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File: doscher2.jpg (72 KB, 1024x614)
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Capitol City
836 AC
Three hours after the League invasion started
Inside the collapsed Haberdashery

The young lieutenant had listened, as if enthralled, as the Man in the Suit recounted the exploits of a certain Baroness from Sternbergen. What started innocently enough, a high-society soiree with dinners, petticoats, gossips and wagers - but also backroom dealings, attempts to intercept despatches, cyphers... culminated in a heinous aeritime crime that resulted in over sixty deaths (of which "accident" Lieutenant Gladston remembered reading in the Aecumen times).

"By Jove, Sir, I think I found it." Lieutenant Gladston produced a dusty monocle from somewhere inside the rubble. He shook it off and wiped it with his handkerchief. "It's a bit dusty, Sir, but none the worse for wear."

"Thank the Gods for small mercies, Lieutenant." The man in the suit put the monocle on and adjusted it a bit. "Ah, much better. I can actually see what is written now. But its value is mostly nostalgic - I've mulled over these papers for so long, I know most of their contents by rote."

It had been maybe an hour or so, and so far, there was hardly any indication of a rescue attempt. Both men knew that it sometimes took a day or more to mobilize the rescue crews. But with a war on, who knew?

"But Sir, did I hear you correctly? Did you just say the ruby was The Stone of the Philosophers?"

"I did tell you, lieutenant, that the story would turn out to be quite preposterous."

"Preposterous" was one way of putting it. When the story last left off, Clarissa was captured, taken to a League ship, a witness to an atrocity, tortured, and threatened with execution.

"What do you know of the concept of the Stone of the Philosophers, lieutenant?"

"Enough to know that it's balderdash. Supposedly able to transmute metals into gold, and give eternal life."

"That's the superficial meaning of it, as popularly understood. It is also completely wrong. To those more familiar with alchymical writings - and, over the recent decade or so, this description unfortunately came to include me - it's a bit more complex than that. Alchymists do not like sharing their little secrets, and I shan't repeat too much here - but you will be interested to know that the stone that Freiherrin Engels wore around her neck did not, in fact, provide eternal life, or the ability to create endless mountains of gold, on its own. It is, however, a substance that would allow a skilled alchymist to do... a lot of things they normally wouldn't be able to. Even transmutation of metals becomes possible, though quite slow and not very efficient."

"You mean to say that such a thing really exists?"

"Would you believe me if I told you that the material is not only known to exist, but its use is well understood and documented, and utilized even by the Admiralty?"

"If that was the case, it would be my first hearing about this, Sir."
"Well, it is so. Alchymists alone know the secrets of manufacturing the stone, although even they appear to have lost the art - if indeed they ever truly had it. In 825, The Royal Guild of Alchymists was, through great efforts, able to complete an experiment which successfully synthesized less than an ounce of the material, at great cost, and using up an exorbitant amount of materials. We damn near used up our entire supply of the Universal Alkahest; we had to ground half of our airships for a while!"

"I remember that. The grounding. It was under the pretence of inspecting the ships' Archimedean Units."

"Just so. And keep in mind, this synthesized stone, obtained at such a cost, was a less potent, impure variant. Inferior, artificial, incomplete - yet even so, this less-than-one-ounce allowed us to create certain materials that would never be achievable otherwise. Most of these advanced materials went into building the Pelagius, and there was still some of it left over."

"Now that you mention it, Sir, I did notice the occasional transactions Admiralty makes to the Guild of Alchymists."

The man nodded. "And the stone from Freiherrin Engels' necklace was apparently in its purest state - the alchymical ideal of purity. The very thought of that coming into possession of... that man."

He grew a bit paler, and took a deep smoke from the cigarette.

"That was unfortunate. Most unfortunate. It pains me to say, but to the strategic interests of the Commonwealth, it would have been infinitely more preferable for Miss Engels to have plummeted to her doom along with the rest of the people aboard the Celestial Empress."

"But Sir, if it is such a precious artefact... then how in the world would a simple merchant like Ortega get into its possession? Who made it, when and how?"

"Very good question, indeed. I have my guesses - but first, what do you make of it, Lieutenant?"
He thought for several seconds.

"Clearly, the `treasure` Mister Ortega referred to was not gold. He would want to hide the source of his wealth, so he made up the story - either about just the gold, or about the temple itself - to conceal the real source of his wealth, which was the stone or its potential applications. His mysterious oil-merchant friend seems acquainted with alchymy. Since the stone is so potent, he would probably be able to utilize the stone to extract value somehow."

"Excellent, lieutenant. But then, why would the stone end up on Freiherrin Engels' neck?"

"This is where I am having difficulties, I must admit. If the artefact was so precious, why give it to her?"

"I believe Mister Ortega used Miss Engels as an unwitting courier. Perhaps he feared his movements were watched; or, that his shipments were being inspected. Most likely, I would think he intended to misdirect any potential agents by parting ways with Miss Engels and coming up with some pretense to direct her to meet with the intended recipient of the stone. It would be then trivial to arrange for someone to switch the necklace with a facsimile."

"So he hid the stone by displaying it to everyone in sight?"

"Mister Ortega certainly had a flair for the dramatic. And a way with the ladies. It would appeal to a man of his sensibilities to kill two birds with one stone."

"One other thing confuses me. The way you are telling it, it seems that the League ship wasn't originally after the stone. They were pursuing mister Ortega for other reasons - this `apostate cypher`. Was the Stone truly just an accidental find?"

"Yes and no. The two are inextricably linked, as you'll come to find out. None of us even expected a stone to feature in it; the cypher was the real prize. The stone, however, was significant. It was an undisputable proof that the cypher was indeed found by someone.

"The stone proved useful for them, of that there is no doubt. Have you wondered why the Luftflotte airships suddenly became lighter and better armoured over the past year? But sooner or later, the stone would be used up.

"However, if that man had gotten his hand on the cypher as well... I shudder to think of the results."

Lieutenant Gladston refilled the man's glass of brandy. He continued.

"But I am getting ahead of myself. All in good time."
"I must say, sir, this story is much more gripping than my usual daily fare of shuffling papers at the Admiralty. Why, the way you are telling it, the baroness faced certain death! But I remember reading about her in the papers afterwards, so I know she survived. I am anxious to learn how she was rescued."

> "By a single person, as it turns out." He took a sip of brandy. "In a daring escape orchestrated by an unlikely ally."
> "Rescued? My dear boy, she was allowed to walk off that ship with a smile, neat as you please." He took a sip of brandy. "And we didn't catch on until it was too late."
> "With steel and gunshot." He paused, staring into the distance. "We lost some good men that day." He takes a sip of brandy. "We didn't even know we were rescuing anyone."
> "By a single person, as it turns out." He took a sip of brandy. "In a daring escape orchestrated by an unlikely ally."

> "By a single person, as it turns out." He took a sip of brandy. "In a daring escape orchestrated by an unlikely ally."

>> "With steel and gunshot." He paused, staring into the distance. "We lost some good men that day." He takes a sip of brandy. "We didn't even know we were rescuing anyone."
Don't forget to link the previous archived threads
> "With steel and gunshot." He paused, staring into the distance. "We lost some good men that day." He takes a sip of brandy. "We didn't even know we were rescuing anyone
Rolling vote for this.
>> "By a single person, as it turns out." He took a sip of brandy. "In a daring escape orchestrated by an unlikely ally."
>> "By a single person, as it turns out." He took a sip of brandy. "In a daring escape orchestrated by an unlikely ally."
>> "Rescued? My dear boy, she was allowed to walk off that ship with a smile, neat as you please." He took a sip of brandy. "And we didn't catch on until it was too late."
>"By a single person, as it turns out." He took a sip of brandy. "In a daring escape orchestrated by an unlikely ally."
>"With steel and gunshot." He paused, staring into the distance. "We lost some good men that day." He takes a sip of brandy. "We didn't even know we were rescuing anyone."
> "Rescued? My dear boy, she was allowed to walk off that ship with a smile, neat as you please." He took a sip of brandy. "And we didn't catch on until it was too late."
The daring rescue it is. Writing
Thread 1 : https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/2020/4487084/

Thread 2 : https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/2023/5654217/
thanks for that, I was gonna get around to including it, you saved me the trouble.
Over Hadrian's Sea

You are Freiherrin Clarissa zu Engels-Halsgaard, and you have had better days.

