Morale in the party is very low. Aramis’ mood is easy to read. He is irritable, grumbling at everything from the unsatisfactory pH levels of the salt water in this part of the ocean, to the quality of Andrew’s drink mixing capabilities. He is already talking about our need to bring aboard a sassy new bartender. It is harder with Tyrrn. He often seems vacant, lost in his self-medication of meditation, but at times he is strained and mournful. His good humour has waned, and he appears more serious than before.
Perhaps Tyrnn and Aramis should have taken the pragmatic approach to grief of yours truly, Count Olo Loamsdowne-Burrows, who has dealt admirably with Mara’s departure from the ship by investing in the purchase of the most beautiful pet cat in all of Atmar. See how the sun sparkles in her golden fur, and briny drops of the surf glitter delicately in her long whiskers. She darts nimbly between the legs of the crew, she steals treats from the pantry with a cunning befitting her master, and her round stomach carries an authority and dignity not known since the days of Annabelle d’Alum. Yes, the seas of the shattered continent have never known a cat more clever or magical than sweet Penelope!
Our long journey to Lanzhou was largely uneventful save for one major encounter. A cry from the crow’s nest alerted the crew below to unusual shiftings in the water not far from the ship. Aramis, who is well-versed in the taxonomy of the ocean knew immediately what we were about to encounter, and sprung into action, calling for the cannons to be manned. I had hardly clicked the spinning chambers of my blessed revolvers into place when the Kraken was upon us. The I Know What You Did Last Friday and The Small House On The Prairie were about to have their first taste of eradicating evil from our fair waters. A pity – I had been saving one a-piece for Silverfin and Chadwick at the Lanzhou bank.
The mammoth beak and tentacles of the kraken did considerable damage to the ship, and we lost a couple of able crew members. Eventually, and inevitably, we dealt enough wounds to the beast to send it fleeing. An epic encounter, but nobody’s heart seemed to be really in it, given the emotional climate. More concerning is the very appearance of a kraken. It seems as if Dagon’s power really is strengthening, and strengthening fast.
The city of Lanzhou was dense and hot. After successfully bartering for a very reasonable docking fee, Tyrrn and I set off in search of Pia Loosa’s tip off about a very particular noodle stand in the depths of the metropolis. Aramis figured he would rather go out and get himself drunk than aid us, and would regail us later about his meeting with a washed up old captain he had met in a bar, who had claimed intimate knowledge of him, argued loudly with him for a considerable period of time, and bought him numerous drinks, before he had got bored and wandered off. After considerable prompting, we were eventually able to deduce that he was talking about Catalan.
It was a long time before Tyrrn and I found the noodle stand we were looking for. Peculiarly, it was at the very moment that we had stopped searching for it, and had got distracted exploring and talking about other matters, that we stumbled upon it quite by accident. Truly, it would not be the only accident during our brief stay in Lanzhou, but certainly the most fortunate. The noodle stand stood alone in the middle of a small plaza surrounded on all sides by tall buildings crammed with living apartments. Despite the crowded nature of its surroundings, the atomsphere around the stand was tranquil and seemed to speak of a much more ancient time.
We were served with little fanfair. The peach broth had a flavour to make a hafling weep. Between sniffs, Tyrrn explained that the tears pouring down his face were actually beads of sweat from the midday heat. At the bottom of our bowls we found a stone of a peach, as black as the lightless abyss. Upon Tyrrn’s touch, an invisible seam in the stone split it in two. A fragment a parchment inside read, ominously, “You shall be betrayed three times”, before crumbling to dust.
We spent the next morning scouting out the Lanzhou bank. It is a truly magnificent building. It is colossal, the architecture a wondrous blend of intricate, ancient statues and carvings, and the glossy veneer of the modern corporate-chic aesthetic that is currently in vogue. Surely it will stand for many centuries to come, a shining example of the architecture of its day. We watched the comings and goings of the bank personel, but there was no sign of either Chadwick or Silverfin. The bank is heavily guarded, and we would need a devious plan to get to our destination on the top floor.
