Faith had traveled by elemental airship before but this was her first trip on a regular sailing ship. Seeing as how the first airship she'd traveled on had crashed mysteriously into the sea, she was understandably relieved to be closer to the ground.
She was taking the ship Sojourn along with her friends to the city of Stormreach on the continent of Xen'drik. Although she was basically a quiet girl with simple needs, she couldn't get past the feeling that she was supposed to be somewhere, doing something. She felt an obligation, a duty to... something. The feeling was like a dream that you can only partly remember, although Faith would not have made that comparison. She couldn't remember ever dreaming in the first place. On her journey towards this unknown calling, she had discovered that she had a taste for adventure and excitement. Stormreach offered plenty of both.
Stormreach was the only real city on the continent of Xen'drik other than Dar Qat, the Riedran city on the far western coast, south of the desert. The Riedrans didn't allow people in to visit or trade, so it hardly counted. Stormreach was an outpost of a wild land, mostly unexplored by modern people. It hadn't always been that way.
Before humans lived on the world of Eberron, the giants had settled Xen'drik. They were intelligent and industrious and built amazing cities across the continent. The dragons of Argonessen, impressed with the giants' intelligence, taught them magic. The giants soon grew arrogant however, and experimented in forbidden magic leading to their downfall. They attracted the attention of Dal Quor, the plane of dreams. The Quori invaded Xen'drik, intent on exterminating the giants. The dragons did not intervene on their behalf.
One dragon did stand with the giants. The Truthful One, a dragon who still lived in Xen'drik, fought alongside the giants to defend their civilization. He devised a powerful spell to destroy the moon tied to the plane of Dal Quor destroying the portal between Dal Quor and Xen'drik. He persuaded the powerful Stormreaver, champion of the giants, to perform it with him. Although they succeeded, devastating damage was done to Xen'drik by the exploding moon. The Truthful One did not fulfill his part of the spell and did not give his life for the giants, only his body. His spirit took the body of another dragon and became a lich. The Stormreaver did give his life, but someday will rise again when Xen'drik needs him.
So say the legends.
The legends also tell of the giants' subsequent plan to destroy the continent of Aerenal, a large island where their elf slaves had fled during the conflict. It is recorded that the dragons, recognizing the need to stop the giants from destroying all of Eberron in their vengeance, decimated the remaining giant civilizations on Xen'drik and placed arcane curses on the land to prevent the giants from ever again coming to power. A shocking monument to that conflict can be found deep in the jungles of Xen'drik where a crystalline wasteland marks the last capitol city of the giants. There, on a huge, devastated battlefield ancient giants and dragons still wage war, frozen forever into purplish stone statues. Although there are theories, no one knows why the dragons sacrificed so many of their own along with the giants in the battle of Gianthold. However it is well known that dragons are not overly sentimental, even about their own kind.
After many attempts by different races and people to settle in Xen'drik, pirates had finally built a city on the edge of the continent. It was the first settlement that had not been gripped by homicidal madness, devastating illness or mass extinction since the dragons placed their curses. That city was Stormreach, home to fugitives and missionaries, merchants and adventurers. It was a city of mystery and intrigue and Faith was more than a little nervous about moving there. A neighbor who sometimes watched her when her grandfather was out used to tell her stories about Stormreach and all the riches of Xen'drik. In her mind, it was a wondrous, magical and dangerous place. The closer they got to arrival, the more she remembered the tall tales she'd heard as a little girl.
Faith stumbled when the ship pitched slightly as she made her way out of the sleeping quarters and into the dining area. The ship was carrying its maximum limit of passengers as people left Korthos Island. Korthos had just been released from the tyranny of a mind flayer and a white dragon. She was glad the trip was no more than three days from Korthos Island to Stormreach. Two days into the trip and the close quarters were wearing on people's nerves. They would reach Stormreach this evening and the mood of the passengers was lightening. She went to the small counter where the cook handed her a plate of something that looked like bacon, but much larger. Much, much larger. She decided to eat it and not ask questions.
