Our affairs with Belarin settled and Serket sent off to find a better life, we left the stinking city of Ontas far behind us as we made our way back to Almernae. Teresa was adamant in joining us, and by the time we were prepared to find Wilward Jones’ hidden chest, we had found that Mersh had once more disappeared.
This was becoming too common an occurrence.
I am not sure if it was his business with Serket, which he had yet to explain under the promise that he would one day soon tell me, or if it was the looming fight ahead of us, but he had vanished into thin air. His disappearance did nothing to help my nerves. Without Buck, there were few in our company I felt I could rely on to keep the party together. Moira and Albion were new to the party, and while Albion was as calm as they come, I’m sad to say he was no leader. Moira on the other hand was caught up in the thrill of the adventure and was more than happy to simply follow the road to where it would take her. Peregrine, while a brilliant fighter and inventive strategist, I could not depend upon to keep the rest of the company on task and keep our morale level. Mersh was mysterious. He was strange, wacky, and sometimes caused more trouble than the villains we so often fought. But he was a friend, someone I could always depend upon to be there when the party needed him.
It was only this thought that compelled me and the rest of the Tiki Company to pursue our target. When we needed him, Mersh would be there. He’s always had his reasons before, and I would once more trust him to do the right thing.
Soon enough we found ourselves back at the port with Captain Cobb and his crew. He agreed to take us to the Azmar Achipelago, and afterward his debt to us would be cleared. It seemed like only a few hours before we reached our destination. The map had led us to a lagoon in the middle of the archipelago, though even from the surface we could sense something amiss.
The water stank of death and poison. The clear, blue waters of the sea had turned to a murky, sickly green water filled with pestilence. Whatever Wilward had put to guard his chest and the treasure below was powerful. Simply laying anchor in the middle of the lagoon had put the crew in a state of unease. The message was clear, get the chest and get out. I guessed they would give us a few hours at most before setting sail and leaving us for dead.
The first obstacle we had to overcome was how to get to the chest. It was hidden somewhere far below in the dark and any number of sea creatures may be guarding it. We agreed that Moira and Teresa would wait with the ship for the time being as singing would prove to be rather difficult underwater. Luckily, I had spent the entirety of the trip catching up on my studies and learning a couple new spells. Specifically, the Water Breathing spell. This would make it a simple matter for Peregrine, Albion, and I to search for the chest.
Leaving our encumbering gear behind, we dived off the bow of the ship into the murky water below. Even through the water breathing charm, I could smell and taste the putridity of the water. We followed the anchor chain to the bottom of the lagoon, and with my ability to detect magic we were able to find a faint arcanic trail that eventually led us to an underwater cave. As we surfaced, I shed some light in the cavern to reveal a pair of large, iron double doors that blocked our path.
So, Wilward had intended for us to fight whatever lay beyond these doors, eh? Albion and Peregrine waited at the doors while I surfaced to get Moira and our equipment for the upcoming battle. We would need her bardic prowess to help inspire us to victory.
If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from my time with the Tiki Company, it was to never underestimate the power of a bard.
Fully equipped, we stood before the entrance to the Black Dragon Company’s treasure vault. Before we could stop him, Peregrine swung open the doors and charged inside only to be met with our foe. A young Black Dragon stood between us and our goal, and just as soon as Peregrine entered the room it attacked, spraying acid at our halfling comrade.
As Peregrine ducked behind cover, nursing at the acid eating through his armour and into his flesh, we joined the battle. Albion goaded the beast away from Peregrine as Moira began her performance and as I threw lightning bolts and fire. Splitting the dragon’s attention, Albion and I banked to the left while Peregrine and Moira circled to the right, hoping to catch the dragon off-guard and unearth the trapdoor it was guarding.