Our reconnaissance mission led us discovering the living residence of a notable clerk who had clearance to access many locked off areas of the building. We designed a plan to stealth onto his property in the dead of night, and isolate him, interrogate him, blackmail him, and strike fear into his heart, so as to acquire his cooperation into securing the passage we required throughout the bank. It should be made clear of course, that he would be in no real danger. It is the unfortunate burden of the crew of the Brandon’s Revenge, that sometimes the lesser of two evils must be chosen, and in this case there can be no greater evil than the rise of the dark lord Dagon.
The residence of the esteemed clerk was much more heavily guarded than anticipated. Unfortunately, we quite rapidly triggered the alarm system, almost as if they were expecting us to attack. Tyrrn, who for reasons known only to himself, had accidentally ended up in the sleeping chambers of the young daughter of the clerk. As the alarm sounded, and our cover blown, he seized the unfortunate girl, and fled the premises, with the clever idea of using her kidnap as a ransom to gain us access to the bank.
The next morning, a deal was struck. The young girl would be freed from the hotel room she was locked in and returned to her family after the clerk had guided us into the high-security areas of the Lanzhou bank. The poor man was extremely anxious upon meeting us in person, and nearly blew our cover. By the time we reached the second floor it didn’t really matter anyway, as we were forced to fight our way through various hired magical and martial mercenaries that alerted the whole premises to our whereabouts.
We despatched them without too much difficulty, and made our way to the top floor. And there he sat, in the middle of a pillared room, with a flowery table and tea set, ready for us to arrive, as if welcoming us to his penthouse suite. Silverfin smiled broadly as he offered us tea, the promises of all previous misunderstandings forgotten. And then, as our defences began to drop slightly, the scene changed. Silverfin was, of course, nothing but an illusion. Instead we were set upon by two huge menancing demons who were horribly familiar. It had been a trap all along.
As we sprang into action, Aramis and I were caught in a mass of black tentacles, conjured out of thin air. Tyrrn managed to evade them, and was forced to take on the demons single handedly. Around the outskirts of the room there prowled a huge white wolf with seven tails, waiting for us to be weakened. As Aramis and I struggled in our bindings, Tyrrn fought ferociously with the demons, but yet more were appearing. One had the torso of a woman, but from the hips down the body a serpent. An ugly demon weilding razor-sharp blades, she was accompanied by a horde of smaller evil companions.
Aramis transformed himself into a floating gas and was able to ascend above the reach of the tentacles before transforming back to his usual form to try and aid my escape. In the meantime, Tyrrn has beaten down a good number of the demons single-handedly. As I began to succumb to the tentacles, a flurry of crossbow bolts narrowly missed me. I quickly triangulated the exact spot from where the bolt had come from – an area of the room where no visible creature stood. I called out to direct Tyrrn to the location, and one swift, accurate punch later, Tennyson appeared before us.
Tyrrn and Tennyson exchanged blows, as Aramis held off the wolf that was trying to protect its master. There could only be one winner, and soon Tennyson lay dead upon the floor, His wolf would not outlive him for long. I freed myself from the tentacles from which I had been comfortably watching the battle and congratulated the others on proving their worth in combat without the direct involvement of their bullet-laden acolyte. Quite why Tennyson has it in for us remains mysterious.
It was clear of course that Karahil had betrayed us, as we had all expected from the very beginning. The only question that remained was how to escape the bank now that all the Lanzhou authorities would be on our case. We alerted Andrew, left behind (sulking, of course) on the Brandon’s Revenge, to steer the ship close to the bank so we could evacuate the premises. The idiot came in all cannons blazing, destroying countless years worth of achitectural masterpiece. As we sailed off through the skies, blasting the bank to smithereens behind us, our hearts went out to that poor bank clerk who had helped us with such kindness and understanding in our quest. We sincerely hope that he was able to escape the bombardment and reunite with his young daughter.