The trip to Nozetal had been a bittersweet one. While the salty ocean winds had breathed life into these old sea bones, the lingering memories of my time in La Noferia left me on edge. I had narrowly evaded certain death and although we were now miles away, the danger remained as present as the tattered journal close to my chest.
Landfall could not come soon enough, the crew were on their final leg before their for home voyage and a detour for a strange passenger with mysterious intentions did not help ease their growing restlessness. I had kept to myself in my quarters and on landing, I quickly disembarked, narrowly avoiding an escalating confrontation about a missing pinnace that had mysteriously disappeared overnight.
While a large town with folk of all manners, I could not help but feel the eyes of the townsfolk had pegged me as someone different. My apparel was nothing remarkable but it seems my inquiries about my pending guide had made me a person of interest. When I finally entered the local alehouse, it seemed word had spread quickly, because with each step towards the bar, I drew more and more attention from the local patrons. As I approached the bar, I met eyes with the barkeep and he gestured, as if he knew everything already, with a tilt of his head to a briny old man with a battered cocked hat and disheveled blue jacket. The stench of sea and spirits grew stronger as I walked over, a familiar aura put off by those devoted to the sail and by the smell, he was the most devout I had ever encountered.
"Captain?", I inquired. The word was clear as a bell as the room had fallen silent, all ears had perked for any tidbit of our conversation. However, the man remained unresponsive, still hunched over the bar. As I cleared my throat to repeat my query, the Captain turned, leapt off his stool and grabbed me by my head, hands on either side. He now towered over me, much larger than I perceived in his former slouched state, with his giant hands palming my head. Stunned, I closed my eyes expecting him to crush my skull with the slightest muscle twitch.
"Nephew!", he exclaimed as he glanced over me, "Aren't you just the spittin' image of your mother, God rest her soul!" And before I could respond to the misunderstanding, he wrapped his massive arms around me and clutched my head straight into his chest. "Do you have the money, lad?" he whispered so only I could hear. "Ye.. yes." I coughed still fazed by the sudden display of affection and new proximity to the source of the seaman's stench.
"Barkeep, a round on me. A celebration for the reunion of me and me sis's son!" The still air was broken with the news of good fortune and with a collective cheer, the familiar bar sounds returned. "Pay the man and meet me at the docks, less prying ears out on the sea." With that he released me and I stumbled gasping for a clean breath of air. Recovered but still shaken by the grand charade that just took place, I took a stool next to his to fake familiarities until it was time to leave. The captain "retired" for the night shortly after and I was soon to follow, much lighter on coin than I had entered.
I met the Captain again on his vessel, a small cog, meant for a light crew. As requested, we set off with just us two to man the cog, in an effort to keep our journey discrete. Unlike the actor in the alehouse, the Captain was a quiet man. Apparently, his willingness for the absurd and the rewards that followed had gained him much unwanted notoriety and many adversaries to boot. He often departed for journeys quickly in the night, in hopes to keep his pursuers off guard. And so that night, we set sail for Walfield Atol, a close but treacherous and relatively uncharted area known for its mysterious weather conditions and strange disappearances of many a crew.
It had been a few days before we drew close to our final destination. Unfortunately, we were not alone. Another small ship had been following our vessel since our departure and keeping its distance throughout the journey. However, the Captain was not fazed, believing we'd lose them once we arrived at Walfield Atol. "Only the king of fools is dense enough to take a cog through Walfield, and you're in the presence of royalty," he would reply with a laugh to my concerns. And as we sailed closer black clouds could not only be seen in our direction but also seeming closing in on us at our wake.
Between shifts at the helm, I had started deciphering another page in the journal and now finished, I thought I had gone wrong, for the translation depicted something truly unbelievable. To reassure myself, I reread the page aloud, hoping to discover any mistakes that could affirm my doubts and put me at ease.
A burning disk, floating on the turbulent surface of the ocean. A rumor that almost rivaled the discovery of real Wonders and Monuments in the world has reached me. I set sail to the rumored location of one of these disks, near the Walfield Atol. I have a feeling that this might be related to the temple that I found on that island.
I arrive at the island and look west, in the direction of the rumored disk. I can’t see anything, but it’s mid-afternoon so I decide to wait until morning to set sail again thinking this rumor was a tale to mislead youthful pathfinders. As it gets darker I head back up to the deck of my Sloop to make sure no pirates have found me. The island is silent, and I see no lights. I look over to the West and pause. What is that blueish light? It's near the horizon, and far too bright to be a star. Raising anchor I set sail towards the blue light with the wind at my back.
The rumors were true. I arrive in the middle of nowhere to a...disk shaped structure that is aflame with bright blue-white fire? It looks like lightning made fluid. I look over the side of my Sloop down at the surface of the water and panic. I’m caught in a maelstrom, and am being dragged into the ring. There is barely enough time to run to the captain's wheel, before my Sloops bow enters the burning ring's light. My skin begins to tingle and all my hair stands up. My vision fades to a blinding bright white.
After a few moments my vision returns to normal and I find myself sailing away from the disk. I open my compass to set sail back to port, but I’m sailing the wrong direction. The wind is still at my back, but now I’m sailing East? I pull out my sextant to confirm...and I’m no longer at the same part of the ocean as I was a few moments ago. I’m on the other side of the world! I get my bearings and set sail to the nearest freeport.
Foolishness, I thought to myself. Discs, like portals, to another location? Impossible. As I finished, I heard the Captain call to me muffled by the crashing waves from an impending storm. The deck had become slick with rain and as I stumbled to the helm, I could only suspect that what he had for me was not going to be pleasant news.
"If you're going to tell me about the storm I've noticed!" I yelled over the crashing waves.
"They're damned fools too! Look!" he replied pointing to the stern with one hand with the other struggling to steady the wheel. As I looked to our rear, I was greeted by a haunting sight. Only about 200 yards away, our pursuers had drawn close and were nearly at our heels. To my horror, piloting the pursuing vessel were three figures in black cloaks. Instantly, my heart sank and I buckled, nearly losing grip of the railing.
"They'll be on us soon enough, but I'd gladly give them my title if they tried to board us in this storm!" The captain boasted as the waves continued to toss our ship. I gathered myself and peered to the rain at the chasing ship, hoping the waves would take them instead. As they bobbed in the sea, two of the figures had made their way to the front of the ship, each holding out something, as if making an offering to the sea. In my astonishment, a small flash came from each of their hands and suddenly, the objects they held were no more. I had not a moment to comprehend the small ritual that had taken place before a giant flash of light illuminated the sky behind me.
I turned to see a giant red disc had taken shape over the water a few hundred yards in front of us. Is this the disc the journal spoke of? Bewildered, I vaguely recall the Captain frantically screaming profanities as he tried to regain control of our vessel to no avail. Our ship began to pick up speed, pulled toward the disc by some unseen force. It was only a short time before our vessel made contact with the anomaly, slowly engulfing each part as it helplessly sailed through. And as the disc finally swept over me, I clutched the journal that led me here and prayed its words were true.
Again, we would like to emphasize that ATLAS is still in Early Access, meaning many things can and will likely continue to drastically change - even in the middle of development. Anything discussed is only up to date as of the moment it is posted. Features and changes that ultimately make it to the next patch, as well as timing, may be different from what was previously discussed.
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