Two days ago at this time, you were the top of the world - dancing, laughing, flirting, on a leisure cruise. Now, you are cold, hungry, thirsty, and there are no tears left in you. You have been manhandled, subjected to near drowning for hours. You were threatened with death and rape, not necessarily in that order. And you were left to rot in a cell smelling of urine and machine oil.

Der Lindwurm - as you've seen the ship called in several plaques, even as you were escorted to your torture - doesn't have much of a brig. You are in a dark room that only has a small window several inches across, but even that is barred, as if someone could really contemplate escaping through it. Even assuming you could fit through (which you can't), this is an airship, so the only way to escape is to plummet thousands of yards. The rhythmic thud-thud-thud of the propellers is your only company.

In the end, the torture didn't work. You didn't tell these swine your name. You are certain it would have made no difference. You've had time to think it over. Their orders say "no witnesses". You are a witness. The only reason they weren't able to break you at that time is that you were somewhat numb from the destruction of the Empress. It was just too much to handle.

They really destroyed a ship with all hands and passengers. Left it to fall out of the sky. Killed all those people... Kiled Mitzi.

And the water torture... for what purpose? Yes, you had pretended to be a League countess. That was never going to survive more than a cursory inspection (but you had hoped that the inspection would only be conducted after you were safely away from the ship). You didn't even impersonate her in order to save yourself - you did it so that you could cause a temporary ruckus on the Empress, hoping--

What were you hoping for, actually? That Der Lindwurm would conveniently fly away, leaving the boiler room man to miraculously prevent the Empress from falling to its doom? Well, whatever it was, it didn't work. And the Boiler Room Man did nothing. Why would you ever put any stock in such a man?

While it is true that you are out of your usual element, you are still not robbed of your faculties. You could tell the little signs, even as you struggled for aer in between the bucket-drownings. You could see plainly that these ruffians were not used to dealing with a woman, let alone a borderline hysterical one. If you were the toughest man in the world, you are sure they would find a way to make you talk. But they didn't know how to approach you and didn't resort to inflicting lasting harm.
The bald man had spouted some nonsense about how the ruby was the Stone of the Philosophers, which, considering everything else that happened, may as well be true for all you're concerned. You've had just about enough of alchymists and their pursuits. He was looking at your eyes, as if trying to mesmerize you.

There were other questions, but you threw a hysteric fit, and the bald man gave you a sedative to drink. You resisted, but you were restrained after all, and the bitter fluid was forced down your throat, and - you immediately fell into the sweet clutches of sleep.

Daylight was visible through the small window when you woke up. An entire day went by, with only the propeller noise keeping you company. You weren't put through any other torture in the meantime. You were even given a meal. It was cold, but edible. So, you ate. The only thing you don't understand, actually, is why you are still alive. Surely if they were going to kill you it's better that they do it sooner rather than later.

You try to act tough, but in truth, the moment you hear the boots on the grating of the corridor outside, you freeze. The cell door opens up with a SQUEAK - only it is not your cell. You hear cursing.

"Will you get your fucking hands off me?"

"What the fuck do you want me to do, Etienne? Old man's orders. You want me to release you, so we can share a cell maybe?"

The second voice, you recognize. It's the man with the scar. The one who handled most of the water torture.

"I even went through the trouble to arrange for you a room with a view, you ungrateful bastard." He gestures in your direction.

"But I didn't FUCKING do it, alright? I counted, you know I counted. Shit, you know me since basic. I wouldn't make a rookie mistake like that!"

"Even if I believe you, Etienne, the Captain doesn't. And that's that."

"But you don't believe me, do you?"

"What the fuck does it matter if I believe you or not? Shit, Etienne, even you gotta admit it looks bad. Where is Braun, then, if you counted?"

"He fucking fell overboard or something. AFTER he got to the ship. The entire squad made it. I'll vouch for it."

"It was chaos. People miscount in a hurry."

"I don't." There is a silence, while the man with the scar fiddles with the lock. "Now what the fuck am I am supposed to do? Sit here and listen to this bitch cry?"

"Maybe you can get her over to put her ass against the bars. She'd be grateful for some action before we throw her overboard" He turns to you. "Wouldn't you, love?" You spit in his direction, feebly. He roars with laughter. "Well, I'm off. You two lovebirds enjoy yourselves."
There is a long silence, with the man cursing and grunting occasionally. Mercifully, he doesn't try to strike a conversation. The man paces about his cell a bit. Then he starts pissing loudly into the bucket in the corner.

"Sorry about this, lady." he says. "But I gotta go."

It doesn't elude you that this is, in fact, another humiliation orchestrated by the man with the scar. There lies nothing but bars between you and the other prisoner, Etienne. There is no privacy. You are not exactly naked - you are still wearing your red dress, now dirty and torn. But the man pissing in the bucket is not the problem. The problem is that you also have only a bucket.

"Well, aren't you the talkative one?"

You don't take the bait. He doesn't press the matter.

Within ten minutes, he is snoring, and you are left alone with your thoughts.

How are they going to do it?, you wonder. Would they really just throw you overboard? Probably better than wasting a bullet. So long as they don't hang you. You would hate to give these people a spectacle...

It would be a lie to say you aren't afraid of what is to come. You never have been particularly religious. But what pains you the most is that nobody will ever know. You will be assumed dead along with all the others on the Empress. At least it's not the end of the family line. The title will pass to your younger sister Hildegard - dear, kind Hildegard, not even eleven years old. It's been ages since you've seen her, since she was currently in a boarding school in Altmark. You will never see her again.

A sudden thought grips you with terror.

With your death, the engagement arranged with von Ortmuellers should be void. Hildegard will inherit your debt. Without the betrothal, she will become destitute. But the alternative is even worse. Frederick could offer to marry her instead. Gods know why, but von Ortmuellers seemed very eager to arrange this marriage, and you spent a lot of your life wondering about it. It seemed like your family was the only one which stood to gain anything - well, it would seem like it to anyone who wouldn't be obligated to spread their legs for that monster Frederick every night, but the point stands. The disparity in your wealth and titles was so large, the marriage skirted close to breaking Ebenbürtigkeit, the concept that people should marry within their rank. The reasons for the arrangement were only known to Papa and the Old Man von Ortmueller, and Papa took his part of the secret to his grave. But the very thought of Frederick putting his hands on Hildegard...

With this one thought, your entire world shatters. A freezing cold shower that washes away your veneer of calm acceptance. No matter what happens, you absolutely cannot, CANNOT die here on this cruddy airship. You will lie, steal, murder, and yes, if needed, even whore your way out of this, but Hildegard MUST NOT be allowed into Frederick's clutches.

With that, you fall into a restless, exhausted sleep.
The next morning, they come for you. Your heart pounds as you are being led through a series of same-looking corridors, imagining a gallows behind each door.

You are led into a cabin instead. It was probably originally intended to be huge, but stacks of pots, glass vessels, books, maps, boxes and various mechanickal devices line every shelf and wall to the point it feels downright claustrophobic. Though it looks lackluster, you notice that every pot and vessel is tied, or otherwise secured in place, no doubt to withstand the rigors of airship voyage. An assortment of vices and rails holds in place the central assembly on the desk, full of retorts, and other devices - you could probably name them all if you bothered, since Papa's natural philosopher tutors were quite strict. A strong scent of Sulphur assails your nostrils. A gas-burner is boiling something or another.

