The superstitious and the faithful may avoid this place, but the curious and the skeptics may find this place attractive," Lennox chimed in. He looked back towards Tiras, "Knowing records of Hector's prowess, I wonder how many dead bodies we'll find along the way."
Wratt was appreciative of Renata and Tiras volunteering to scout ahead. He liked those who took initiative. Perhaps he misjudged the girl earlier. Same for this Tiras fellow. He was just a guy they picked up just as they were fixing to get on the ship to Valor. Hired solely for his appearance as an Imperial soldier, Tiras seemed to have the discipline of one as well.

“Good on you two,” Wratt replied to the volunteer scouts. “But the island’s big and their isn’t enough of us to split up. We go together.”

On the subject of the map, Wratt tempered expectations. Just because they didn’t expect much resistance didn’t mean they would be in and out by evening.

“Chances are pretty good that whoever drew this map didn’t set foot on this island. The location is based on stories and some fancy math done by some magician. Best case, the location’s off by ten miles in some direction. This won’t be a short trip.”


Lennox then brought up the chance traveler that would visit the island, as well as the chance to revisit the remains of the battlefields of the past. Wratt had very little familiarity with such a period in Lycian history, but wasn’t against it.

“I think we can handle any nutjobs living on the island,” Wratt reassured his crew. “And the animals would have taken care of the bodies a long time ago. But hey, if I’m wrong, feel free to take souvenirs. Consider it a bonus.”

Though there was still some details to iron out about the mission, the ship had a ways to go. It was time to take a break and figure out who exactly they were traveling with.

“So speaking of nutjobs, what brought all of ya on this crazy mission? Money? Fame? Those are typical reasons for the Illians to take up merc work. Not like there’s much else to do in that frozen wasteland.”
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Back on deck, the captain’s seasickness had worsened. His fingers became numb. His body could barely hold itself up, even with the aid of the ship’s railing. The captain soon realized that this was no bout of sickness: he was poisoned. He collapsed against the railing, wondering who would do this. Not the passengers; they had no quarrel. That, and they had to get back. So he had to suspect the crew. He tried to treat them well, but perhaps taking on imperial customers was a bridge too far. Yes, the young tended to side with revolution, but he was just trying to keep them safe and fed.

As he began to pass out, the last thing he saw was two members of his crew take him by the arms and toss him overboard. They watched him sink to the bottom of the sea. The silent mutiny was successful.

“The ship is ours,” one of the crew said to the other. “Shall we turn around?”

“No…keep going. But land them on the eastern side.”

“But the Dread Isle! It’s cursed!”

“Only to these imperials, my friend…”
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