Fortunately for Peregrine, Albion’s plan worked and the dragon moved to go after him. Unfortunately for Albion, the dragon was much more powerful than he first anticipated. As Moira continued her song (and searched through the treasure for the trapdoor), Peregrine slung arrows at the dragon’s thick hide while Albion did his best to fend off the monster. I offered what support I could, firing spell after spell at the dragon. Yet it seemed no matter what we did, the dragon would not fall. I did not think it possible for a monster such as this to become so loyal, so tame to one such as Wilward Jones and the Black Dragon Company.
At last, the dragon struck down Albion, but before it could finish off our friend for good, I launched one last spell at the dragon, enveloping it in a cone of fire. Finally, the dragon fell, collapsing in a charred, arrow-pierced husk.
The dragon defeated, we tended as best we could to Albion’s wounds and sauntered over to the trapdoor. With mild surprise, we found it unlocked. I suppose Wilward was counting on the dragon to fend off any and all intruders. Below the trapdoor we had at last found what we were searching for.
Below we discovered a small, circular room. At the center lay a coffin, perhaps dedicated to a fallen member of the company. Strange to see a man of Wilward’s caliber showing such sentiment to another. Surrounding the coffin were three chests, each belonging to one of the members of the company. Our primary goal, however, was at the far chest. I could sense the arcanic aura surrounding it. It was Wilward’s chest without a doubt.
The chest disappeared as I approached it, most likely summoned through a Secret Chest spell, and as I waited for its return the others plundered the remaining chests. Once Wilward’s chest had returned, I tentatively opened it to find a smaller toy box inside. This toy box had looked like it belonged to a child of no more than ten or so years of age. I was disgusted and confused. What kind of man takes a child’s possession and uses it for himself? Did he murder the child and take this as his trophy?
Regardless, I searched the chest and found what we had been searching for. Wilward’s journal (LINK HERE) revealed information that shook us to our core.
My family and clan, the Blue Leaf Clan, had foretold that Wilward’s father, one Coheed Jones, would be defeated around the same time that I was born. Curious enough, this prophecy had suggested that I would be the one to bring this demon’s end.
Is this what the elders were preparing me for? To defeat Coheed Jones? I was preordained to be a seer, a diviner of other’s destinies and to predict the world’s fate. I had left that life behind many years ago, but it seems to have caught up with me at long last. Then I read that Coheed had destroyed my clan, killing everyone that I once loved and cared about.
I remember how my vision began to blur, pulsing red with every beat of my heart sending rage, sorrow, and the thirst for vengeance through every inch of my being. Would things have been different had I stayed? Could I have stopped Coheed and saved my clan had I remained and accepted my fate? Something told me no, no matter what I did the result would have been the same. The Blue Leaf Clan’s death was foretold, and nothing I could do would have prevented it.
Destiny… is there any point in trying to escape it? It was not until later that I thought these things. At the time the only thoughts that consumed my mind were those of vengeance. On the blood of my clan, I would see Coheed Jones and all of his wicked children vanquished. First Machine had fallen by my hand, and now I would do everything in my power to see that the Jones family was no more. Coheed, Wilward, and Kathleen Jones. They would taste my wrath, the wrath of the Blue Leaf Clan.
Wilward’s journal also told that the assassin sent after Buck, Kathleen, had succeeded in her mission. If Buck had been hurt too, I did not think I would be able to contain my fury. Wilward waits in Artorshade for us, and I’ll be damned if I don’t sent him to the same pits of hell that I sent Machine.
As fortune would have it, as we surfaced from the underground cave we found Captain Cobb’s ship in ruins, and the captain and his crew nowhere to be found. Pirates, under the command of Wilward Jones, had destroyed, pillaged, and killed everyone they found on board, except for Teresa. We were soon captured and led on board, only to be sent below deck where, bound and unarmed, we would be delivered to the Black Dragon Company on Crescent Isle.
The Blue Leaf Clan, Albion’s family, Captain Cobb and his crew, Teresa, and now maybe even Buck…
How many more would have to get hurt because of me? How many more friends must I be forced to lose before this monster sees his end?
Every single one of their deaths will be the fuel for Coheed Jones’ funeral pyre.