The Rath CycleTM: Heroes, Villains, and Ships
Gerrard captains the Weatherlight on its mission to Volrath's stronghold in the shadow plane of Rath. Once a master of arms in Benalia, Gerrard is heir to the Legacy, a collection of artifacts that has the power to stop the collective might of the evincars. The impetuous Gerrard has already abandoned his destiny once before by leaving the ship, but now that his friend and mentor Sisay has been abducted, he's agreed to lead the crew on a rescue mission. Gerrard is 26 years old, and his quick reflexes and athletic build are supplemented by advanced combat training. His charisma and sharp wit make him a natural leader, but his impulsive streak makes some of the crew wary of his command.
Hanna, the 25-year-old resident artificer and Weatherlight navigator, is responsible for advising the captain on the ship's nature and its most valuable cargo, the Legacy. Educated in artifact studies at the legendary Argivian University, Hanna is also a capable commander, respected by the crew for her quick-witted initiative and inventiveness. Some years ago she and Gerrard were briefly lovers, but since his return to the ship, the pair have been decidedly formal. When not holding command, Hanna is usually quiet and calm, with a natural shyness that some mistake for coldness. Her commitment to the Legacy is as great as her love of the Weatherlight.
The cat warrior Mirri was abandoned by her kind during her youth. Now as an adult, she struggles to find a secure place in the world, which she hopes to find in the companionship of her best friend Gerrard. Mirri is an excellent fighter--powerful, dexterous, and quick--but her impetuosity and overconfidence have landed her in some dangerous situations. She relies more on her claws and great agility than on her sword. On the Weatherlight, she serves as Gerrard's lieutenant, which causes friction between her and the official first mate, Tahngarth. In all the years since they trained under the maro-sorcerer Multani, Mirri has never let Gerrard down.
Tahngarth, a young (20 years old) Talruum minotaur, is a towering mass of strength and, it must be admitted, vanity. Gruff and impatient, he is the Weatherlight's first mate under Sisay, a position he shared with Gerrard for a time. Now Gerrard has returned as the ship's captain, and Tahngarth serves his new commander in the same capacity, but doubts whether the roguish human has either the commitment or the skill to lead the crew. Nevertheless, Tahngarth is an excellent second-in-command, and is respected as the crew's armsmaster. He is formidable in combat--powerful and extremely fast given his massive size.
Karn is a silver golem, a massive artifact creature thousands of years old. Despite his astounding physical strength, Karn is a pacifist; years ago he killed an innocent man in a burst of anger, and has sworn never to take another life. He is both the vessel for many Legacy artifacts (via an internal compartment) and is part of the Legacy himself. Entrusted to Gerrard years ago, he is unswervingly loyal to him, though he regrets his master's ambivalence toward the Legacy and his destiny. Karn is fascinated with the workings of the Weatherlight and believes, perhaps correctly, that he can communicate with the ship in unknown ways.
The 37-year-old Crovax is an Urborg noble who lost his entire family to agents of Volrath. He has rejoined the Weatherlight crew to seek Selenia, his family's guardian angel, whose sudden absence allowed Volrath's minions to slaughter Crovax's loved ones. He pursues the angel out of a strange passion that's part love and part revenge. Crovax blames himself for his family's deaths, and has begun to brood darkly among his shipmates. He assists with the ship's machinery, but is not well-liked by most of the crew, both because of his silence and his aristocratic manner.
Orim is the ship's healer and quartermaster; she handles the day-to-day running of the ship, from keeping an eye on its stores to making sure each sailor is paid at landfall. Although Orim has a slight manner and seems at times to be older than most of the other crewmembers, in reality she is only 25, and hides her beauty and vivacity under an aura of calm and caring. She is adept in Samite-order medicinal skills and also acts as the Weatherlight's interpreter because of her ability with languages. Though she is very giving, Orim keeps many of her views to herself, believing that there is peace in silence.
