The Isis Maru arrives at the floating keep. Captain Charlotte, wanting to go see the cypher, leaves Corbin in charge to get the new crew settled. Captain Charlotte, Quinn, Rysarian, Phoenix, and Meadowlark get ready to head off the ship.
“Wait! I need to find my cat,” Meadowlark calls, the others stop to look back at her. A small cat appears at Meadowlark’s feet, who trips over it as she turns.
“Graceful,” Quinn mutters before heading down the board to island, the others following behind him. They quickly arrive in the room with the writing on the walls.
“With the journal, does the wall make any more sense?” Phoenix asks.
“From what I can understand, this line here is the key.”
“What does it say?”
“‘Thoramyre was here’,” Quinn replies. The others look at him in confusion. Quinn looks back unconcerned. “Well, it’s a cypher. It doesn’t really matter what it says, it’s the key to deciphering other things. Give me some time. I’ll figure it out.”
“Okay, we’ll head back to the ship and see how the crew positions are sitting,” Phoenix responds. The group head back, Quinn staying behind and muttering to himself as he looks back and forth from the book to the writings.
“Corbin!” Captain Charlotte calls.
“Yes Captain!” Corbin responds and heads over.
“How is the new crew settling in?”
“Very well, we have the caravaners as Head Engineer, Head Deckhand, and another as the Navigator, Presley seemed very excited for that job. They picked out some workers for their crew. The guardsmen are on cannons, and the rancher’s wife is the new cook. The rancher, that big burly guy over there.”
“The one holding a goat and a cannon?”
“That’s the one,” Corbin says, “he volunteered to be a cannoneer.”
“Hey,” Quinn says, breathless as he runs up to them. “Does anybody have a compass?”
“Yeah, here,” Corbin says, pulling out a compass from a pocket. Quinn accepts it and runs over to the front of the boat.
“We have enough deckhands?” Captain Charlotte asks. Corbin nods.
“That loud caravanner woman jumped on it, seems like she’s been wanting that kind of job for a while. She immediately started yelling at people to get things done. Everyone seems to call her Mum.”
“Her name’s Chrysanthemum, it’s a nickname,” Phoenix puts in.
“Seems to work well,” Corbin says with a nod. “All in all, things worked out pretty well. We even have a couple extra hands, but they’ll probably be looking after the kids most of the time. We got a small area down below set up for them. And all the beds have been assigned, too.”
“Sounds good,” Captain Charlotte says approvingly.
“Hey, hey guys, come look. I think I’m ready. You really should come check it out,” Quinn says, bounding over excitedly again.
“Sure, I’ll come,” Meadowlark says.
“I think I’ll stay here,” Rysarian says.
“Not a chance,” Phoenix says, grabbing his arm and dragging him over with the others.
At the front of the boat, there’s a large chalk circle with the compass in the center. Quinn holds his hands out in odd positions and starts speaking in an odd language.
“I did not sign up for this,” Rysarian says. Phoenix keeps are hard grip on him.
“If he needs a sacrifice, you’re volunteering,” she tells him quietly.
Quinn stops speaking and lowers his hands as the compass glows blue. The light grows and rises above it, slightly transparent. Inside, it looks like another compass with a needle that spins around a couple times, then stops in a Northwest direction.
“So, Quinn, what is this pointing to?” Rysarian asks.
“Oh, the compass?” Quinn asks, back to his air-headed self now that the cool magic stuff was over.
“Yeah, the big one,” Rysarian says.
“Well, if I got the spell right, it should be pointing us to the first checkpoint.”
“Checkpoint?” Phoenix asks, taking a step closer, letting go of Rysarian.
“The cypher?” Meadowlark asks.
“No, the checkpoint, for the Path of Fortune. There’s several along the path and each is said to hold a very special treasure, which is why it’s the path of Fortune. The person who laid out the path used spells and stuff to help people find it so they could find the checkpoints.”
“Who would do that?” Phoenix asks.
“Does it matter? Let’s go get the treasure,” Rysarian says.
“As soon as we get to the first checkpoint, we’ll have some sort of riddle that we’ll have to figure out before we can enter,” Quinn says. “But, yeah, we should go that way,” he adds, pointing the same direction as the needle.
“Yeah, we figured. Captain, what say you?” Rysarian asks.
“Let’s get on our way! Sail crew?” Captain Charlotte called.
“We’re good to go!” Mum called back, turning to her crew and yelling directions at them.
“Presley, plot us a course!”
“Aye aye captain!” Presley says excitedly. Everyone takes their places and the engines whir into life as they take off, following the giant blue compass.
The group gladly rest while they travel.
Soon, in the distance, they see a group of rocks dead ahead of them, an opening in the middle. As they approach, they notice that the rocks are floating in tandem and the needle of the blue compass starts spinning around like crazy.
“Uh, Quinn, what does this mean?” Rysarian asks.
“I think this is where the compass wants us to go,” Quinn replies. Rysarian nods.
“Sounds good to me.”
The boat slows and sails carefully between the rocks. The group starts to hear something, just barely able to tell that it’s words. As they get closer to the middle, the voice resonates in their minds and by the time they’re in the middle it’s as clear as glass.
“What can bite but has no teeth, can kiss but has no lips? What can kill without a blade, but at the same time giveth life?”