She saw her friend Thysmac Essory, a handsome half-elf sorcerer sitting at a table with Rorry Malcanus and the very pretty Verona Jethro. Verona was giggling and flipping her dark hair back as she laughed. It hard to call her laugh a giggle as it was a deep, almost manly sort of laugh for a human girl, but the two men at her table laughed along with her.
"She's playing them off one another," Twila Blackgrove muttered as Faith joined her at one of the tables. Faith slid onto a bench beside the elf girl and watched as Verona looked at Thysmac through lowered eyelashes and touched his hand. "Oooh, I just want to go smack her."
"Why do you care? He looks happy."
"For now. But she's a gold digger. She'll probably drop them both when we get to Stormreach and she finds bigger fish to fry. Especially when she finds out about Thysmac's family."
"What do you mean? What's wrong with his family?"
"Oh, right, you aren't from Stormreach," Twila sighed a little. "It's all very sad really. Thysmac is one of the Essorys- the Merchant Essorys. His family have been successful merchants in Stormreach since the city was chartered. Very upstanding, pillars of the community and all that. Thysmac's father Admitus was supposed to be a business genius. He was very powerful, only a step down from the Coin Lords who rule Stormreach.
Anyway, the City Guard found a bunch of stolen artwork in the Essorys' warehouses and accounting books indicating a lot of shady deals with the underworld. Who knows how long the Essorys were fencing stolen treasures? It's hardly uncommon in a city like Stormreach but Admitus always made a big deal about honesty and fairness. The scandal cost him his seat as head of the Stormreach Merchant's Guild and he was arrested. Then he died in the city dungeons, but no one really knows how.
The Coin Lords apparently took the Essorys' mansion and closed down all their businesses. Thysmacs' mother had a breakdown and as far as I know, she hasn't recovered. He's got a bunch of brothers and sisters and I think they all moved out to Summerfield while the older Essorys try to work with the legal system to get it all straightened out. Which is kind of hopeless since the Coin Lords are the legal system and Admitus spoke out against their policies pretty often. There's been lots of stories in the paper about how the Merchant's Guild has gone corrupt since Admitus has been gone and some people are starting to think maybe he didn't do it, but for the most part the Essorys have lost their money and their social status."
"Wow," Faith said. "I had no idea. Poor Thys."
"Yeah, and that's why I don't want to see him get stomped. He's a good guy and he doesn't deserve to get his heart broken on top of everything else."
"You talking about Thysmac?" Kalvenor Grimseeker joined them. "Sad about his family. The Essorys were honest business folk back when everyone in Stormreach was pirates. You could always trust an Essory merchant not to take advantage. I never thought Admitus would be the one to go wrong. He really pulled the Stormreach merchants together to stand up to the Coin Lords and the gangs too. The Stormreach Chronicle quoted him nearly every week."
Thysmac laughed at something Verona said then. Rorry glared at him briefly, then tried to distract Verona. Soon she was laughing with Rorry and Thysmac looked disgruntled.
"That is not a good situation," Kal observed. "That boy is going to waste his time mining a chunk of pyrite instead of holding out for a vein of gold."
"Guess he can take care of himself," Twila sniffed.
Half-orc Malut Zughan took a seat at Kalvenor's side. He set a plate piled high with the bacon-like meat in front of him and ate enthusiastically.
"Good morning, Malut," Twila said pointedly.
"Hmph," grunted Malut, chewing a very large mouthful of meat. Faith was fascinated, watching his broken left tusk bob up and down as he chewed. It was sort of hypnotizing.
"How is your breakfast?" Twila was determined to make him speak to her.
Malut took a big swallow and answered.
"It's decent ship food. Probably preserved with salt. Needs something to make it taste better. " He rummaged around in his backpack and pulled out a small red bag. After digging around in the red bag he brought out a few oddly-shaped dried plants and proceeded to crumble them onto his plate. "Bloodfeast fungus to add flavor. Want some?"
He held out a handful of the crumbled plant.
Twila looked horrified and shook her head but Faith was intrigued. Kal was enthusiastic.