"Leave us", the tattooed bald man says. You almost didn't notice him, hunched over the table. The soldier releases the grip on your shoulder and closes the door.

"I hope your accommodation is ... more acceptable?" You stay silent. "I intervened with ... the captain. They shan't manhandle you any... longer."

Somehow, you don't think there is anything this man does out of the kindness of his heart.

"You mean, if my body ever gets found, it would raise some questions if there were bruises on it?"

He looks at you, humorless as ever. But in his eyes you find no rage, no condemnation.

"I am sincere. You have brought me... the Catalyst, however inadvertently. This merits some... gratitude."

"Enough gratitude to let me live my life in peace?"

"That... is out of my hands."
He grabs a grain of something from a dish with a pincer and raises it up to your eyes. "Look. What do you see?"

"It's... gold?"

"Yesterday it... was quicksilver. We all have the potential for... great change, within us, madam. One... just needs to know... which catalyst to apply."

"Surely, mein Herr, you didn't bring me here to teach me Alchymy."

"No, I didn't." With a trembling hand, he releases a few drop from a dripper into the white powder. The drops evaporate into thin air with a hiss and a foul smell, while the powder darkens into dark yellow. He then pours the powder into a retort and shakes it one-handed, in a swirling motion that betrays the skill and ease of movements of someone who has been doing this all their life.

"You are... blood of Ishtar", he says, even as he continues mixing.

"I'm what?"

"Do you have any ancestors... from the East?"

Careful, Clarissa. It may be a trick to give away your identity. Your family tree is convoluted. Your great-grandmother was a Vostok woman, but that's as eastern as it got. "Not to my knowledge", you say, truthfully.

"Thousands of people... have the blood today, however... diluted. It's not a coincidence... that the stone ended up with you. It is drawn... to the blood of Ishtar. To the likes... of us."

I am nothing like you, you murderous piece of shit, you think to yourself, but do not say it.

One of the retorts fastened to the desk starts bubbling. He switches off the flame. "Have you heard... the Serpent whisper to you?"

"I'm sorry, I feel like this conversation got away from me. I assure you I hear no whispers. And what was that about blood of Ishtar?"

"That's odd. You bore... the stone on your person for an entire... day. By now, there should be some--"

He gets right up to your face and lifts one of your eyelids. You resist the urge to wince. He inspects both of your eyes in turn.

"Well, no matter." He pushes a small phial towards you. "Drink this."

"Is it poison?"

"It is not poison. It is ... the opposite."

"What is it?"

"The stone... is not safe for humans to ... touch. This will help."

You eye the fluid with suspicion. It is crystal clear. There isn't much of it - barely a thimble. You try to remember if you've touched the ruby with your bare hands. You must have, at some point.

"Why give me medicine if I am going to die anyway?"

"You are alive now, ... yes? Who knows... what machinations the Serpent spins for us?"

Is this a way to say "who knows what the future holds in store" in his weird way?

You feel that, at the very least, if they were going to poison you, they could just pour the poison down your throat. On the other hand, a shady lunatic covered with tattoos, claiming to have lived longer than a century, known to kill people in cold blood, is currently offering you a weird concoction to drink.

"Drink it, or don't. I shall not... force you." He resumes fiddling with his retorts.

> Drink
> Refuse
> (other)
Maybe it'll make us immortal too
>> Drink
>> Drink
>> (other)
Splash the vial at him
Are we still "gallivanting our tits out"?
>> Refuse
To clarify, that was a joke / exaggeration by the boiler room man due to our intentionally low neckline at the time. One would assume Clarissa would cover herself up after the ordeal. Assume she was given an oversized Not!German military coat to cover herself in the cell.



I'm counting this as a refusal too

Let us drink the unlabeled home remedy concocted by the mass murderer, shall we?
nothing could possibly go wrong.
As you mull over the choice in your head, the situation is just so absurd, and you are so unnerved in this man's presence, that your brain decides to try to make light of the situation: "You know, I've read that the Stone of the Philosophers is made of people."

"Preposterous. Have you been reading those... Oriental illustrated almanacs? They are... drivel."

You raise the phial to your eyes and inspect it. "So this will not make me immortal or something like that?"

Apparently, he takes your question literally. "I would not... inflict such a curse on another. Immortality is counter ... to the natural order of things. The Serpent herself... eats her own tail. One can but... stave off... Her call ... for a while." He looks at his trembling hand. "At great cost." All the while he keeps fiddling with his apparatus.

You cannot read this man. His lack of eyebrows, his slight accent, and his pale eyes, are an impenetrable wall to your normally shrewd social sense.

So far, these people played at murder, torture, and humiliation. But they were always brutally direct about it. What are the chances that this is some sort of a sick game, and that drinking this would actively cause you harm while refusing it would result in them not forcing you to drink it? The chances are slim indeed. If they really want you to drink it, they have ways to make you do it. Or just slip it into your water.

In the end, you decide you want nothing to do with the Stone of the Philosopers, or Alchymists, and you were told that this was supposed to counteract some ill-effects of the stone. But in the end, what decides is that you want to keep some shred of control. Some semblance of agency. You are intrigued, damn it.

The trick is to be interesting.

You open up the phial and drink the contents. The fluid is not cold, yet it bites like cold ice down your throat. It is bitter, but not unpleasantly so.

"You will ... be escorted back to your cell, now. We shall speak again... tomorrow. Send for me should the Serpent... speak to you."

He is stark raving mad. "Uh... I am certain I will."

Has everybody lost their minds? Did the League really throw in with the likes of this lunatic? For what purpose?

The man rings a bell, and a soldier enters the cabin. You start getting up to your feet, but you feel dizzy. Everything goes blurry. You find it hard to focus. Your ears start ringing and buzzing, so you can't make out what the bald man is saying to the soldier. Is this it? Did they poison you after all? And you willingly took the bait? Stupid, stupid, stupid...

No, that cannot be right. You are not feeling unwell at all. You are feeling vigorous. You are feeling strong. You are feeling clear. It's just that you are... tired. Very tired. And very warm.

Everything goes black.
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230 KB JPG
You toss and turn, and are full of sweat. You are trapped in a nightmare. You vaguely see silhouettes around you, in a room that smells of antiseptic. You are strapped to a bed (still more comfortable than the cell floor) and your body seems to be convulsing involuntarily.

You hear voices as if from inside a barrel or a well. Yet, they are close by. One of them you recognize by voice as the bald, tattoed, toadfaced alchymist. The other voice is unfamiliar to you, but you attribute it to the tall silhouette leaning over you to your right. Somehow, you can make out it has a bushy, menacing moustache.

Everything is spinning, and their voices intermittently feel as if pulsing closer, then farther away, so you can only make out fragments of sentences.

"--could not wait until we anchor? We have plenty of prisoners back home--"

A crow caws above you.

"--of Ishtar. One in a ... hundred prisoners, if that. She... is the best chance... we've got at the moment--"

A sacrificial altar, dark with long dried blood stains, in front of a stepped pyramid.

"--liability is what she is. I am not going back to Altmark with her aboard--" "--honestly could not wait seven days?--"

A tentacle comes out of the darkness, and pulls a hapless man inside the recess.

"--wait?--" "--constant... agony--" "--running out... of time--"

A luminescent starfish swims a slow, tranquil dance - only it is not swimming. It is flying.

"--your art failing you at last, old man?--" "--Projekt Eschaton is too important to be left to--"

A translucent, enormous octopoid creature extends its tentacles in the darkest depths of the abyss. It beckons you towards its embrace.

