As they had intended to do, the Dunhill Five took on the task of routing the bandits from the region of Waterton. To make a long story short, they scaled the mountain, slew the captains and their leader. But also they took the head of the troll that was also a servant of the band. As an added bonus they found an old friend, Quentin, trapped in a cage in the brigand’s lair.
The people of Waterton gave them a hefty reward for their work and with that money they secured passage back to Dunhill. After nearly 5 months they would be returning home.
On the fateful day they returned, the teens discovered that the kingdom was at war, confirming the rumours heard in Waterton. The Village of Camden had been razed by the giant barbarians. Anonorad was only saved by the timely intervention from the garrison at Auran Ilse. Stories about the clash were flowing freely from the townspeople and Pratch immediately began to make note of them.
Magnus returned to Marcus with whom he had left a great slab of steel. The smith revealed a great axe like no one had ever seen before. It was huge and weighed easily three times as much as the next heaviest weapon. “I call it Warbane,” said Marcus proudly. “This is my masterwork.”
Upon seeing their return, Brennor called them to his council where they met Lord Valon, the new commander of the armies of the north. The king had put him in charge of the forces and demanded a quick end to the war. The kingdom could not face a long-term struggle against a foe to the north while Galsea to the south could attack anytime.
Lord Valon listed to Pratch’s description of their journey and made the decision to include them in the Dunhill Militia since they were too young to join the army proper… and quite frankly, he thought Pratch, Elwin and Quentin were not cut out for the life of a soldier.
No sooner did they return home than did a ship appear in the harbour at a distance from the docks. It was obviously a war galleon of some kind. However it flew no flag and had no demarcation upon the prow. The stern was facing away from the town, making it a mystery. Soon a shout came that the Dunhill Five should come down.
Members of the crew rowed to the dock and informed them their presence was required upon the vessel and they advised it would be very dangerous to say no to the man doing the inviting. Grudgingly the group accepted the invitation and got on the boat. Immediately the crew set sail and moved the vessel out into the ocean. Pratch recognized the captain by his red hair, youth and swagger.
This was the pirate vessel Nocturne and the captain was the legendary Captain Brian Cross, who had taken over his first pirate vessel in a mutiny when he was barely older than Pratch. Since then he had become known throughout the waters of all three kingdoms as the most cunning and violent pirate in the last two hundred years. In fact, the vessel they were on was formerly part of the Royal Laurentian Navy and was called The Royal Shrike or some such thing. Brian’s renaming of the vessel brazenly showed how he didn’t fear even the sea’s revenge. He curtly told them to stay out of the way of the crew and keep away from ‘the wizard’ if they knew what was good for them.
They sailed out for nearly a month into the ocean, straight into the maw of the waves and wind. The captain was overheard saying they made good time and Elwin realized that they had a steady wind to the stern the entire time.
It was at that time they spotted a huge hulk on the horizon, a ship in dimensions far bigger than they had ever seen before. As they approached it was clear the behemoth was made of steel. While the greedy gaze of the ship’s crew and the Dunhill Militia stared at the equivalent of the entire wealth of the kingdom they were startled by the mage’s appearance on deck. He commanded the longboat be lowered and that the friends from Dunhill would join him in investigating it.
Torn between trying to figure out the mage and the ship, the friends focused on the ship and decided to split up. They discovered that the ship was a relic long abandoned, having been picked over thoroughly by whomever had found it before. Any metal bits that might be taken with them were rusted to almost a valueless state.
It was at that point the entire ship shuddered and they heard a deafening roar overhead. When they got to the bridge where they had left the mage they spotted a dragon strafing the ship and leaving a wake of fire hot enough to melt the steel of the ship. The wizard commanded them to leave and stayed to fight the dragon.
The Nocturne was already turning tail and running when they returned. They watched while the dragon killed the mage and settled in to devour the steel of the ship, burning it until it was glowing a bright orange colour and then tearing it apart with massive jaws.
Stunned by what they had witnessed the group returned to the cabin and found the mage calmly sitting in the chair drinking tea. He was a little singed, but otherwise looked unharmed. He explained that the dragon was an unforeseen enemy and apologized for kidnapping them from their home.
At that point the teens’ eyes were drawn to a myriad of baubles around the room. Elwin picked up a golden disc and was told it was called the Soulforge. “What do you want more than anything?” asked the wizard.
Elwin thought about it for a while and said, “Power.” Immediately he was wracked by pain as his body began to be consumed by power. When the pain had gone he coughed and stood up, clearly a sickly ghost of his former self. But at the same time he felt a connection with the mana strengthen and his own grasp of magical concepts increase vastly. It had come at a price, but he was willing to pay it.
Arthur found a small figure of a stag to his liking and asked if he could keep it. The mage shrugged as if to say it was up to him. Magnus found a small statue of a hunter, strong and powerful. Quentin found a small crystal wren and took it. In the end all the members of the party had found something in the trove of gifts that seemed tailored to them.
As they returned to Dunhill the winter storms began, but the Nocturne was untouched. In fact, they made it back in record time. As Brian Cross bid them farewell Pratch asked if he thought it wasn’t bad luck to have a wizard aboard. He simply smiled and said, “Lad, I’ve flaunted the gods by renaming my ship, been chased all over the three kingdoms by entire navies and now I’ve survived a wizard and a dragon in one voyage. We’re bloody immortal, we of the Nocturne.”