As an apprentice of Hanna's father Barrin, Ertai learned a great deal of magic; his skills, however, are completely untried. When Barrin recommended that the nineteen-year-old join the Weatherlight crew to help them reach Rath, he quickly agreed. But now the arrogant young man is called on to display his prowess time and again, and though Ertai secretly suspects he may not know quite as much as he thought he did, his pride will never let him admit it to his comrades.
An intellectual giant--for a goblin--Squee's natural curiosity balances his natural cowardice. After saving Sisay's life when his goblin tribe attacked her in the Kher Ridges, the 10-year-old Squee (the human equivalent of an adolescent) became infatuated by the Weatherlight and its captain. Exiled from his people, he accepted a position as cabin boy on the Weatherlight, a menial position that he carries out with great enthusiasm and much self-importance. Squee has some unusual traits for a goblin: he has an uncanny knack for survival, and has exhibited loyalty, ingenuity, and even bravery!
The 44-year-old Starke is a habitual game-player, and currently he's doing his best to play both sides against each other without being destroyed by either. Born on Rath, Starke is il-Vec--outcast from the Vec tribe for collaborating with Volrath. His secret marriage to an en-Dal woman resulted in his greatest pride, his daughter Takara. Because she is now imprisoned in Volrath's stronghold, Starke has joined Gerrard as a guide to rescue her, even though he himself betrayed Sisay to Volrath, and is terrified of the danger involved. Starke is as shifty as a sand dune and is loyal to no one except himself and Takara.
Volrath, evincar of Rath, is absolute ruler of the shadow plane, and controls its inhabitants from within his mountain stronghold. Whatever forces he serves have granted great powers to the former human, including the ability to mentally command the flowstone that makes up his own fortress, as well as the flowstone-like metal that makes up the fetters and bands that his underlings wear. He is ingenious, cunning, and completely ruthless, and has mastered the ability to shape flesh and bone with sinister artistry. He is 31 years old, but the physical changes granted him for his allegiance to the dark powers make him seem ageless.
Gerrard does not yet know that Volrath was once Vuel, his childhood friend and son of the sidar who raised Gerrard in the warclan. Over time, Vuel's ambitions resulted in the destruction of their warclan, and it is rumored that he made pacts with unknown beings to assume his new identity. Volrath's desire to possess the Legacy and his hatred for Gerrard led him to kidnap Sisay in hopes of luring his former blood brother to Rath.
Evincars are shadowy, powerful beings, recruited to the ranks of evil through their ruthless personal ambition and propensity for destruction. It is unclear whether they operate as a collective or if a greater power lies behind their plans and machinations. Some say that as dangerous and corrupt as the evincars are, they are only lieutenants to a greater leader.
An outcast from Vec society, Greven is a 44-year-old human who has been horrifically altered to serve as Volrath's commander. Now his augmented strength and reflexes come at the price of an artificial spine implanted by Volrath, who uses the spine to control his rebellious second-in-command. Greven commands the evincar's flying ship, the Predator--a task he carries out with ruthless efficiency, unless his formidable temper gets in the way. Subservient to his lord, Greven seethes with anger, and would give almost anything to destroy Volrath.
Once the guardian angel of Crovax and his noble family, Selenia has been corrupted and is now under Volrath's full control. An ageless being of white mana (now tainted with black), Selenia serves as a vanguard for Volrath. Her former charge, Crovax, pursues her with a consuming desire, and she uses this desire to hold a psychic link to the nobleman that alerts her to his location at all times. If she had motivations, passions, or dreams, they have all been subsumed by Volrath's whim.
Captained by Gerrard and carrying a crew of heroes into Rath, the flying ship Weatherlight is unique among such craft both in its design and in its ability to planeshift. Of mysterious origin, the 300-foot ship is 400 - 500 years old, and seems to have been designed as a pleasure schooner, though while under Sisay's command it has been used to regain parts of the Legacy. It carries a crew of approximately 40, with most of the crewmembers assigned to tending the ship's massive and complex engines.
Staterooms and officer's quarters are conjoined around the mast room on the main deck level, near the stern. Two decks in the forecastle split the complement of able-bodied sailors between them, and double as additional storage space for ship's goods. Those without seniority among the crew sleep in the cargo hold, in a series of secured hammocks.