"I'll try it. I'm sick of this bland food. Drop some on me, buddy," he told Malut. With surprising deftness, Malut shook his fist over Kal's plate and the speckles landed in a relatively uniform layer over Kal's meat. Malut looked at Faith inquringly. She nodded and he sprinkled her plate as he had Kal's.
Faith tried the sprinkled bacon tentatively. The slightly earthy taste was actually good on the salty meat.
"Malut, that's pretty good," she said. "How'd you learn that?"
Malut beamed. Faith wasn't sure she'd ever seen him smile before and and it was a little on the frightening side. So many teeth!
"Mother was a good cook. Taught me the best seasonings."
Kal clapped the half-orc on the shoulder. "You're a man of many talents, Malut. I don't usually care much for half-orcs, but you're ok by me."
There wasn't much to do on a ship filled to the seams with people and the cabin areas got stuffy pretty quickly. The Thunder Seas had a reputation for being stormy and difficult, but today the sky was clear and the sea was calm. Faith and Twila went up to the deck, being careful to stay clear of the sails and rigging. They went to their favorite spot on the stern and sat, dangling their legs over the back of the ship.
"You know what would be fun? Going up to the top of the rigging and jumping into the sea!" Twila mused. "Maybe with a rope tied around me and carrying a chunk of wood to float on. Then I could let the boat pull me all the way into Stormreach."
Faith laughed. "You are crazy, you know that?"
"Not crazy, just bored out of my mind! I want to be doing something."
"I think you might not like the devilfish or the fiendish squid that live in the waters of the Thunder Sea," said a voice behind them. Lars Heyton was leaning on the edge of the cabin just behind them. Lars was an older man, a wizard whose family had protected Korthos Island for generations. Faith and her friends had worked with him to free Korthos from an icy fate and now he had been summoned to Stormreach and was traveling with them.
"They however, like elf very much."
Twila sighed. "I'm stuck here, then."
"I'm afraid so," said Lars. "I'm not a fan of sea travel myself. I'm looking forward to docking tonight; it's been a very long time since I visited Stormreach and even longer since I've been to the Citadel of the Twelve. I imagine much has changed."
Remembering that Lars was bound for the Twelve, she thought of her own obligation to the Twelve. She wondered what she should do about her future.
"I was hired to be a scribe for the Twelve," Faith told them. "My passage from Breland to Stormreach was paid for by them."
"Really," Lars raised his eyebrows. "The Twelve doesn't often import scribes from Khorvaire, especially since the sizable migration of immigrants into Stormreach. Since the Last War ended, many educated people emigrated to Stormreach seeking employment. I imagine they have other plans for you, my dear."
Now Faith was surprised. "I can't imagine what."
Lars chuckled. "Very few can imagine like the Twelve can. They study the Draconic Prophecy as well as arcane magic. I imagine there is a thread in the Prophecy evolving that describes you or someone like you."
Faith was stumped. She had no idea her move to Xen'drik was anything other than a simple job. Now that she had taken up adventuring, she didn't want to give it up.
"I guess I need to go let them know that I survived the crash," she said.
Lars smiled at her. "No need to rush, I imagine. Get yourself settled then go talk to them. They've waited this long for you, they can wait a little longer."
Faith felt relieved. The idea of being indoors all day copying scrolls or taking dictation had seemed to be a pretty good job... before she had defeated a mind flayer and outsmarted a giant scrag. She wanted to explore, conquer and experience all that Xen'drik had to offer, not take dictation in a stuffy office.
They heard a voice calling, "Lars," and turned to see Dalsamira Courdry waving from the center of the ship. Dalsamira was an attractive older woman who had shown up on Korthos with information that was the key to freeing the white dragon. She and Lars had a stormy past but appeared to be reuniting now that she was a widow.
"I'd best go see what she wants," Lars told them, as he waved back. Then he said quietly, almost like a thought spoken out loud, "I still feel like there's something she's not telling me."
"So, she married your brother?" Twila, ever bold, asked.
"My half-brother, Hans Courdry. She wanted more than a life on Korthos Island with me could offer. It was a hard blow but it was a long time ago and probably for the best..." Lars trailed off. "I must go, thank you for your company."