The Veilwarden’s ritual finally worked! I’ve managed to teleport back, though I’m standing on the deck of a ship, probably headed into Qi’s port. It appears I missed the mark a bit. That’s fine, I’ll- um, I’m being surrounded by the crew, and they do not appear all that friendly…
This teleportation did not at all go as expected. Rather than finding myself back in the Durkhal I am instead standing on the deck of a ship. The vessel seems somewhat familiar; it has elements of one of the merchant ships from my childhood in the City of Bridges, but appears heavily armored and outfitted for battle.
My sudden appearance on the ship has caught the crew, a group of mutants, by surprise. No, not mutants… the claws, tusks and bony crests displayed by these people appear to have been grafted onto them at some point. They suddenly accost me and rend the robe I still wear from Cheloh as talons and fangs sink into my flesh. They are attacking me in the manner of wild beasts, but they’re not set on consuming me, they are intent on destroying me!
One of these faux beast-sailors is about to tear at my throat when I hear a shout, a command for them to stop. An intimidating woman steps to me, her torso covered in thick furs, her bare arms, clawed hands, and tusked face displaying highly intricate tattoos that look to be formed from fine etched lines inflamed with blood. She does not look me in the eyes, rather, her gaze is set on my Order of Truth medallion. Clearly the commander of this ship, she shoves my assailants aside, grabs me by the arm, and yanks the medallion from my neck, deliberately allowing her talons to painfully rake down my chest as she does so. With a jerk of her chin the crew grabs me, opens a hatch on the deck and gives me a shove.
The drop from the hatch above made for a hard landing, not to mention I’m still bleeding from the bites and gouges. The other occupants of the hold turn to see who the new arrival is, devoid of curiosity, more of a check for any change in their situation, I suppose. A weathered-skinned man who appears much older than he likely is crawls over to me and asks me if I’ve seen someone- Kesstle, he says. He asks if I’ve seen Kesstle. Of course I have no idea who Kesstle is, so I shake my head. The others no longer pay me any mind, they sink back into their air of hopelessness.
After my eyes adjust a bit more to the meager shreds of light I begin searching the hold for a possible way out. I am aware of the likely futility of my search, considering one of these captives would have surely found one already, but that doesn’t give me pause. The man who first spoke to me begins to ask me questions: where am I from, am I a craftsman or a numenera worker. I proceed to ignore his inquiries as I continue the fruitless task of finding a yet undiscovered exit.
I’ve grown aggravated and frustrated with my yieldless search and the situation at large so I retire back to sit against the wall of the hold to await my undetermined fate. The weathered stranger asks me about Kesstle once again, and I growl impatiently with his blatant disregard of my original answer and I shake my head. After enough time passes to allow my irritation to quell I decide to engage the man to gather information about my current circumstance.
The man is Goash, a chiurgeon rasterider from Kaparin. He tells me I am aboard a Jaekel ship off the coast of Scorpion’s Reach, a peninsula stretching from the southern portion of the land of Ancuan, likely headed for their home on the inhospitable Aras Island. He was captured while flying off the coast of Ancuan by these Jaekels. Kesstle is what he has named the raster he rides and he’s concerned for the welfare of his mount. I’m guessing they are keeping it in a much larger hold to accommodate the size of the creature.
I had only heard whispers of these Jaekels. I heard they were essentially animals, but I thought that was simply metaphor. These are not your standard scoundrels, Redfleet crewmembers gone rogue. These people strive to turn themselves, quite literally, into ferocious predators that can hunt and kill with a creature’s natural weaponry. The more dangerous and animalistic, the more revered the sea marauder. The worst of them, the most feral and merciless is endowed with the title of Araska. They are identifiable by the blood tattoos and the most outstanding animal augmentations. The woman who took my medallion was clearly one of these Araskas.
Goash had divulged to these Jaekels that he is a chiurgeon in hopes that they would keep him alive. These humans that aim to emulate beasts are inclined to slay the majority of their captors, sparing only those that can be useful to them such as crafters, tinkerers, and those who work with the numenera. He gambled on them having a need for someone with the skills to graft their predator-animal attributes onto them, and it appears to have paid off. For now. The captain of this vessel, the Araska, identified me as an Aeon Priest and no doubt plans to exploit my knowledge of the numenera.
Four days are spent trapped in the bowels of the ship before we reach Aras Island. The light burns my eyes as they open the hatch of the hold and force us out onto the stabbing cold of the mountainous isle. While they shuffle half of us out in chains, they release half a dozen of my fellow captives. The newly freed prisoners pause, stunned at the improbability of their liberation before bursting into a stumbling sea legged sprint into the icy snow drifts. The jaekels watch them flee for ten beats or so before they launch into predatorial pursuit of their prey. The rest of our captors lead us further into the freezing storm toward some unknown destination. Even through their distant screams, I fear that the released prisoners currently being shredded by the Jaekels may be experiencing a more enviable outcome than that which awaits us.