The following evening, Thorim excused himself from the rest of the group to meet with some of the other Diamond Rogue captains who had been good friends of his father at a tavern called ‘The Lazy Falcon’. He arrived there at the same time as Wendyl and Franz, the captains he was to meet, and they were immediately seated by the barmaid in a back room in which dinner had already been laid out. Wendyl thanked her by name and the three of them sat down to eat.
After a few minutes devoted to eating, Franz mentioned that they chose this tavern because the owner was a retired Diamond Rogue captain who had been a member of a small group of captains called ‘the trusted’, a group which Tobias had also been a member of. He went on to explain that the trusted were first called together by Captain Issachar about 20 years back when rifts began appearing amongst the Diamond Rogues. He chose those he felt most closely embodied the spirit of the Diamond Rogues and charged them with taking a much more active, if covert, role in opposing the empire.” Franz paused. “It was Tobias’ wish that, should anything happen to him, you be inducted into the trusted, but before you decide, let us tell you a bit about what we actually do.”
“Primarily we engage in information gathering and analysis- we’ve never commanded enough firepower to challenge the empire directly. We’ve got a pretty good idea how Edea’s spy network functions and have been able to keep at least our own families free of her spies, though we do know of a few in other Diamond Rogue families.” Franz began, “We know she has people searching for the moon crystals and the ancient gigas, but that they haven’t found any yet. We’ve been trying to keep tabs on Gast’s research, though that has been more difficult. At present we believe he’s working on developing airships capable of passing through riftwalls, but we don’t think he’s been successful yet. We spent a long time assuming that Alfonso’s stupidity was a mask to hide what he was really doing, but we never found evidence of anything going on beneath the surface… it looks like he really is just a moron. Rude we’ve pretty much left alone as he’s basically just their defensive strategist- we know he’s brilliant, so we’ve more or less left it at that. But for everything we know about them, we still have no idea who this Xiphos is, where he came from or why the Empress felt she needed a fifth admiral.”
“Of all of this,” Wendyl interjected, “What worries us most is the Empire’s search for the moon crystals. Even if they never find the gigas, the crystals themselves contain tremendous power. If they ever figure out how to harness that power, there’ll be nothing anyone can do to stop them.” She paused. “The last message I received from Tobias indicated that you had rescued a traveler from the east beyond Nasr shortly after he was captured by Alfonso. That your island was destroyed shortly thereafter by the empire suggests that these events were related. What can you tell us about the traveler and what happened to your family?”
Thorim hesitated only a moment before replying, “First let me say that I am honored by the offer and have long desired for greater action against the Empire. I always feared that our inaction left us vulnerable to the empire whenever they chose to crush us. It appears that has begun.
“Excellent, your father can never be replaced, but we have no doubt you will do him proud.” Franz replied.
Thorim thanked him, then continued, “Several days ago, ten imperial ships sailed past Archon’s Rest. Four ships arrived at our home, including both admiral Edea and Alfonzo (whose ship we had oh so recently acquired), and began bombarding the island. My father took Alfonzo ship and engaged the imperials to allow our people to flee to safety. The ship was demolished and all hands lost. The imperials searched our island for a whole day looking for something before bombarding our settlement and burning the island to the ground.
We (my officers and I) have been trying to determine the cause of this attack and we believe that our visitor from the east may indeed be the cause. That belief is strengthened by your information regarding Gast’s research. The ship being flown was like nothing I had seen before and its loss is quite saddening. At least the imperials were unable to capture it or its crew.
I am disturbed by so large fleet being unaccounted for behind Archon’s Rest. Have you seen any sign of the six ships that did not attack us or any sign of Edea and her four ships in the past few days?”
“Brave to the end… it’s a miracle that so many of your people survived. Who would’ve thought the empire would be so ruthless in its attacks?” Wendyl muses. “Where did this traveler say he was from? What is his purpose here?”
“To answer your questions,” Franz interrupts, “One of our scouts reported seeing six imperial ships near the riftwall bordering Nasrian airspace a few days back. As far as he could tell they weren’t really doing anything, though they did seem to be much more alert than normal. As for Edea, we don’t know, though we don’t have many people in the western half of the area behind Archon’s Rest, so they could easily be hiding there.” He pauses. “You must forgive me for asking, but your account of the attack makes no mention of your own actions, where were you when this happened?”
Thorim responded, “The traveler claims to be an archaeologist from Arcellum and he came from the east beyond Nasr. He accompanied my crew when we were sent by Tobias to collect a recent fall of moonstone to the west. While on our mission, we encountered a strange ship that seemed to be shrouded in a permanent fog. This ship was heading for some ruins on the island where the crystals had fallen so my officers and I went to investigate while the crew collected the crystals. We encountered and defeated a force of black clad humans and dracha who were attempting to acquire some books hidden in the ruins. We were able to stop them, but their ship escaped.
Research into the weapons uncovered the fact that they had been forged in Nasr by a crafter named Geoff. Our research into their ship revealed that the only known memory of the ship was several months ago in ruins to the east of Nasraad.”
“Arcellum, huh.” Wendyl responds, “Well, if his ship was able fly as high as you said, I guess that would explain how he got past the black rift east of Nasr. But who sends an archaeologist as their emissary to new lands and peoples? And in so small a ship? Alone? That just doesn’t make sense. Well, our advice for now is to keep him close and try to help him however you can- perhaps if you win his trust you’ll be able to make sense of all this.”
“As for the fog ship,” Franz says, “Gomez and I will look into that further as most of our business is done in Nasraad. We’ll let you know if anything turns up. In the mean time, we should familiarize you with the details of running a captain’s meeting.”
“Right,” Wendyl interrupts, “Since it’s a special session you’ve called, you’re expected to pay for the first round of drinks- you’re actually getting off kind of light there, since it’s also customary for captains to buy everyone a round at their first meeting. Anyway, once everyone’s gotten their first drink, move up to the bar and introduce yourself, state your business and, well, then it’s pretty much a free for all. Be careful what you say, though- most of the captains would give up whatever information they have if pressed and some would look to sell it- as such, never mention specifics about anything that you don’t want the empire knowing about.”
“More often than not a handful of captains will hang around and play dice or cards after the meeting- you’re welcome to stay for that, but not obligated to.” Hanz mentions, “We all understand that you’ve got a lot on your plate at the moment, so you’ll be cut a lot of slack.”
The three continued to talk late into the night until, noticing the lateness of the hour, Thorim finished the last of his drink and stood, thanking them for their time and thoughts, he left the tavern and headed back to the ship.