It is been 10 days since you ran the channel. The unicorn has been repaired as much as it can be while still at sea. Oceanus has been kind to you since the shark-man attack.
The masked one has not given you further directions to his island, though he does still appear from time to time to talk to the officers or the crew.
Everyone had begun to notice a chill to their blood the first day out. Aodh is certain it has nothing to do with the weather, yet all of you begin to feel lethargic and chilled for several days, though that is beginning to fade.
“Land Ho!” From the crow’s nest.
“Due east! 15 miles!” Then “I think it is a city!”
The deckhands begin to murmur with anticipation.
After the reconnaissance team develops their plan of action, Aodh motions for them to spread out, give each other plenty of room. The druid stands inside a ring of eight small circles painted on the deck.
“Once we begin,” he explains, “This should give us an hour to travel to the city, scout, and get back. At the half hour mark, we can follow the captain’s signal whether to return to the ship or remain overnight on the island. It is paramount that we do one or the other before the, um, spell is expended. Now, this might feel a bit strange at first, but, trust me, it is worth it.”
Aodh places a single berry in each of the eight small circles. He utters a phrase in Sylvan that sounds more like the ringing of a bell than any actual words. Then, he claps his hands eight times and POP! Each circle is suddenly occupied by a tiny, bewildered pixie. Their confusion lasts only until they see Aodh and relax. Curious, they begin zipping around the ship, examining the rigging, the sails, various members of the crew.
One pixie, the toes of his floppy, red shoes dangling as far below his body as the point of his hat rests above it, flutters in front of Aodh. They exchange a few words in Sylvan, and the long-toed pixie whistles to his companions who cruise over to him for instruction.
“OK,” says Aodh to the team. “Like I said, this will feel a bit weird. But you’ll get used to it quickly.”
A pixie zips over each other member of the reconnaissance team. Aodh stands grinning, his smile a mirror to the long-toe pixie’s who flutters nearby. Each pixie shakes their wings, and a stream of dust falls upon the reconnaissance team’s heads.
The transformation isn’t painful. In fact, it feels almost like a relief as your limbs stretch and your toes merge. It is a bit strange to have your nose and mouth combine into a beak, but soon that is easily ignored as you enjoy your suddenly unimaginably precise vision. In a moment, though your razor sharp talons dig into the deck, you simply cannot wait to stretch your wings and take to the sky.
That’s when you realize you and the rest of the reconnaissance team have been turned into giant eagles. Aodh stands before you, still grinning.
“Well, shall we go?” he asks. “This is going to be so much fun. Remember though, follow the captain’s lead. 4th Lieutenant, you have the conn.” Then, his body swiftly shifts to the shape of a giant eagle with fiery red feathers. With a triumphant screech, he leaps from the deck, soaring into the sky.
Thorival snaps out of his daydream and shakes the cobwebs from his mind. “Ugh, transmutation magic” he mutters to himself as he sees Aodh preparing to cast his spell. “If it’s all the same, we don’t need a lot of people for an aerial recon. And I have misgivings about the crew. I’ll stay here and mind the store while you guys are on your mission.” Still muttering under his breath, Thorival goes to a less crowded portion of the deck to relieve himself over the side.
From your incredibly high vantage point, aided by your exceptional eyesight, you are able to see a great deal about the city and its environs. The city appears to be a substantial port. There look to be about a dozen ships in the harbor, as well as numerous smaller craft. The city is walled in light brown stone, and many structures seem to be built at the same stone. Others appear to be made of some sort of brick. The most affluent structures appear to be clustered around a number of tall towers, 17 altogether. Three major gates pierce the walls, north south and east. The landscape nearby us peers to support a great deal of jungle, much of which has been cut back four fields.
To the east and southeast, many miles away, you see an enormous plateau, hazy in the distance.
Land stretches to the north and south as far as you can see. This is no island.
The inhabitants of the city appear to be quite varied. Humanoids appear to come in many sizes, some close to your stature, some about the size of a Meropian brute, and some even larger, though not so big as a Fomor. The climate appears to be very hot. The wealthier individuals seem to wear silks. The poorer individuals wear rougher garments, but very little.
No one seems to care very much about a new sail seen on the horizon.
As you watch from far above, a misshapen, two headed giant skulks behind a building near the quays. His furtive movements seem laughably inept, as he approaches a cage full of smaller humanoids. Suddenly, he lashes out breaking a wooden bar, and grabbing a smaller figure. the woman’s shrill screams reach even your ears.
One head looks around frantically while the other bites the woman’s head clean off. The two headed giant slinks back behind the building with its prize.
Now you can hear a bell ringing and large metal clad figures are racing to the area. A half dozen of them converge on the alley, closing quickly on the two headed giant. It shuffles back in obvious fear . . . the metal figures pinion it – then rip off the head that decapitated the woman. They take the remains and leave the giant retching and hemorrhaging from the stump of his other neck.
The city’s business resumes.