The Sea of Shadows

Ignorance is Bliss
Knowledge is a Curse

Below the deck, in her little workshop near cargospace the Infernal Weaponsmith was completing the finishing touches to the Gatling gun. She was proud of her work, although she realized she hadn’t asked the Officers where she should install it, or whether to keep it somewhat mobile. That work wouldn’t take long, but still, it was an annoying delay – and the Captain had already been asking for the Gatling earlier. She missed something important due to her pondering. A blessing.

The Frog was rummaging through the Captain’s drawers, occasionally petting the Dog and ribbiting happily while doing it. He’d stolen the spare key to the Captain’s quarters during the old Captain’s time, before he’d shot himself, and had made it a habit to scrounge around in the cabin whenever the Officers were away. Oh, he’d put everything back where they used to be… well, mostly. He would sometimes steal the other sock from a pair, slice a hole in the Captain’s underwear, you know. Performing his duty as the Mascot. Due to this duty, he too missed something. The Dog did not care, and missed it as well. He did say “woof” though.

The Two Spies were walking around the Nameless Village, chatting with each other and taking notes on the strange place and its inhabitants. They almost missed a part of it, but they did see the vessel. A nervous glance was exchanged. They did not know why the vessel visited the village. It could have been nothing.

It was something, even if they did not know it.

The Voice of the Serpent was teaching a captive audience of a couple sailors about the Gods of the Sea and their habits. She was delighted by this chance to take advantage of her recent improvement in status, and paid no attention to anything going on outside her tank and the adjacent room. For once, she missed something that might have given her dread as so many other things had done. To be fair, it was not of the Void so she might not have cared or understood if she’d known anyway.

Some of the sailors might have noticed as well, but most did not understand or care. The Armoured Man certainly did not. The Northener could not care less. And the Unfortunate One just focused on her own misery. Perhaps if there had been more members of the Navy in the crew, someone might have cared or noticed, but it was not to be.
Besides, most were busy trying to figure out how to buy some REAL alcohol from the Masked Ones, with mixed success. Rumor was that Stephen and Robert had managed to buy quite a few bottles, but were refusing to tell anyone else where they had gotten them. Probably hoping to sell ’em later to other crew members.

The only Passenger, the Lost Painter, focused on his art for the most part. He had convinced one of the two Natives who were regular crew members, the one with the tentacles, to be his model. The Native was unsure of what to make of the request, so he’d agreed to it, somewhat bemused. Art consumed both totally for the time being, so they missed something important as well.

All this leaves only two with the means to both see, and to understand what happened while most of the Officers were away. The Chef, quite naturally what with his problems with the Eel was on the deck, with a perfect view. He would see, and perhaps understand as well. The Eel could see, but could not understand. That still left the last one to see, and understand the meaning of what he saw.

The Man with the Black Beard.

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The Time We Sailed Into The Tempest

It’s been a busy few days. Too busy to keep a log.

Where to begin? How about our newest discovery!
Some part of our ship is powered by A PIECE OF PURE VOID. Somehow it was only discovered by OUR GUNSMITH of all people! As to underline the point, it didn’t take long out at sea, until we were chased by not one, but TWO Void storms.

Why did no one know about this? How was it undiscovered until a random devil stumbled upon it? I would never admit this out loud, but I find it harder and harder to complain about the blessing we’re offered.

Also, we have a new Bastion Spy. Posar decided to fly over the cuckoo’s nest: he kidnapped one of the natives and demanded Lady Ashmore to reveal something. Somehow he assumed I would take his side.
Maybe I would have? No one knows, because the bastard said nothing about his suspicions! Had zero proof to show! I would have liked to throw him overboard, but the bastard jumped.
If he only knew how much I wanted to know… If he wasn’t such a shifty bastard.
I know I’ll regret it, but I gave my word that I’d leave our passenger in peace. Maybe she’ll give some light into the matter, maybe she won’t.
Well, it won’t be my only nor worst regret.

We reached the Maelstorm, but because of all the strange things happening in our ship we had no Captain to steer nor a Scout to guide the way.
So we just dove in. Still alive.

Realm of the Hunter was nice even, if I don’t approve of the divine hocus pocus every deity loves to flaunt. We found a siren, who’d made some name for herself. Made a deal, got some crew. Guinevere lured us into divine hocus pocus and forced me to relive that one battle. Except it wasn’t, I almost got to redeem myself until that Damned Goat intervened.
Why he’s suddenly so interested in what I do? He’s always dismissed everything I do and suddenly he’s almost supportive.

We did get an interesting peek at our Scout’s past. He’s had an encounter with that Murderer. Very interesting.

We met with the Serpent. We got our blessing. Guinevere got her promotion. I got the location of Yabalchoath. Time to tie that loose strand.