"--formula hasn't... been tried--" "--three hundred years. Single... wrong measure... would mean death--"

A swarm of creatures, similar to humans only smaller - slimier - greener - wearing flint-blades and armour made of bone, dancing menacingly around an obelisk.

"--will still need to get rid of her. It would be much more difficult once we fly overland--"

Serpents. Serpents on statues. Serpents on the walls. Serpents everywhere.

"--one more day is all... I ask. Then do with her... as you please--"

A solar eclipse, and men impaled on stakes beneath it.

"--have to adjust the course... But alright. Twenty-four hours, and not a minute--"

It is not an eclipse after all - it is a serpent devouring its own tail.

What a weird nightmare to have, you think to yourself, and go back to the depths of sweet, dark sleep.
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You are rudely woken up by an explosion.

It is dark, and your fellow inmate is no longer in his cell. You would expect headaches, or your head spinning. You are sweaty, and you feel as if you are burning with a fever, but you do not feel ill. Just lightheaded.

That will teach you to drink strange potions, Clarissa.

Well, at least it wasn't poison.

A few shouts are heard. Then, a few more. Then, another explosion shakes the entire ship.

A siren starts blaring. The last time you heard it, it heralded retreat and the certain demise of the Empress. Is another poor ship being boarded? What is going on here, exactly?

You don't know how far you are from the ship's top deck, but you feel as if you can hear everything. Footsteps, dozens of footsteps, panicked and rushed. Shouts. Alarum. General shuffling about. Things being passed around. Carabiners snapping into place on security railings. Propellers thudding ever slower, until they stop. Wind intensifying.

The constant wail of the alert siren is so pervasive that you try to close your ears. It doesn't do much to help.

You stand up, grab the bars, and pull. You are disappointed to learn that the soldiers did not, in the end, forget to lock your cell. You notice you are out of your red dress. You are apparently wearing only your petticoat and blouse. You don't remember taking your dress off. But you do not feel cold at all.

Suddenly, gravity ceases to exist. The uniform you were given as both bedspread and cover starts rising up from the bed slowly. Your legs losed purchase on the hard floor of the cell, and you find yourself slightly drawn towards the ceiling.

The airship is falling. Is this how the people on the Empress felt, right before they were killed? Are you about to hit the ground and die, not knowing what is happening? Will this ship finally get its comeuppance?

Good. They deserve it.

Yes, they deserve-- wait, what?

You hear people yelling outside: "Under attack!" "The unit!" "Manual pumps!" "Get everyone!"

The gravity returns as quickly as it vanished, and you almost fall to your knees. Not one moment afterwards, a soldat bearing the full regalia - mask, gun and all - enters the brig in a hurry. Dim light from the corridor outside illuminates the room. You freeze. He stops in front of your cell and raises the gun.

You've heard rumours of people killing prisoners rather than have them be rescued or escape. There isn't much you can do, so you decide to heroically stare death in its face.

"Well? What are you waiting for? Shoot, you bastard."
File: pistol.jpg (9 KB, 400x400)
9 KB
A muffled voice comes from behind the mask:

"Well, at least you still like parading your tits about, luv."

It's only then that you realize the voice spoke in Albion, in a dialect that could best be described as "ruffian".


"Who else, the bloody Empress of the Commonwealth? Step back, for gods' sake, we haven't much time! No, not like that, further back!"

"I am hugging the wall, there is no further back!"

"Suit yourself!"

You have already heard these hand-cannons-spretending-to-be-rifles fired before, but inside this cell, at such a close distance, the shot rings twice as loud... and your ears ring for a long time to come. There is now a large hole where the lock mechanism used to be, and a swift kick of the jackboot sends the cell door flying open. He adjusts a valve and a wave of hot steam fills the room.

"OW! Are you trying to scald my skin off??"

"Sorry, lady. I never shot one of these before, did I!"

"Learn faster!"

"Oh for the love of-- 'ere, take this." he tosses you a pistol. You almost drop it. "Careful, it's loaded." It feels heavy in your hand. You've never fired a pistol before, only hunting rifles.

As you pass him, you wag a finger into the mask. "And don't you stare like that!"

"How do you know I'm staring? I'm wearing a bloody mask!"

"I can feel it!"

He takes you by the hand. "We have to go! This way!" He pulls you in a very rude and firm manner, and you are just about to leave the door when you encounter the man with the scar. He only has half his uniform on, is unshaven and has clearly been woken up only recently.

"What the... Werner, is that you? What are you doing with my charge? Did Scrawlface ask for her again?"

There is a long, almost comedic moment while the two men are looking at each other. The Boiler Room Man turns his mask towards you inquisitively as if looking for the translation.

> Shoot him with the pistol
> Punch him in the face.
> Kick him in the nuts.
> Let the Boiler Room Man handle it.
> (other)
Had to delete a few posts because I posted out of order and without proper editing. Just ignore them. It's been a long week.
>Shoot him with the pistol
That's for Mitzi you bastard
> Kick him in the nuts.
> Shoot him with the pistol
Can we reload after shooting though? Don't want to be caught defenseless again.
> Shoot him with the pistol
Ol’ reliable
>> Kick him in the nuts.
>> Shoot him with the pistol
You should've drowned me, pig
> Kick him in the nuts.
> Shoot him with the pistol
>> Kick him in the nuts.
> Shoot him with the pistol

Also, I can't help but imagine that when Baldy talks, he's got the mannerisms of Christopher Walken.
Jesus, /qst/ out for blood. I almost feel sorry for the guy.

And that, kids, is why you should keep your villains vague and shrouded in mystery.
Without even thinking, and mustering all your strength, you kick the man with the scar straight between the legs. As your foot connects, you feel something soft and squishy giving way, and a flash of pain spreads through your foot. Good - just imagine how it must feel for him. Well, you can ONLY imagine what it must feel for him; regardless, you hope it is the worst pain imaginable in existence.

He puts both his hands between his legs. It's like you knocked all the air out of his body without giving him a chance to scream properly. It's like he is replaced with a rigid statue, his face in agony, his mouth open, he falls to his knees. The most he can put out is a prolonged, high-pitched whimper.

That wiped the smirk off his ugly face. But it's not nearly enough.

He's helpless. Kill him. End his existence.

Some people would think twice in this situation. Some people could never bring themselves to do it. A week ago, you were a part of those people.

He is the one who killed Mitzi. He is the one who wanted to rape you.

He can only watch helplessly, paralyzed, as you point the pistol at his head.

It's his fault. It's all his fault.

It's supposed to be a mental struggle, weighing pros and cons, considering the implications of crossing the line. It's supposed to take a while to think about it.

Whereas, in reality, it didn't take even a second. It's the easiest thing in the world.

Do it. Blow his brains out.

"This is for Mitzi, you BASTARD!"

You pull the trigger. The pistol kicks like a mule in your hand. But there is no missing at this range.

A pistol shot at such a close range is a terrible thing. In quick succession it all assails your senses - the flash, the smoke filling the room, the smell of gunpowder - what surprises you is that his head makes an almost bouncing movement before his body goes limp and falls. Where the bullet hits, it's just a hole, crushing his forehead. From the back of his skull, however, spills an unholy amalgam of blood, bone fragments and brain matter, and splatters the floor behind him.

You feel an intense wave of satisfaction. If sex doesn't feel like this, it should.

His body hits the floor with a dull thud.

But why do you still feel angry? Why do you still not feel safe? Why is everything around you so empty? You are vaguely aware of trembling and crying, you find yourself kicking the lifeless corpse.

"You should have FUCKING drowned me when you had the chance, you SWINE!"

You kick some more.

"Hang me, will you? Rape me, will you? Throw me overboard, will you? Take this! And THIS!"
A hand goes over your mouth, while another grabs around your waist. You struggle to break free as you find yourself carried away from the corpse, but you still manage to get a few kicks in.

