Monologue in the Ocean near An Teng
Away to the east, sunlight peeks over the Fire Mountains. The first rays shine down over An Teng, highlighting jungle, bayou, and city with slivers of backlight.
As the coastal cities awaken, beacon fires are left to dwindle and die. Flags appear over towers and tall buildings. Canals fill with floating traffic.
Even with a quality spyglass, it is difficult to make out more than light and shadow, and only tiny spots of color. The rising sun finds you upon a Dragonwing-rigged corsair, some two hundred miles off the coast of An Teng. Creation's near-flat aspect would allow you to see even Meru from here on a perfectly clear day.
Yet distance is concealment, and so is color. The maidenboard rail of your small ship is clad in gray cloth. Her mainsail is lashed and covered in a lighter gray. Only a pale gray jib luffs easy in the breeze, keeping her rudder from going dead. Her crew hunkers low and still, every piece of metal covered.
Somewhere on the mainland, the nation of An Teng tumbles into the grasp of a strange enemy. In power and zeal the equal of the Sunfall Solars, in the months since Calibration, their persuasion has sapped the nation's resistance. Not a single battle has been necessary to replace one power structure with another.
One source of resistance remains. The Consulate has hurried north with everyone they can spare. Friends and allies scout the Satrapy's three regions. If the Immortals are as fragmented as you dare hope, your guildmates might find the fulcrum of their leverage. If you can confront the deeds and workings of them individually, An Teng might yet be in play.
Today, however, you are unable to join your guildmates. You have business, which has led you out to sea in a small boat. Today's prowl along the ocean has roots in a deal struck a fortnight ago.
The day you arrived in Farthest Town and ferried across to Serenity Breeze was a relief. Nearly the whole Guild was in the lighthouse tower, awaiting your news from Goldenseal. The possibility of taking war to An Teng called out to the Essence of all those present. Excitement and dread mixed in the blood as you told your tale.
Your tale was just told, when the tower watch reported the touchdown of a large skyship at sea – followed by signal lights.
Your business today is Glau's business. A fortnight ago at Serenity Breeze, she bartered use of a hidden base of operation right under the Immortals' noses. In exchange, you'd need only help secure it.
The deal was struck, and the cogs of destiny began to turn. Rithik exchanged for Glau's place. The better to have a lone Solar surrounded by Watermaple's Dragons; The better still to have a keen observer aboard the Storm Runner. Keodor elected to accompany Atragon and the twins, Erurri and Arurri, back into An Teng, as one of the scouting groups. The rest would filter northward by twos and threes, smuggling themselves across the border.
The water beneath your boat is dark and warm. Waves pat the hull with a slow rhythm. Somewhere below in the briny deep your goal awaits.