The Serpent will deliver us from its Realm.

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In the Temple of the Kraken

Excerpt from a letter addressed to the London Royal University department of natural sciences

…The time I’ve spent aboard the HMS Lightbringer has been most enlightening so far! So many new, exciting things out here to discover every day. I think I may even have come across a previously unknown marine species! Enclosed you’ll find drawings and notes I made. Would have sent samples too, but the thing’s pretty massive!

Right now, we’re anchored at the Temple of the Kraken, and it is a truly magnificent place. I can’t even begin to describe the size and scope the temple, it’s amazing that mortals could have built something like this. In any case, there’s lots of things to repair and resupply after Captain Wellington nearly blew out the ship’s engines getting us away from a void storm. But don’t worry, I’m perfectly fine! Though I certainly wish I don’t have to see one of those storms again any time soon.

To be honest, I am more worried for one of our passengers that was hurt quite bad during our journey here. I did my best to treat his wounds while we were at sea, but so far it seems likely that an infection will soon set in and make his condition worse. To add to my fears, I couldn’t find the medical supplies needed from the marketplace here, so I ended up hiring a local shaman to help make him better.

Now, I’m sure that it seems weird to hire a faith healer to do the work of a surgeon, but after all I’ve seen so far, I think it’s not an unreasonable assumption. This world is truly strange, deities work in more direct and observable ways here; just recently, I’m certain I even witnessed a minor case of divine retribution right before my own eyes! The locals offered us a ritual they called a “purification,” and while I mostly agreed out of curiosity, my opinion of it all changed when the ship’s cook was slapped by disembodied tentacles after he mistakenly violated the sanctity of the place.

All in all, I have hope that things will take a turn for the best. We’ll be setting sail again soon, towards another one of the locals’ holy places. Next time I get the chance, I’ll be sure to write another letter and tell you people all about that! I’ll including more field notes, too!

Hand-drawn image of a thing that looks like some kind of crab, with text highlighting anatomical features

A very strange thing indeed! I can say with a fair amount of certainty that it’s poisonous; despite that, the locals use it to make stuff that seems to be their equivalent of moonshine. Sampled some at the market, and it’s not bad at all!

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A storm most vile on a journey to a magical isle

On our way to a place of worship we were quite annoyed
when our ship had to race a storm of darkness and void.
We faced malfunctions, sabotage and witches
but finally triumphed and were rewarded with riches.

Natives were grateful having reached an island fit for ballads
and promised us purifying rituals in waters blessed by the gods.
There were pitfalls to be met in their most sacred hall
as some of the party had a bit too much gall.

Receiving the blessing was a simple task of meditating
but not all managed to have the understanding,
that the blessed pool was a place most holy
and certainly not one for undue folly.

Instead of trying to properly focus
Jack did a show of hocus pocus.
It did the trick and Jack got his blessing
although his methods seemed a bit distressing.

Our cook had an accident in the pool
and even though he tried to play it cool
the gods saw it fit to put a curse on his person,
so he fasted for a week and nearly ate his apron.

The devil named Jack went to meet his old friend Goat
and admitted to no mistakes but instead chose to gloat
how he won over darkness and accused Old Goat of being dull,
even when the fault lies with Jack and Bastion’s black metal hull.

Old Goat was not amused and ordered a big fellow with a club
to follow Jack around close enough to give a backrub,
only with orders to give the slippery Jack a terrible head ringer
if he tried to slither away without fixing the Lightbringer.

-An excerpt from The Fantastical Journeys of Lugos Lugadovic Gyffes

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Embracing the Kraken
We're alive. Barely.

It was a dark and stormy night, when we reached the Temple of the Kraken.
Only it’s darker during the day and the storm was a void storm.

Since last time we made a brief stop to investigate the wreck of H.M.S. Mordgard, when a void storm found us. The rest of the way have been a frantic struggle for survival. We learned some valuable lessons tonight:

  • Our crew is a bunch of chickens during a crisis.
  • We have void cultists on board. (I’m not so naive to think we’d got all of them.)
  • Posar is either a suicidal idiot or daredevil with balls of hot brass. (Honestly the prick is going to get himself killed. And if I don’t get to him first, I fear the other’s aren’t going to be as merciful.)

We reached port. Alive, yet in tatters. It turns out Guinevere had reinforcements waiting. Now we have a whole church pleading and preaching that we have to do something to our hull. Worse yet, Old Goat’s here and he’s on their side.

We were taken to their sacred shrine for a purification ritual, where Spooner managed to offend them. He was taken away and now we wait. They also insist on purifying our ship. I have to stop them.