"Will you bloody shut up? Do you want to bring the entire ship down on us? I knew I should've left you behind."

You throw the pistol at the corpse for good measure. Your rescuer slams you against the wall. Isn't this the second time he did that? There are limits to how rude a man should get!

"And have you gone completely mad? Do you know what it took me to get that pistol? It didn't last five bleeding seconds in your hands!"

"He deserved it!"

"Yeah, well, I deserve to leave this ship in one piece. Now shut up and follow me, or I swear I'll leave you behind."

> need a 1d6 roll to see if we encountered someone and how smoothly it goes. higher is better.
Rolled 5 (1d6)

Rolled 1 (1d6)

>tfw we were 29 seconds away from disaster.
The first of the two results wins. Writing.
He runs down the corridor. You follow him. As you turn a corner you almost collide with two crewmembers at the door to a cabin, in similar state of confusion and undress as the man you just killed. You don't recognize them ones. The Boiler Room Man knocks the closer one down with the rifle. The other one takes a step back and puts his hands up in a defensive posture. The boiler room man points his oversized rifle at him, and says, as if talking to a gorilla at the zoo:


His Mittelsprache is completely butchered, but it gets the point across. The crewmember shows down the corridor and says "d...down that way. Second room after the turn."

"Did you catch that?" he asks you.

"Yes. Second room after the turn."

He turns to the crewmember. "Danke." He slams the heavy steam rifle into him, sending him back into his cabin. You continue running until you burst into the room. He scans it with his rifle, but it is empty. It's not even lit. Clearly it is some small hour in the morning.

"What do you need the signal room for?"

"Flares! Help me find signal flares. Do you know what they look like? Oh, this blasted mask!"

As it turns out, you don't know, but it doesn't matter much. He frantically opens a few drawers and turns them over. Papers, pens, and other equipment scatters around the floor. "There! One yellow one and one black one. Take them and DON'T. DROP. THEM." You do as he says. "We don't have much time, go, go!"

You run back into the corridors and resume your mad dash.

> Roll 1d6 again
Rolled 6 (1d6)

Let's pray this one's better
Clarissa on a roll
You would expect something to go awry. You would expect someone to be in your way, to ask questions, troops blocking your paths, doors being locked, having to go the long way around. You would expect any one of so many things go wrong in so many ways.

But nothing does.

The alert is still wailing somewhere above you, and it doesn't seem like it is about to ubside any time soon; the entire airship is still scrambling.

You feel as if you're starting to understand the layout of the ship's corridors. Clearly you have been running through the long axis all this time, towards the stern of the ship. As you near a door, you pull on the boiler room man's sleeve and give him a signal to wait. He obeys, and you peek through the door discreetly.

"Three crewmembers. These are dressed, at least. They seem unarmed."

He nods, and you let slip a yelp as he immediately grabs you by the wrist and pulls you along rudely, and just... enters the room.

At an urgent pace, you just - walk past them, without a care in the world. You are terrified, mortified, but they do nothing to interfere with you. In fact, aside from a few glances, they don't seem to acknowledge you. They seem in a hurry to get somewhere, just as you. It dawns on you - they don't understand you are trying to escape. By manhandling you so roughly, this man is making it look like he is urgently escorting a prisoner somwhere. Upon reaching a staircase, he drags you to descend with him.

As soon as the two of you are on the deck below, outside of earshot, you ask him: "Shouldn't we be going up where the top deck is?"

"Yeah, well, that's where all the Krauts are! I know a way."

Once you descend to the bottom deck, you see no other crewmembers anymore. In fact, you hardly see much of anything, since it is so dark. You've noticed before Der Lindwurm has state of the art gas lamps, but they aren't running at the time, not on this deck.

He lights one of them with a turn of the handle, and closes the door behind him. Then he barricades it by knocking over some sort of a heavy woodern storage locker. Then, he collapses onto the floor, heaving heavily.

"Gods damn it." He takes off the dark mask and the menacing black helmet and tosses them to the floor. "Can't see a thing in this damned--"

You see a familiar face, sweaty and rude as ever - but a bit more gaunt than his old, smug self back at the boiler room of the Empress.

"Now be useful, will you? Help me get out of this bloody armour."
You do so. The armour doesn't fit him very well anyway, you find. It and the uniform underneath was clearly made for a smaller man... with shoulders less broad... focus, Clarissa

You start with unstrapping his backpack. It takes a while, so you even have time to chit chat.

"Well? Aren't you going to ask me how I got here? Or something?"

"Do you think me stupid? I know precisely how you got here." You remove his backpack, containing a pressurized tank with some gauges. It makes a heavy CLANG as it drops to the floor.

"Oh, really? And how is that, then?"

"Back on the Empress, after you heroically abandoned me, you found the first isolated soldier you could, killed or overpowered him and put on his uniform and armour. Then, when the signal came, you ziplined onto Der Lindwurm", where you saw me being carried off to the brig. In the chaos, you slipped away before anyone could see your face. But they don't wear masks on normal duty, so you couldn't move about the ship. Since `you've been around an airship or two`, you were able to know where to hide so as to avoid detection."

He nods. "There's a few larders just around the corner. They're always on the bottom deck where it's colder, and they're usually empty at the tail end of a voyage."

"Since then you've been waiting for - what is it now? Two? Three days? For an opportune moment to get away, probably at night since most the crew is asleep. Then you did to them what they did to the Empress, and you used the confusion, because nobody will question a masked man with a gun in an emergency. Oh, and you might be interested to know the soldier whose armour you took was called Braun."

"Lady... how the hell you know all that?"

"A lady has her secrets." You remove his gauntlet.

"Well, you've got it mostly right. I didn't do what they did to the Empress, because there are two Archimedeans, and both are guarded at all times."

"Then what did you do?" You unstrap his other gauntlet.

"I'm a boiler man, aren't I? I went to one of the boilers, tossed the poor sod overboard, shut off the outlet valve, and ran very, very fast."

The Archimedean units require mechanickal power to operate, you remember.

"How crude." You say, and toss his chestplate to the floor.

"Well, it worked, didn't it?"

"It did." You put your hands under his shirt.

"Uuuuh, lady?"

> "You didn't have to come for me. I want you to know I appreciate that."
> "You didn't have to come for me. I want you to know how much I appreciate that." (kiss him on the cheek)
> "You didn't have to come for me. I want you to know just how much I appreciate that." (they'll have to pull you off this man with a crowbar)
>"You didn't have to come for me. I want you to know just how much I appreciate that." (they'll have to pull you off this man with a crowbar)

We're going to blame the potion for this
> "You didn't have to come for me. I want you to know how much I appreciate that." (kiss him on the cheek)
>> "You didn't have to come for me. I want you to know just how much I appreciate that." (they'll have to pull you off this man with a crowbar)
>"You didn't have to come for me. I want you to know how much I appreciate that." (kiss him on the cheek)
>> "You didn't have to come for me. I want you to know just how much I appreciate that." (they'll have to pull you off this man with a crowbar)
File: kiss kiss.jpg (32 KB, 564x564)
32 KB

"Nowhere in your plan was it necessary for you to come for me. This hasn't escaped me." You straddle the man. "I wanted you to know just ... how much I appreciate that."

You kiss him, lustfully. It's quite scandalous behaviour, but somehow you are certain he won't mind, and who else is going to know? Besides, it was the potion's fault. Old Clarissa would certainly not behave in this unladylike way.

Besides, you hate to admit it, but being pulled around by him like that against your will ... and being exposed to all sorts of dirty men, looking at you, while you were paraded in your underwear throughout the airship...all those things could be said to have had quite an... inflammatory effect on your sensibilities. You feel dizzy. You feel better than ever. You feel things that ladies of good standing would never dare talk about.

