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by James Ruhland

Type: Light warbird, Nachtritter class (modified Uhuboote-Class Warbird)
Date of Commission: AC 993
Port of Call: Freiburg
Refitted: 998
Lost: 999

Service Records: specially built in Freiburg Yards, this vessel was a one-off version of the Uhuboote Scout class. It was designed especially for exploration beyond the Skyshield, with carefully re-enforced struts constructed out of strong but lightweight materials (a rare type of wood discovered in Davania by Knights on the pilgrimage), with passive camouflaging defences appropriate to sailing in the void and increased speed, but lightly armed to discourage the crew from engaging in combat (the Knights being naturally aggressive, it was thought that by limiting the weapon array it would force them to be more circumspect, appropriate to the vessel's duties).

Commissioned in 993 after over two years of construction in drydock, the Nachtritter was instantly one of the prides of the fleet. Though smaller and less distinctive than vessels like the Sturmkondor, it was the most elegant and manoeuvrable Warbird built to date. Early trials indicated that, though it was lightly armed, its speed, manoeuvrability, and the accuracy of its weapons made it competitive against theoretically superior foes. This was in no small part due to the care with which the ships armaments were built, but also due to the quality of the crew selected to serve aboard the ship.

The Nachtritter spent the following two years on reconnaissance missions beyond the Skyshield, including a careful surveying of Myoshima, gathering information that would prove important later. The Nachtritter managed to completely avoid overt detection through stealthy manoeuvring. Late in 997 an accidental encounter with an Alphatian skyship at close quarters occurred. The Alphatian ship pierced the Skyshield into the void at almost the exact moment the Nachtritter was flying back to Mystara. The Alphatians sighted the Warbird immediately, and Knight Banneret Zimmerman, Kaptain of the Nachtritter, decided to engage rather than letting the Alphatians escape with knowledge of his ship. Though overmatched by the Alphatian windridder in size and weapon power, the Nachtritter's crew managed to fly circles around the Alphatians, skilfully puncturing their rigging and further reducing the Windridder's ability to fight the Knights. Eventually the damaged skyship was reduced to a lumbering hulk, allowing the Nachtritter to dispatch it after a long and hard-fought battle.

The Nachtritter did not escape unscathed, however, and limped back to Freiburg scarred with heavy damage. Some thought it should be decommissioned and scraped because of the severe structural damage, but due to the scarcity of the materials used in the Nachtritter's unique construction, it was unlikely that another vessel like it could be commissioned for several years. So the decision was instead made to repair and overhaul the Nachtritter, refitting it and upgrading it. Many lessons had been learned in the previous explorations beyond the Skyshield, and this insight would be used to make further improvements to the Nachtritter. These included modifications to the weaponry, increasing their range and accuracy when used in the Void, improved carrying capacity so provisions for longer deployments (and longer-ranged exploration) would be possible, and improved cartographic surveying equipment, and magical communications and divination devices to aid in gathering and sorting information discovered on the vessel's missions.

In late 998 the Nachtritter was returned to service amid great fanfare. Initial trials showed that the modifications improved the ship greatly, and by early 999 it was dispatched on an exploratory mission, again concentrating on Matera. Shortly after piercing the Skyshield, all communication with the Warbird was cut off. The Vessel, and its crack crew, has not been heard from since. More remarkable even than this is the fact that even the most powerful of divinatory magics have failed to uncover any information about the fate of the ship, its crew, or their whereabouts.

Some comments on the Nachtritter:

1) Name is intended to mean "Night Knight", a rather bad play on words, but IMO appropriate to the mission I designed the ship around.

2) This ship is rarely mentioned in current HK records, nor is it often referred to by the Knights in general, including those who had friends serving aboard it when it disappeared.

This is for several reasons: first, because of the clandestine nature of the ship's missions, the details of its exploits are not widely known. Secondly, due to the strange nature of the ship's disappearance, it is considered an "ill-omened" craft, and for reasons of superstition and dread discussing it is avoided. Thirdly, that same disappearance is an embarrassment to the prideful Knights: It was not a "supership" in the sense of being the biggest or most heavily armed, but it was a unique one, with an elite crew even by the high standards of the Warbird fleet, and its loss is felt deeply. The Knights can't talk about the crew falling gloriously in battle, because no one knows what happened, and the sudden vanishing of a ship and crew into which so much effort was poured is somewhat humiliating. Some even wonder (quietly) if the crew went rogue somehow. Few talk about it at all, and those few that discuss it do so in private, whispered and troubled conversations.

As for the answer to the mystery of its disappearance, it is a matter for wild speculations. Since these speculations aren't discussed, they become increasingly detached from real possibilities and more rife with conspiracy theories, "alien abduction" concepts, and the like. Thus, as the years go by, and the trail grows cold, it becomes less and less likely that the puzzle will ever be solved.
(which is where the PCs come in. . . . . .adventure time.)