The Old Goat thinks I’m mad (he might be right), but I’m not doing this for shits and giggles. There has to be a reason, why the Aristos made these hulls. Why they insisted on it despite the risks. They were cruel lunatics, but they were not crazy.
And unlike the Goat, I’m not concerned about our race’s future. I won’t be fettered.

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Water sleeps...
An excerpt from the First Mate's Log

… but it’s starting to stirr.

I was instructed to keep a regular log. Most likely so Posar could sneak peeks at it. Hey, you could just ask, do I have anything to hide? No, don’t explain. We’re both slaves to our nature.

Our first days on the sea have been just delightful. On our very first day we were attacked by a pirate, who had a… well, this is an Empire ship, so I suppose as long as I’m aboard those don’t exist.
So, the thing is that we were not attacked by a shark headed pirate and his merry crew and the captain did not spout of charming rhymes while he fought. He also did not have a duel with our noble captain, which our captain did not win by the noblest means there are – by having our Scout come and stab the pirate in the back.
If you asked the sharkman pirate, who does not exist by the way, he’d probably claim their duel was interrupted by a kraken. I’ll come back to that later.

Anyhow, the (not-)sharkman. Poor fool seems to have some notions of honour and justice. As if you can have either, when you’re invading ships on sea. The fella’s either naive or mad and I’m not sure, which one’s worse for him.
Their shaman did seem more competent. Didn’t even flinch at my foreboding oneliner. I’m getting rusty, gotta hone those skills.

As I was saying, we didn’t get much to dwell on the attack, as we had to flee a kraken. Nothing special about that, it happens on the sea.

During our next leg of passage I received a message from the Old Goat. I wonder how he gets them on board, does he give Posar a stack to hand out at random times? Does Posar invent them himself? Cannot be the latter, that little snitch has no imagination to speak of.
Apparently the Bastion wants something from me. Again. Posar calls it a test. As if I owed the bastard anything. (I cannot help, but wonder what is being tested. My worth? How much they can control me? How weak Ashmore’s grip on sanity is? It does not matter. A game is a game is a game.)
The lady didn’t prove helpful. And to get her to trust me I swore I’d bother her no more. She was not grateful, which makes what comes next somewhat harder. I’ll ask Posar. Either he has to distract the lady or I Mungo, if we want to get anywhere.
And if he won’t help… well, I don’t care of this game that much.

Our schemes were put on halt as we neared an abandoned island and the wreck of HMS Mordgard. Just now I received the order that I’ll be on the landing party…

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H.M.S. Lightbringer sets sail
A letter home

You Old Goat,

I almost think you do love me after all. After an eternity of suffering, something finally happened on this floating diplomatic-catastrophe-waiting-to-happen.

The old Captain Whatshisface finally went over the bend and shot himself and left poor Mr Wellington, our engineer, with the hat.
With that, half the crew vanished. Is it still desertion, when the Captain showed an example?

Anyhow, that left a mere handful, who still had their wits:

The new Captain, Daniel Wellington, who’s supposed to be somewhat competent under the hood. He seems professional enough, tho I fear for his nerves.

The ship’s Chef, Mr Spooner, grumbles constantly how the old captain did things better, but he’s been following along loyally. And his dishes are to die for. (Don’t leave him alone with a cat.)

I haven’t got a handle on Mr Mcreed, our Scout, yet. He’s one of those weirder human specimens. Nimble on his feet. Cozy in the Crow’s nest. Other people seem to have an irrational hatred towards him. (No, not like us.)

Finally Mr. Koltsov. I think he’s the ‘funny one’ as the humans say. For some reason the new Captain expects Koltsov to draw him maps, while our Surgeon would rather map what’s inside his latest catch.

So, crew we lacked so crew we’d hunt. First I lead everyone to the Black Goat, you know, the place that serves the best Roach n’ Chips after Perhana. On the way we met some natives and I graciously agreed to help them meet their makers. At the pub we remembered we had no dosh, so we’d have to find some contracts too.
That’s when Wellington heard about lady Ashmore, who seemed to have an urgent need to get off London. (Nice gal, but she really has to get over her prejudices!)
While Captain went to negotiate with her, me, Spooner and Mcreed went to catch cats. Apparently the humans want cats onboard. I helped to pick the colour.

Ashmore needed to get to Nameless Isles fast, so there we would go. She even got crew for us, when it seemed we couldn’t get the job done. So onwards we sail to the high seas!
Some might think we don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell, but…
Well, I have a good hunch about this crew. I know we’ll do just dandy.

Best regards,
You-know-who

P.S. Goat, friend, please, tell Posar to tone it down a little. His behaviour paints us all in bad light.

P.P.S. I’m so glad Barnabas and the Captain seem to get along. I knew it was a good idea to bring him along.