The kiss lasts for several seconds, time you may well not have, but you are ALIVE, damn it, and you have him to thank for it. Your lips soon part, and sweat and heavy breathing fill the room. Then you slap him as hard as you can - so much so that it echoes around the room a few times. Your hand is throbbing.

"What the hell was that for?"

"That's for leaving me aboard the Empress to die with the others. You have no idea what I've been through!" You start fixing your hair.

"And because I'm engaged. You pig!"

That will teach this ruffian to take advantage of you in such a carefree manner!

Suddenly, the ship creaks painfully, and you feel as if being pressed downwards by a great force for a few moments. You are instantly made acutely aware of just how many... things ... are mutually touching, with nothing but your blouse and petticoat standing between you and absolute scandal. You collect yourself and promptly stand up before this... whatever is happening here... goes any furhter.

"Well, that's it. They stabilized the pump output. The ship is climbing, we aren't getting any lower than this. And we don't have much time before they start canvasing the ship."

"Right, so, what is the plan, then?"

He stares at you blankly.

"You ... do have a plan, right?"

He is reluctant, but in the end, he shrugs. "I may have one. But lady... you aren't going to like it."

You shrug. "Try me."
File: dogging_wheel.jpg (38 KB, 506x653)
38 KB

You do not like this plan.

You do NOT like this plan at all.

You are currently in the stern ventral observation chamber, which was just down the corridor from where you had ... helped the gentleman take off the armour. You would know - he had to drag you by force all the way, because when you heard the plan, you immediately considered turning around and trying your luck with the bald man. The only thing that prevented you from screaming was the fact that you were suposed to be hiding from others.

Below you lies a glass cupola, no more than a yard in diameter, cut in the floor of the chamber. There is a map and a couple of voice pipes. The cupola is secured to the hull by a massive dogging wheel.

"I am not doing it!"

"Yes you are."

"No I am not."

"Take your chances with the soldiers, then."

"At least that isn't certain death!"

"Relax. I've done it twice. I only broke a few ribs on my second go."

"But there's two of us!"

"I could only secure the one! We don't have the time to go looking for another one!"

The worst part is that you can see the sea and the shoreline below. You are clearly below the cloud level - no, it must be a a clear night, because you see pale moonlight reflecting on the waves below Either way, it is just so far down. Hundreds, or thousands of yards, probably.

He is currently tying a rope around you and him with very deft movements, as if he made these particular knots a thousand times in his life. He pulls on the rope and you feel it digging into scandalous places.

"Watch where you're touching!"

"You can slap me again when we are safe and sound. We HAVE to do it like this. Now hold still!"

He tightens the rope around you. The knots press into you around your armpits, waist, and thighs. He repeats the process on himself. You are brought dangerously close to each other. You are pretty much fastened to each other. He has you help him attach the ... whatever it was called. He triple checks every strap.

"Bloody League issue... Not like Air wing ones. I think I got it correct."

"You think?"

"I'm reasonably confident."

"Gods, we're about to plummet to our deaths, aren't we?"

"Do you have the flares!"

"The wha? oh. Those." You've been keeping the two cylinders in the elastic of your petticoat. You dig them out.

"Hold on to them. We won't have time later!"

You hear a crashing sound, shouts and footsteps somewhere nearby.

"Damn. We are out of time."
The door to the observation chamber has been closed and locked, but airships need to be made as light as possible, and that means wooden walls and wooden doors.

Since you are practically connected at the hips, waist, and chest, with you being in front of him, and both facing the same way, it is quite awkward to move about, yet somehow the two of you manage to turn towards the dogging wheel of the glass dome. Well, it's more that he turns forcefully and you are flung around by his movements like a kangaroo cub inside its mother's pouch. You almost hit the dogging wheel, it is right in front of ytou.

"Hurry!", he whispers. "Turn!".

He strains to turn the wheel, his muscles bulging, his grunts echoing into your ear. You join in turn, for whatever that's worth. Even as you do that, you hear soldiers milling about on the other side of the chamber door.

> I need anons to start rolling to budge the dogging wheel before time runs out. 4 separate people roll 1d6 please. Oh, also, we kinda may need more than one success.
Rolled 3 (1d6)

Rolled 5 (1d6)

Rolled 1 (1d6)

Rolled 2 (1d6)

Rolled 1 (1d6)

We still haven't asked for his name.....
Rolled 1 (1d6)

You try and try until it hurts, but no matter how hard you twist and pull, it seems like your fingers are going to fall off. The wheel resolutely refuses to budge. You are so frustrated - to be foiled so late, within sight of deliverance! You hear the sound of a door being broken into - but it is not the door to your cabin.

With a renewed effort, you both apply yourselves until your muscles are about to burst - and you can feel the wheel move, ever so little! You feel as if you almost have it...

>> 5674174
... when suddenly, you lose grip of the wheel and stumble, taking the man with you. He manages to hold on just barely before you fall, but you inadvertently let off just a hint of a scream.

"What was that? Do you hear it?" "It came from the observation room!"

Rolling a check for the bad guys.
Rolled 6 (1d6)

"Let me handle it", you hear from the outside. Immediately afterwards, you hear a sharp CRACK against the door. For a second you are terrified that you two will be trapped like rats - but instead, the door remains standing, and doesn't even budge. (>>5674240)

"Gods, Werner, you kick like a woman. Let me do it."

You renew your grip around the wheel and pull, both as one, with all your might.

> need two separate d6 rolls. You only get two - the MCs are running out of time.
Rolled 3 (1d6)

Are you counting this? >>5674244
Sorry, that's an unrelated roll. Gotta be fair.
Rolled 4 (1d6)

BARELY. But was it in time?

(rollan for my own purposes)
Rolled 6 (1d6)

(forgot to roll. Also, this is me rolling for the badguys so higher is better for them and good for us. You need make no further rolls.)
Rolled 3 (1d6)

The wheel is recalcitrant. But now that the cat is out of the bag, you can at least freely grunt in your attempts, and the fact it moved slightly before means it is now easier to work it.

You hear another kick at the door. This time the wood gives way slightly - you can see a fracture forming on the door.

The wheel moves! Just... a little... bit... further...

Another kick in the door. The door splinters.

You have had just about enough with this dogging wheel. With one last HEAVE and a rusty squeak it finally gives way completely. It is now a matter of three or four seconds of rotation before it is fully unwound. But as it turns out, it's seconds you don't have, because >>5674270 the door of the observation room also gives way, and splinters. That pistol would sure come in handy right about now.

The boiler room man curses, quickly takes one of the flares from your hand, twists off the top and tosses it forward through the hole in the door. You hear yelling on the other side of the door and acrid yellow smoke starts pouring into the room.

The boiler room man gives one final mighty kick to the dome, which detaches and falls downward. There is now a hole in the floor, and immediately you can feel a rush of wind streaming below you.

The door shatters fully and through a cloud of smoke, a coughing man enters the room. Were not bound awkwardly into a single organism, you have no doubt you could easily take him on in this state. But as is, it is difficult to move.

The coughing man raises a pistol in your general direction.

Of one mind, you both jump through the hole.

A loud BANG is heard, and then - wind, wind all around you, as all the hubbub of the Lindwurm soars towards the sky... but in reality it is you who are falling, falling down towards Hadrian's sea.
> Rolled 3 (1d6)
(the bullet missed, just barely. It was close quarters but he was gassed up.)
The view is breathtaking. The moon is still visible, but the sky is already reddening in the east. It's about to be dawn. Every wave, every reef, every island, every coastline for dozens of miles all around you is illuminated and visible. It would be the best sight of your life, if you were not falling to your death and close to throwing up.

"RELEASE IT!" you scream at the man, with the wind making it so you can barely hear yourself.




