|As close as I'm ever going to get to an image of three Satarlan|
sky-boats battling it out (detail from Gino D'Achille's cover
to ERB's Swords of Mars).
The heroes barely had time to take in the sight of their rescuer when one of her underlings reported a pair of approaching sky-boats. She called out to Gallius: "Now it's time for you to show me why I went to the trouble of breaking Satarlan law to rescue you—get this boat out of the city!" Gallius didn't hesitate, rushing to the helm and setting the boat in motion. Ralak found the boat's arbalest and aimed it at the pursuers. Koth slumped onto the deck; the wound he had received from the jemadar in the Great Arena was not as serious as it had initially seemed, but he was still losing blood. The mysterious woman called out to one of her companions as she moved to assist Gallius in operating the ship: "Zedrek, tend to the big one's injuries!" Clad in the humble garments of a street priest, Zedrek began to clean and dress Koth's injury.
Zedrek of Lysor, Servant of the Twenty
Attributes: Strength 1, Agility 2, Mind 2, Appeal 0
Combat: Initiative 1, Melee 2, Ranged 0, Defense 1
Careers: Farmer 0, Priest 2, Physician 2, Beggar 0
Boons: Detect Deception, Healing Touch, Savant
Flaws: Cloistered (a variation on City-Dweller), Landlubber
"That's a nasty cut, friend," the priest said in Koth's native Festrelian, "but I think I can keep the scarring to a minimum."
Meanwhile, Gallius was weaving his way around Satarla's numerous towers, trying to put more distance between the heroes' boat and those of the pursuing Satarlan Sky-Navy. Suddenly one particularly high minaret appeared in the boat's path. Cursing, Gallius had to turn back toward their enemies to avoid crashing into the building. At the same time, the arbalest's string broke, knocking Ralak to the deck. (The heroes' players had just rolled two Calamitous Failures in a row.) Enemy bolts struck the boat, killing one of their rescuer's party instantly and damaging a flight vane. The ship began to lose speed—until a now bandaged Koth put his back to the task and singlehandedly bent the vane back into place.
Gallius swiftly regained his equilibrium and threaded the sky-boat through a particularly twisty maze of streets. The pursuers fell behind, eventually losing track of the stolen craft. Gallius was then able to fly the ship out of the city and into the Jungles of Qush. They anchored the vessel in the canopy; while Koth and Ralak covered the fuselage with camouflage netting, the mysterious benefactress revealed some magical talents, casting a ritual of concealment to help hide the ship.
When she was finished, she turned to the heroes and identified herself as Sharangara of Oomis, a collector of rare antiquities. "There's an ancient artifact of the First Age that I want, and I need a sky-boat to get it. Which means I need a sky-pilot, and that's where you come in, Gallius." "Where are you going," the suspicious pilot asked, "and what exactly is it that you're after? Don't tell me it's some hideous weapon that will melt our flesh and send our souls screaming to hell!"
"It's nothing that dramatic, my friend," Sharangara answered. "It's a small cauldron in the shape of a bird. The ancient records call it the Kartal, which my friend Zedrek here tells me is Yggdari for 'eagle.' It may have mystical powers, but it may also just be a beautiful relic of a better age. Whatever it is, I want it for my collection, and I'm willing to reward you all handsomely for assisting me."
"What sort of reward?" asked Ralak. "To begin with, once we have the Kartal, I'm more than willing to turn this vessel over to Gallius. He can sell it to one of Satarla's rival cities, or travel around in it himself, whatever he desires. The rest of you will get more than enough gold. What do you say?" Gallius answered: "I'm intrigued, but you still haven't said where we're going to find this Kartal."
"In the Flying City of the Winged Men, somewhere over the Axos Mountains. You're my pilot, and Zedrek is my translator—he's one of the few Lemurians who speaks Windsong, the language of the Winged Men. Before we can bargain with them ..." "You mean rob them," Ralak observed with a smirk. "... bargain with them," continued Sharangara, "we have to find them. And I think that the wizard Jesharek Jool may be able to help us with that."
"Jesharek's tower is somewhere in the heart of the Qush!" exclaimed Ralak, "We'll be lucky to find it, and even luckier to leave it in one piece. Can't we take a safer path to the mountains? Say, Shamballah?" Sharangara shook her head: "If you want to risk getting scooped up by a Satarlan patrol or shot down by Tyrusian guards, sure. Flying straight north through the Qush will have its dangers, but it's a faster path, and I have some ideas about how to bargain for information with Jesharek."
The heroes agreed with the plan, and everyone settled down to sleep. It would be an early start for the flight north through some of Lemuria's most deadly jungle, and they needed to be sharp for the journey.