“I guess this is the riddle we have to figure out?” Phoenix asks.
“Is the the sun?” Rysarian asks.
“But that doesn’t kill people,” Phoenix says.
“In the desert it does,” Rysarian retorts.
“That’s a stretch,” Meadowlark says. “It’s probably a simpler answer.”
“Quinn, what do you think?” Phoenix asks.
“What?” Quinn asks, looking with wide, fascinated eyes around them.
“About the riddle,” Phoenix prompts.
“Oh, yeah, it’s really cool. I wonder how it’s doing that. It’s like the voice is in my mind. That’s pretty cool magic.”
“But do you have any idea about the answer? Maybe something in the journal?” Meadowlark asks.
“No, it just talks about the checkpoints and directions and stuff. It only says that there will be riddles, but nothing about the answers,” Quinn says, going over to the edge of the boat to look at the rocks better, muttering to himself about magnets.
The other three think about it. “This riddle sounds so familiar,” Meadowlark says, hand to her head, eyes closed. “I swear I’ve heard it before. I think the answer is wind,” she says.
“Sounds good to me,” Phoenix says, thinking it through. “So we have the answer? Now what?”
“If you have come upon the answer,” the voice in their minds says, “Shout it to the heavens.”
“Not it,” Rysarian says quickly.
“Meadowlark, you’re up,” Phoenix says.
Meadowlark stands in the middle of the boat and attempts to yell “It’s wind!” She’s not very loud, but the voice stops. The air around the boat swirls, getting faster and faster. The sound of it getting louder and the sails start flapping in the gusting air. The air seems to get thicker around them, as if they’re getting engulfed by a thick fog. It gets to the point where they can’t see through it, but then it slowly dissipates. Quinn is staring around them excitedly.
“So cool! Look, we’ve moved! It’s some sort of teleportation. Oh, look at that! The stones are way behind us now!”
“Uh, Quinn? What do you think of that?” Phoenix asks, pointing out what’s now in front of them. Quinn turns and sees the island in front of them, in the middle of it is a large tower made of a dark green stone with moss and vines climbing over it.
“Captain, should we take her in?” Rysarian calls.
“I’m not sure how this large boat would do getting closer, the edges of the island are too uneven. Why don’t you take the small boat?”
“Ted!” Phoenix yells.
“On it!” Ted calls back, quickly readying the boat.
“Come on guys!” Quinn says excitedly, getting in the boat. Meadowlark follows, her cat on her shoulder, its tail twitching. Rysarian jumps in next and Phoenix calmly follows.
It’s a short flight to the island and Ted parks it, letting the others get off. “I’ll keep the engine on for you,” he says.
“Thanks Ted,” Phoenix says with a wave before following the others up to the tower. There’s an overgrown path, similar dark green stones are inlaid in the ground, only partially overgrown by the grass. It leads up to a large front door, several feet taller than even Pheonix. The door is carved ornately with symbols.
“Quinn?” Phoenix asks.
“Fascinating, it’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before,” he says, staring transfixed at the swirling symbols. “It probably has a connection with wind, because of the riddle and how it’s been designed, but beyond that I don’t know.”
“How do we open it?” Rysarian asks.
“Do we want to open it?” Phoenix replies.
“Because there’s probably treasure inside?” Rysarian retorts as if it’s obvious. “But there aren’t any hinges or handles or anything.”
“Well if you really want to get in, you should figure out how to open it,” Phoenix replies. Meadowlark walks up to it and reaches her hand out. When she touches it, it presses in very slightly, then slides up. Phoenix and Rysarian stay quiet as they follow Meadowlark into the room.
It’s a fairly open room. In the middle is a pedestal with a jar on top. Similar jars are around the room, either on the floor or in insets in the wall, with other decorations around the walls. The jars were large and cream colored, but with green swirls along the rim and narrower neck. Hanging from the ceiling was a glowing crystal-like chandelier that easily lit up the room. On the opposite wall, there’s a door, smaller than the front door, but with similar designs on it. In the middle of the door, where the swirls seem to start from, is a small circular hole with gear-like teeth on the outside.
Quinn immediately walks in and starts to look at the walls and designs around the insets. Phoenix and Meadowlark head towards the pedestal. Rysarian looks at the light, wondering if there was a way that he could take it.
“That door looks like it needs a key,” Quinn says when he gets around the walls to it.
“So it’s probably in one of these jars?” Meadowlark asks.
“There doesn’t seem to be any traps around,” Rysarian says, looking at the pedestal and then the pots to the right. Phoenix heads to the ones on the left.
“We can look inside them,” Rysarian says. “This one has something sparkly in it.”
“This one looks like there’s something lumpy,” Phoenix says. “And it smells bad.”
“What if I...?” Rysarian takes one of the jars that had something sparkly in it and flips it over. Something small and green falls out, shining in the light.
Meadowlark sees it and goes around the room, breaking pots. Rysarian goes around behind her, collecting the green gems, but leaving the lumpy, rotting hearts. Phoenix goes up to jar on the pedestal on puts it on the ground. She looks in and sees something that could be the key for the door. She breaks the pot and goes to open the door. Meadowlark and Rysarian are finished with the pots, so they follow her to the next room. Quinn follows behind, his eyes lingering on the walls.
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