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"SUN STOLEN, WHO IS TO BLAME?"
Newspaper reactions from the first few weeks

“The Buggers did it!

below the caption there is a caricatured picture of Otto von Bismarck using something that resembles a large pump doing something to the sun. The character has the flag of the German Empire on his shirt sleeve

In a foul plot to ruin everyone, the buggers on the continet have done a dastardly deed and hid the sun itself from Great Britain, according to an anonymous source in the parliament. “Who else could it have been?”, the source told our reporter after a few friendly drinks. “It must have been them. It would make sense, you know. A show of force. Just… some new thing we don’t understand yet. Something explainable.” When asked about the additional moons, the source merely sobbed in reply. We, too, sobbed in fury, fury at the despicaple Germans!

THE WRATH OF GOD IS AMONG US”

This, our beloved readers, is a sure sign of God’s anger at us. We have been too lenient, too blasphemous, too unrespectful, and now we are being punished by the Lord for our sins. We must root out the foul elements in our society IMMEDIATELY, that is the only way to save ourselves from His Wrath! Do not be afraid, but be grateful, for God has given us a chance to save ourselves!

continues in a long, rambling editorial

“Ireland is gone?”

According to reports coming in from the northwest, Ireland seems to have disappeared. The captain of HMS Inevitable reportedly was coming back from Ireland during the night that the sun disappeared, and noticed during that accursed dawn that instead of one, large island, there were plenty of smaller islands in its place. He turned back to investigate, and if his claims are true, those islands are definitely not the remains of Ireland. He also brought back strange, glowing crystals which seem to never dim.

“Strange fish interrupts a fisherman, yelling match ensues”

Mister Harry Hogson, 47, has an extraordinary tale to tell. On the fourth day – or night? It is difficult to tell – of this nightmare of ours, he decided to go fishing, the strange moons were bright, so he could even see pretty well. Well enough to fish in any case. He was not having much luck at first, the fish seemingly refusing to bite, until he noticed something large swimming in the water. It was too dark to really see what it was, but mister Hogson thought it might be some large predatory fish at first, and deciding that this was what was scaring off any fish from the spot, picked up a rock and threw it at the shape in the water, telling it to “bugger off”.
The next part of the story seems incredible: mister Hogson claims that he hit this ‘fish’, but instead of retreating, it swam towards him (albeit in a somewhat wobbly manner, probably because of being hit in the head with a rock). And then it surfaced – even in the pale glow of the moons, Hogson saw that its upper torso vaguely resembled a human “except, ya know, a bit fishy. Finlike earthingies, gills, ya know.” The creature’s lower torso apparantely resembled some large fish.

A black and white picture of some sort of large, pale crustacean is inserted here

The creature promptly yelled something at mister Hogson in something that sounded strange, but was some unknown language. Mister Hogson thought it must have been “Spanish, pretty sure I heard some swarthy bugger in my sailing days talk like that, ya know”. Mister Hogson said he was utterly baffled, but not baffled enough to stop cursing at the thing – it was definitely scaring the fish away, so it could bugger off in mister Hogson’s opinion.

Mister Hogson also claims that eventually he and this fishperson reached an understanding somehow, and Hogson exchanged a loaf of bread for a rather startlingly bizarre sea creature weighing several pounds, pictured above. “Bugger was nice for, ya know, a fish. Got some weird purple fish after it swam off.”

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The Sea is Calling
From beyond the darkest horizon

Somewhere in London, a butler leaves the noble’s home and sneaks off to a departing ship. When found, she is given a job

A scottish mother of three from Glasgow has made the journey to London by foot, just to get on a ship set for England’s ill-conceived attempt at colonizing some far off island. She is welcomed, with no questions asked.

A Welsh monk suddenly abandoned his parish and stole a boat, trying desperately to reach a departing steam boat. He is picked up, and allowed on board.

A Devil from the Last Bastion comes to London, for the sole reason of joining up into the Imperial Navy despite how he despises monarchy and monarchists, and even with his horns and red skin, he is accepted amongst the crew. They all know why he has come

A Baroness suddenly leaves in the middle of a ball held in her honor, sells significant amounts of her fortune, buys a boat and hires a crew, and sets sail towards the horizon.

They were all afflicted by the same thing, ‘The Call of the Sea’. Ever since the Isles were Stolen, people have begun to feel a strange wish to explore the seas, to set sail to the unknown. The urge is strong, and while not everyone feels it, and its call can eventually stop, it is common. This is what all those who brave the seas has in common, this need to sail towards the dark lights on the horizon, to do battle with bizarre and terrifying beasts of the sea, to visit strange islands and their inhabitants, all for an unexplained urge to sail. While the Empire denies its existence, each and every sailor knows, and accepts anyone on board who utters one, simple phrase:

“I felt the Call”

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