Easy for him to say, but you are fastened in such a way that your back is turned to him. It is alright, though - because he holds on for the both of you. With both his hands and legs he grips you in a vice so strong you feel your circulation will cut off.


You and him both pull on the rope - he had shown you while you were putting on the contraption. A large sheet of linen cloth starts flapping about from the backpack on his back. The air streaming all about you catches the canvas and-

You are jerked upwards with incredible force. Well, technically, the man behind you is, and for a moment, you think you are liable to fall out of his grip. But the ropes he bound around you cut deep into your flesh. The pain is excruciating, and you close your eyes in agony.

When you open them, you are flying through the sky.

Well, technically, you are gliding. But the sight is spectacular, breathtaking, much more so than the distant vague silhouettes you could see from the Empress. The sea is at most several hundred yards beneath you - and closing in fast.
The aftertaste of the flare smoke still irritates your lungs. Your armpits and thighs hurt from the rope. But it doesn't matter. None of it matters. You are alive. You both laugh, for no reason whatsoever other than that you can. You laugh until you are out of breath. As for you, you even start crying - are they tears of joy or are you just finally processing what went on over the past few days?

"Sorry about that scare, luv. I had to deploy it as late as possible to put distance between us and them."

"Now what do we do?"

His hand starts wandering around your blouse, down towards your thighs.

"Hey You fiend! What do you think you are doing? Stop that!"

He finds what he is looking for - he takes the remaining flare from your waistline and shows it to you.

"Now, we wait for them to leave sight. And then we light this thing. It will work as long as we keep it above the waterline. I would have preferred to have the other flare, too. Together, they form the universal signal for airship survivors. If we're lucky someone will notice anyway."

The Lindwurm is high, high above you. And shrinking.

"Will they not also be able to come for us?"

"With a broken boiler and Archimedean on pump power? I think we're safe. We will get picked up long before that. I really don't think they will risk being seen. They were willing to sink the Empress for no other reason than to hide the existence of their ship. I don't think it's accidental that they waited for nightfall before boarding her."

"The bald man said it was their standing orders. `No witnesses`."

"Well, there you have it. And have you noticed how high she was flying after picking us up?"

"No, how could I?"

"By how rare the aer was, of course. We must have reached twenty-five, maybe even twenty-eight. That's, uh..."

"Two thousand eight hundred fathoms. I know."

"And where did you learn that?"

"A lady has to keep her secrets."

He laughs. "Suit yourself, luv. So anyway, I reckon we are in the Gulf of Theodorea. These are merchant waters. Look, there's a sail ship over yonder. Two leagues out, or more. But if we see them, they certainly see us. We are sure to get picked up by somebody. In the worst case, we can probably reach that shore yonder in a, oh, day or two."

"I am not much of a swimmer."

"Water's warm this time of year. I fancy our chances. I'll hold you up."

Somehow, you actually do feel reassured. And he is gripping you tightly with his hands, although perhaps not strictly in a socially acceptable manner, but you reassure yourself that it is all in the service of sharing a para-linen.
The water surface is approaching rapidly. One thing is foremost on your mind.

"Say, don't you think you should tell me your name by now?"

"I am not sure if I should tell you. Seeing as how my lady has a penchant for kissing unknown men."

"I am sure I have absolutely no idea what vivid dreams of yours you might be referring to, sir. Now, answer the question."

He laughs. "It's Everard. Formerly third lieutenant of the HMA Grand Victoria. Currently unemployed."

"An officer? Of the Commonwealth Air Wing? You?"

"I did say former."

"Very well, Everard. I am Clarissa."

"Oh, I know. Though you'll never catch me being able to repeat your full name, it's a mouthful."

"And how do you know that?"

"Newt told me. I was supposed to be your unseen bodyguard."

"Oh. Well, you did a wonderful job. But must you spoil this moment by mentioning him?"

He pauses. "Look, luv. About Newt. There is something you should..."
You scream quite loudly as the water surface approaches. A huge splash and a brief tussle underwater follows, and you swallow quite a bit of seawater. As you briefly emerge above the waterline, you take as much air as you dare. He had warned you of this back when he laid out the plan - you would only have a minute or two to unfasten yourself, or risk drowning. Fortunately, he knows where to pull, yank, and twist, so the ropes come off one by one and very soon you can emerge, free to move about independently from one another.

The linen canvas that saved your life is swimming freely alongside you.

The first rays of dawn fall on your faces.
You take a deep breath, and laugh. Not exactly firm ground. But the water is a close substitute. It is warm, and pleasant. You are floating, looking at the sky above, as stars twinkle out one by one, with the rising of the sun. It is almost tranquil. Der Lindwurm is a speck. A bad dream. It's gradually becoming larger and larger.

Wait, what? "Everard." He is under the surface, doing who knows what. You nudge him. "Everard!"

He surfaces. "What? Gods, woman, I didn't tell you my name to be your bloody bellhop--"

"Shut up and look! There! The Lindwurm! What is it doing?"

"Aw, crud."

The sky is already light enough that you can see the black cylinder against a darkish blue backdrop. It is descending - at an impossible speed.

"Is she falling? Did she lose the Unit after all?" he says, struggling against waves to keep watching. "Oh, dear gods. They cannot be that stupid."


"They are doing an Archimedean Drop. Nobody in their right mind ever does that. Lady, what the HELL did you do to piss them off?"

"ME?! It was you who exploded their boiler!"

"No, they are definitely coming for you!"

There is a flash of headache, and you can see, plain as day, the tattooed face of the bald man, angry, angry as you've never seen before. Even as he was killing people, you've seen him calm and collected. Whereas now, it seems like every piece of ink on his face, every wrinkle, burns with anger.

"Either way", Everard continues, "plan's changed. They are coming after us, and risking everything to do it."

The ship looks like it is in complete freefall for a while, but then you notice it gradually losing speed. It is hard to estimate at this distance. But it looks inevitable that it will crash into the surface. Not that you'd mourn that particular turn of events. Except it keeps decellerating.. getting slower... slower... A wave of water covers you at a crucial moment, and by the time you are back on the surface, the ship looks within a hair's breadth to crash into the sea. Your heart sinks when you realize the cylinder has come to a complete stop, barely avoiding the crash. As if to compensate, it now starts falling upwards with almost the same acceleration, for several seconds; then back down, and so it goes several times until it finally stabilizes.

"I never thought I'd see it done. That must've been hell for the poor sods aboard. They must have the most skilled flight crew of the League aboard that ship."

Mercifully, its horizontal distance is quite far. But even from this distance, you can see its chimneys start emitting thick black smoke, and the ship starts turning.

"Admire them later! What do we do now?"

"Make as little noise and foam as possible. If they spot us, we are dead."

> roll 1d6.
Rolled 5 (1d6)

Rolled 4 (1d6)

Rolled 2, 2, 2 = 6 (3d6)

A red and yellow flare streak through the air above the ship. Everard grows pale.

"This is bad." he explains. "It means `stay away, military business`. Civilians ships are sure to obey that."

"So they mean to find us, no matter what."

"For a ship that is under strict orders to remain secret, they are certainly risking a lot. But why? Surely they can't be that cross at a couple of saboteurs?"

"We are witnesses to the Empress' demise." You don't say the other part out loud: And the bald man wanted something from me, with that thing he made me drink.

"Soak your hair while you still have the chance."

"But the saltwater will ruin it!"

"Gods' sake, woman! You just had to be a redhead, didn't you? The more soaked it is, the less chance it will be seen from above. And keep it tied, or something. Don't let it spread."

"Oh, I'll just reach into my commode, shall I, and take a ribbon or two!" You grumble, but do as he says. "They're sooner likely to spot that oversized head of yours than my hair anyway."