Manipulation of the sails is the primary way the Weatherlight steers at low velocities. At higher speeds the sails convert to airfoils, warping to allow steering, in addition to the vane that splits the ship's exhaust. The Weatherlight's engine provides the main power for the vessel. Its power plant, the core of which is a massive crystal that transforms mana into fuel, creates the levitation field, and enables planar travel. Two rudders are fitted into the stern, flanking the exhaust manifold and conforming to the curve of the hull.
In its present configuration the Weatherlight is capable of attaining speeds approaching 110 mph in a straight line, 40 miles an hour in full reverse. A "storm shield" created by the ship's engine and generated by the ship's magically powered lights offers some protection from the elements on the ship's deck, but at higher speeds this area is no place to be. Under most circumstances its sails are deployed in windship fashion, assisting in the forward momentum.
Although the Weatherlight may look like a seagoing ship, water is not its natural environment. Seafaring sailors regard it with a skeptical eye; the porthole gratings are right on the waterline, and it steers like a block of stone when at sea.
Scattered through the Weatherlight are odd bits of architecture and machinery--obvious gaps in the interior hull or needless constructions. These are the most obvious pieces of evidence that the Weatherlight has a greater purpose than its current use. New hardpoints or mountings are occasionally revealed when existing equipment is shifted, features that weren't seen before. Some of its crew think that the ship itself seems more like a living creature than any other craft they've sailed in.
The Predator, the nasty 500-foot cousin to the Weatherlight, is Volrath's flagship. Comprised of metal and Phyrexian technology, it is the main battleship of the realm, and under Greven il-Vec's command, it is respected and feared across Rath. Though not as maneuverable as the Weatherlight, the Predator is heavily armored and excessively armed. It is easily capable of impaling wooden airships without damaging itself whatsoever.
The Predator's design suggests that it is quite ancient. The masts are dirty ivory tusks hoarded from an unimaginably large and powerful beast. The junklike sails are rumored to be taken from the hide of that same creature. (Other rumors claim that the sails are made from the hides of disloyal subjects!) One stabilizing sail sits above, two stretched in a "v" shape below for added propulsion when winds are favorable. When not needed, the bottom ventral mast folds flat between the side sails.
Its main propulsion comes from a Phyrexian engine powered by a dimensional aperture, spewing a high-pressure, toxic gas. This semi-living abomination, housed in the ship's lowermost deck, supplies most of the energy needs of the ship, primarily the motive thrust. If needed, the engine can crawl out of the ship when it needs maintenance. When not walking, its legs plug into the bulkheads. A metal rudder directs the twin exhaust for horizontal steering, and internal vent fins in the cowlings control vertical ascent, descent, and roll.
The masts and rigging don't feature chains or ropes like other ships, but a flowstone-like mimetic black metal. When landing, the cabling bends the side masting slightly upwards. A blade on the bottom forward section of the ship can be used as a ripping weapon on other ships, and also serves as a landing blade that can dig into soft earth.
The main rudder can rotate 90 degrees and fold flat upwards to the aft cabin to prevent damage. The ship can be controlled from the main bridge (located in between the ship's jawlike beaks), its main deck (just outside and forward of the bridge windows), or the top stern deck just above the aft captain's quarters. The Predator also features a huge harpoon weapon that can transmit electrical current down its cable, or fire directly off the metal tip like lightning. It is stowed in the bottom jaw-beak at the ship's front. The captain's cabin, sumptuous and spacious enough to serve Volrath as a flying court, is located at the stern of the ship. It features large window vistas.
Although fast, the Predator is heavy and none too maneuverable. In combat against other flying ships, it will usually chase them down, firing ballistae and other weapons in the process, then ram or capture the enemy craft with harpoons, and send a boarding party of hundreds of moggs. It features eight decks that hold officers, cannons and ballistae, quarters for the hundreds of moggs that act as marines, and a vast cargo hold.