The Golden Way, Rashemen
(30th of Elesias, 1491 Dalereckoning)
When they woke, Kaileena found herself honestly surprised they managed to get out of bed. Her mouth was painfully dry, and her head ached abominably. The breakfast bell sounded, and she cried out, hands pressed against her ear slits.
“Stop, stop!” she groaned, squirming off of Zolin, who had drank much less but still far too much, and fared little better. Her claws dug into the wooden floor as she shook from the cold, clothed only in a thin linen shift, and stumbled over to the fire, warming herself.
More boiled grains, with blueberries this time. She accepted the meal gratefully, beside strong, bitter tea served from a decorated tin samovar.
After their meal, they were given their things, including Himawari, who seemed no worse for wear, and escorted south, back to the road.
“If this is the path you wish to take...” Anastasia had advised, “You might as well take the quicker route; just north of Citadel Rashemar and south of the Circle of Blue Fire, there is a limestone crevice marked with a sequence of runes. Can’t miss it. Drop into its waters, about knee deep, walk to its end, and you will find yourself in a shallow hot spring near Winterkeep, just south of the sea.”
The witch had given her a pair of potions, which would keep them from getting wet during their swim, and a pair of scrolls to use; once when they arrived at the shore, and once when they were ready to return.
Exactly what it did, they’d intentionally left unspecified.
With her clothing scorched, the locals had also been nice to offer her a replacement, which she wore now; a black wool gown belted at the waist, and a fur-lined cloak that even had sleeves to slip her arms through.
Their supplies had been restocked too, including a few meals worth of cheese, bread, and grains. They even gave Zolin a thick sack filled with rabbit sausage; a local delicacy.
“And here you are.” Moirshen said, turning his company back towards the forest, “Let it not be said that the Rashemi lack hospitality. Safe journey.”
If any part of their journey had indeed been difficult or unsafe, Zolin mused, it had been leading that damned insufferable horse into the water and through that tunnel.
Not the orcs, not the ships, not daring a glance over his shoulder every ten paces.
That horse and that tunnel!
But they managed, after a good hour or so, to do just that, and at the end of the tunnel they found themselves in a limestone roof covering much warmer waters around a sandy depression. An hour or so by foot brought them around a gloomy stone keep, and a great sea that spread from end to end of the horizon.
“We covered weeks of travel in a few steps.” he mused, bewildered, “Let me never question the usefulness of befriending a rashemi witch...”
Nodding warily, Kaileena led Himawari towards the water, and let her be, drawing the scroll from her pack. Unrolling it, she studied its contents, before frowning.
“This spell doesn’t make sense.”
Forked tongue tasting the air, she hissed, “Too many forces playing on one another. I can’t tell if its necromancy or illusion or intended to bake bread. A good thing I never went into much ritual magic.”
She sighed, “There’s a command word. Might as well try this thing and hope Anastasia wasn’t secretly trying to kill us in a comically sized explosion.”
Pointing the scroll towards the water, Kaileena gulped, then, ”Arcaniss Adofhaor Zin-carla.”
The scroll wrenched itself from her hand, as if pulled by an unseen being, and landed in the waters of the Great Ice Sea. Upon contact, it disintegrated into a cloud of dense fog, which spread rapidly, spooking their horse.
He grabbed the reins before it could bolt, and cursed, drawing steel and calling upon his god, which manifested as a corona of golden light.
From inside the fog he intuited shapes, which resolved into objects. A network of ropes and pulleys. A length of wood that jutted from a large main body. A tattered mainsail, billowing in wind that simply wasn’t there.
The fog settled, revealing a small caravel that seemed to flicker in and out, slightly opaque, and unmanned.
“A ghost ship.” he cursed, “It is necromancy. Gods...”
The ship rested about a stone toss into the water, just out of the shallows. A raft was lowered, and sped towards them by no visible means of propulsion. As it reached the shore, they were left with a difficult decision.
“Witch or not, I trust her.” Kaileena said meekly, too meekly to be certain, “There is no better way to Teikoku.”
Cursing, Zolin lead a shaking Himawari onto the raft, and Kaileena followed. When they were settled, it sped back towards the ship, and was raised seemingly of its own accord, depositing them onto the deck. Though it seemed no more substantial than the fog, it bore their weight like a proper ship. A phantom bell sounded, and suddenly the ghostly craft turned north, and lurched forward at prodigious speed.
It would be a strange, albeit short, voyage.