Then, you remember something. "The linen! They will see the linen!"

The linen, painted bright white as if to spite you, is left to float freely beside you. It is still just underneath the water surface, as it doesn't have enough density to sink; worse, as it bobs and weaves at the surface, pockets of air are trapped beneath it, making it impossible for it to sink. It is a dead giveaway as to your position, especially when viewed from above. It is soaked, has become unwieldy, and would most certainly present a dead giveaway when viewed from a height.

"Good thinking. Quick, give it here."

It cannot be made to sink, despite your best efforts. While rolling it back into the pouch where it came from would be a completely hopeless endeavour, you can at least use the untied ropes to collect it into a manageable form. Eventually you succeed to bundle it up as much as possible. You even use it as a sort of a very primitive flotation aid, as the bundle refuses to sink, but is something you can hold on to below the surface.

"This will make things easier. But if we hadn't noticed it, it would 've become a disaster. Now stand as still as possible and be as vertical as possible."

(I am rolling for their spotters. They would need a 6 to spot you. Stay tuned.)
uh, that's 6.

we boned?
No, it was 3 separate checks. I meant they'd have to get at least one individual 6.

The chances of rolling less than 6 total on a 3d6 is ... lemme check the math... 10/216 or something like that. I wouldn't subject people to such a low chance roll.

While we're on the subject, getting at least one 6 in 3 rolls is pretty high. Now that I calculate it, it's around 42%. This went well for us.
I think it means a 6 for one of those individual rolls.
File: ssssssup.jpg (44 KB, 564x797)
44 KB
You can easily track the The Lindwurm as it hovers at around a hundred yards above the water surface. It almost seems as if it is about to drift away, at a distance of about a mile, but then it starts rotating. It resumes its slithering search pattern for a while. Fortunately, the visibility is nowhere near perfect yet - but as the day goes on, the clear, cloudless sky will turn into your enemy. Just how long can they allow this ship to be in plain daylight?

For the better part of half an hour, you and Everard are as living statues, only making the smallest possible movements to keep your faces above the water.

"Thank the Gods, they can't seem to find us. We just need to stand still for a while longer, and we'll--"

Another flash of headache.

You are inside your laboratory. Wait... this is where I've had that weird concoction given by the bald man.

The distillate of the Third Principle is bubbling. The Tincture is ready. What a weird time to hallucinate. Am I going insane?

The viscous liquid swirls around a shallow dish. Like is drawn to like. She was Touched. Her blood boils with it.

In the Aether, she will leave a wake. Not strong, but she is the only one for leagues around.

Like a ferromagnetic compass to the poles, the fulgurate of the Red Mercury aligns itself to Aether lines.

You observe the bubbles... forming a pattern. Weak, but unmistakable.

"Twelve points starboard", you say to the soldier next to you, and he salutes and leaves.

The hallucination - though it's far to vivid to be called that - ends as abruptly as it started. You are vaguely aware of Everard holding your head above the water and calling for you to snap to.

Almost immediately, Der Lindwurm starts turning. And turning. And turning. Until it is bearing directly towards you.
Rolled 4 (1d6)

"Oh bloody-- how did they know?"

Despair grips you. You were so close. You almost got away. It is not fair. You begin laughing hysterically.

"It's me. They are after me. They can see me. I don't know how, but they can see me."

You have had enough. You regret the day you ever heard the first thing about the fucking Alchymists and the fucking mystery ships and the fucking soldiers. There is a limit to how much one girl can take.

"What are you talking about? Look, maybe we can..."

"Swim away, Everard. You still have a chance. It's me they're after. Just... turn and swim. I was an idiot to think this would end in any other way."

"You are not thinking straight. Let's--"

The rhythm of the sea changes its tune, a disquieting throb beneath, around, inside you. A chill, not born of the water's temperature but of primal fear, clutches at your heart. You instinctively clutch Everard by the shoulder.

The sea begins to roil and churn. A dark formless shape appears in the depths, just below the waterline, growing, ascending. Your eyes widen in terror as the monstrous shadow looms closer. For a moment, time itself freezes.

With a collosal surge, the behemoth breaches the surface. The frothy wake throws you back, and you and you swallow sea water. Your coughs are overshadowed by the churning groan of the ocean. Towering above you, a vast, dark, and unfathomable presence glints in the sun's morning rays, a silhouette cast against the dawn.

You are reasonably versed in the natural philosophy of the world. A whale, perhaps, or a narwhal, would be quite harmless. They have even been known to help the shipwrecked. But you know that other things, more sinister, roam the oceans at greater depths - though none typically dare enter the relative calmness of Hadrian's sea. But this is no whale. This thing is much larger.

Your blood chills in your veins, as you remember the stories of the Hadrian Kraken.

It doesn't seem fair at all - to survive all that, just to be eaten by a sea monster.

The titan rises into the sun, glistening. It has wounds on its skin, and an enormous yellowish eye, placed way further back than you would expect, glints at you menacingly, reflecting the hue of the morning sky. Water cascades down its hull in a gleaming veil. The roar of its emergence echoes ominously.

"Do you think we should take a chance with the Krauts after all?", Everard asks.
Der Lindwurm has already grown large against the horizon; it can't be more than three hundred yards away. But who has time to keep track of that, when the creature has just emerged?

Even with the water splashing at you and threatening to take you away, even with the fear of being eaten, you are perceptive enough to notice a detail quite out of place - an enormous cannon mounted on the creature's back. It is aiming upwards, directly towards the Lindwurm. The cannon rotates slightly, seemingly on its own, and with a huge, sudden roar that assails your ears with a wave of pressure, it CRACKS with the force of a hundred thunderstrikes.

( >>5675190 Rolled 4)

The shell appears to hit its intended target, and some debris falls downwards - but at this distance, and with the smoke of the chimneystacks obscuring the ship partially, you can't be sure.

Following a triumphant yell from Everard, the airship that gave you so many troubles immediately starts ascending with alarming acceleration - almost as if falling upwards.

A "HISS" of steam emanating from the cannon on the "creature's" back attracts your attention back towards it.

From the leviathan's blowhole, a small, only slightly overweight man with glasses emerges, until he is out up to his waist. His friendly face beams at you, and in perfect Mittelsprache he addresses you:

"I do apologize for keeping you waiting, Freiherrin Engels, we got to you as fast as we could. I am Professor Hamilton. I bring compliments from Newt, and he would appreciate it very much if you were to join us for breakfast."
Will be taking a few days' break. Feels like a good spot to catch one's breath before we get to the next leg of the journey.
well played, Geber
Thanks for running! I was wondering what walking off the ship unharmed would entail.
If you're referring to the dialog option "My dear boy, she was allowed to walk off that ship with a smile, neat as you please", that would be the double-agent plotline. You would make a deal with the bald guy (and by extension the League, question mark?). And trust me, you would have no choice but to obey the terms.

Even though we know a war is bound to start in a few years, the balance of power and its outcome of that war is directly in the hands of the players - one example is the Hanseatic League getting the Stone of the Philosophers, instead of Clarissa walking aboard the Pelagius with it. Now consider the strategic implications if we ended up in the submarine that is at the center of the plot while the League held our leash.
That sounds like it would have been an interesting plotline. Lots of sneaking around and making things explode. Actual League agent instead of just a suspected.
We can revisit that later. Clarissa is not under obligation to align with anyone. Sure, the bald guy is a villain, but it's been revealed that Newt is on the Pelagius. She does NOT like Newt.
Is Hamilton the tomb raider professor?
No, that would be Calvert. Hamilton is a returning character from the first quest (https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/2020/4487084/)
Waiting eagerly for the next installment
We shall return soon to our scheduled programming. Thank you for your patience.
I don't think you can find that kind of dress inside a submarine.
Updoots when

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