We stood gaping as the flaming flying woman shot fire at us. Cavindel protected me from the flames, so I was the only one unscathed by the attack. I really like my axe. Markus was the first of us to recover his wits. He quickly pulled out one of his pistols, took a single shot and dropped the woman from the sky. Before the rest of us really knew what was happening, the battle was over.
The woman’s naked body, no longer cloaked in flames, lay still upon the ground. Felix examined the body while the rest of us looked over the board. The woman was indeed dead and the only item Felix found on her body was a necklace bearing a chaos symbol. The board was, in its own way, as alien looking as the ship that fell into our forest. I’d never before seen the crystal like material of which it was made. Nor did it look like anything that should be flying through the sky, as it had no wings. Obviously it was magic, but was it regular magic or magic tainted by chaos?
As we looked the board over another visitor arrived. This time it was a man. He too was riding on a crystalline board, but he wasn’t engulfed in flames. When we reached for our weapons he raised his hands and called out to us. He assured us he had no wish to fight us. He only wanted to talk. He landed not far from us, stepped off his board and reached down to pick it up. To my complete surprise the board shrank small enough to fit inside his pocket, which is where he placed it.
The man introduced himself as Thomas Shayne. He stood about six feet tall, with blond hair and the heavy build of a warrior. From the way he held himself I expected he was skilled at using the broad sword that hung at his side. Before he could say anything more, Felix reached down and tried to pick up the woman’s board the same way Thomas had done his. The board shrank into Felix’s hand. We soon learned that having done so, Felix had attuned that board to himself and only himself.
Thomas explained that he’d followed the woman out of curiosity and nothing else. He was curious where she was going having taken off in such haste. He’d seen her attack us and that we’d killed her in self-defense. He had no desire to avenge her death.
Thomas further explained that there was a small community of people who flew such boards. Their village was located high in the mountains where only the flying boards, or other flying magic, could reach. The village was made up of a variety of people; some were good, some were bad, some were mutants and some were not. But the flying boards gave them common ground. And they had learned to get along with each other.
He then explained what the boards could do. The boards attuned themselves to the first person to use them and would work only for that person until death severed that bond. The boards could fly extremely fast, had a compartment that was larger on the inside than the outside (I couldn’t help but wonder if it would hold a keg of beer) and they were invisible if seen from below. The boards appeared to be very powerful magic items indeed. If each of us owned such a board it would make our missions much faster and easier. And of course it would simply be fun to be able to fly.
As Thomas told us about his village, the flying boards and about some ruins where more boards might be discovered, I found myself liking this stranger. I was rather taken aback by how quickly I was considering him a friend. Granted, he appeared to be a warrior like myself and he was being very generous in not only explaining how these flying boards worked but in telling us where we might find more of them, but that wasn’t entirely it. Then the reason came to me. This man was not a mutant and yet he was completely accepting of us. All my life I’d heard stories of how normal people reacted to mutants with fear and violence. And those stories had always proven true on those occasions where I’d encountered non-mutants. And yet here stood Thomas Shayne treating us with kindness and generosity. He was certainly a man I’d like to get to know better. And I would very much like to visit that village of his. His people might even make good allies for our village.
We began rummaging around the storage compartment of Felix’s flying board after we bid farewell to Thomas. The compartment was amazingly large. We found map making materials, Thomas told us the woman liked to make maps, a stool to sit on, clothing and various other items. The only real item of interest was a mask. It looked primitive, human shaped and covering the entire face its features weren’t distinctive enough to even tell if it was meant to be male or female. I tried it on and the only thing I could tell that it did was greatly amplify my voice. I’m not sure what the mask was made for, but if nothing else it could certainly be used to get people’s attention.
I’d just handed the mask back to Felix when the dwarf ghost from the guardian’s cave materialized in front of us. He apologized for his rudely vanishing on us. He’d been expecting dwarves and hadn’t been prepared for mutants. He told us that the prophecy he’d mentioned told of us retrieving a powerful and tainted gem of fire and taming it. The gem was to be found in a vault deep within a dwarven ruin. As it turned out it was the same ruin where Thomas said more flying boards might be found. The ghost told us that some believe the chaos that affected the gem also affected some of the dwarves and turned them against their brothers, even though dwarves are not normally affected by chaos. That is believed to be the cause of the downfall of the dwarven keep. The map we found on the ghost’s remains was a map of the keep before it fell to ruin. It might prove helpful in finding the vault and the gem inside.
The ruins could be found at the end of a nearby valley. But getting there wasn’t going to be as simple as it sounded. A warpstone meteor crashed in that valley ages ago and skaven had long since removed the warpstone itself. But its presence had warped the valley and everything within it. We’d have to make it through the valley if we wanted to retrieve the gem or the flying boards.
Markus questioned the ghost about the gem and what we were supposed to do with it. But the ghost wasn’t much help. All he knew was that it was foretold that we four would retrieve the gem and tame it. I wasn’t too worried about it. The way I looked at it, we’d found the map to the ruins while on a mission for our god and we’d already decided to go to that same ruin to search for more flying boards. That’s a rather large coincidence if we weren’t the four mentioned in the prophecy. As for the gem itself, hopefully we’d figure out what to do with it once we found it.
We set out for the ruins expecting trouble once we entered the valley, or even before then knowing our luck. Though we were ready to defend ourselves, nobody could be ready for way awaited us in that valley. The warpstone had indeed warped everything. Things were the wrong color, water flowed in the wrong direction and chunks of land flew up into the air. We saw far too many strange things within that valley to describe. But I think it’s safe to say that all of us were happy to make it out the other side.
We set up camp and I cooked several steaks from a giant bug we’d killed as we crossed the valley. The warpstone was long gone so I figured the meat was safe. I was surprised when the others refused to even taste any of it. If I’d known they wouldn’t eat any of the meat I wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of cooking it. Oh well, their loss. I wrapped up the cooked meat for later, at least it would last longer cooked, and ate my fill of the raw meat. It was a vast improvement over our rations.
That night Felix woke me up to take the second watch. The others didn’t like night watches, but I actually preferred them. Being able to see in the dark is certainly an advantage, but it’s more than that. It’s hard to explain but I feel more at home, more alive, at night. If I lived alone I’d probably live a nocturnal life. I was enjoying the music of the insects when I heard a different sound. I looked to my right and saw orcs sneaking towards our camp.