"The fight is never over. Sail on."
-- Captain Neil Barnabus, taking his hat and sacrificing his life to save his crew and first mate, Terrance Lowry.
Captain Neil Barnabus is the leader of the True Winds Fleet.
Captain Neil Barnabus was the the leader of the True Winds and captain of the Rosemary. Throughout the TV series he was portrayed by Sir Christopher Lee. He was the captain and leader of his loyal Ropeswingers who manned the Rosemary.
- Season 2 Episode 5 - Barnabus intervenes in a dispute over the Sky Island of Andersill.
- Season 3 Episode 2 - Barnabus leads an expedition to the Isle of Mordedra on a rumor leaked to him by the Sisters of Fate via an information broker. He was looking for a map which would supposedly lead him to great treasure, though once he finds out the Isle is being used as a smuggling outpost for the Daggers, he leads the True Winds into battle to dismantle it. The map somehow ends up in his quarters by the end of the episode by mysterious means, later revealed to be Drake ensuring that he ends up with the information needed to begin leading him toward the Pieces of Starboard.
- Season 3 Episode 5 - Barnabus convinces Shunt Worldfork to betray the Cogs Folk and join the True Winds.
- Season 3 Episode 20 - Barnabus visits his wife Kelsey and his daughter Lithia, and admits to them that he has a feeling he is not much longer for this world.
- Season 3 Episode 24 - Barnabus dies in the infamous battle of Black Thunder.
- Season 4 Episode 7 - Gunner Trelawny flashbacks about his history with Barnabus in a meeting with new Captain Terrance Lowry.
Captain Barnabus is one of the oldest members of the Four Fleets. Hailing from Skyfell, he was around to se the empire grow from a disparate alliance of engineers and naval commanders. He was around during the time of the Old Fleets. He was around to see George Hellman form the new fleets. He has been called the Sky's Watcher, the Old Man of the Clouds, and the history of the Air-Currents themselves.
Barnabus tells the story of his origin a little differently every time he tells it. What is clear was that he was a child of a merchant family that lived on one of the final outposts on the surface long after humanity took to the skies. He left home in his teens to join the military, for a chance to actually see the grand skies for himself.
As a part of the Skyfell military and the early Fell Fleet, he gained a reputation for being a wild and unpredictable sailor, preventing him from ever growing in the ranks. He became friends with Amisk Atere and they saw many battles together when acting as lowly soldiers. However, Amisk's ability to follow orders saw her slowly gain status and leave Barnabus behind. In the prequel novels, a scene is described where he promises Amisk that he will see her again after he becomes the Admiral of his own fleet, telling her "Wait for me, I will come back when I'm a legend."
The next period of his life saw him take on reckless attempt after reckless attempt to carve his name into legend. He became a mercenary and took on any job for any price, so long as it got him into the action. He battled with Sphyverns, flew ships directly into thunderheads, plumbed the depths or ruins on the mainland, dove into battles and political conflicts just to show that he was there. Eventually, brave men started to follow him. He soon earned enough money to buy a ship, and he named that ship True Wind.
Barnabus's force of personality was legendary. He not only welcomed almost any sailor into his crew, but also made them feel like they could do anything, fight the actual gods if they needed to. He was known for never fighting his enemies at a distance. Any foe worth fighting was worth fighting with fists, not with canons. He was notorious for having his crew swing from the masts of his ship onto the deck of his opponent's ships, covering vast distances, much longer than standard boarding planks. This got them the infamous name of Ropeswingers.
When Barnabus finally had enough men together that he could command several ships at once, he organized his own fleet, the Wild Winds. When George Hellman brought the remnants of the Old Fleets together to create the Four Fleets, Barnabus renamed the Wild Winds to the True Winds and made adventuring a central tenant of Alliance Culture.
While the early books and original 80s series and movie focus heavily on Barnabus and the True Winds, Barnabus is largely positioned as a mentor role in the '07 series. He pushes the plot forward by encouraging other characters to embark on adventures, sometimes joining him, sometimes going on adventures of their own. Barnabus and Amisk are set up as opposing forces during the Discovery arc, when the hidden history of The Before is slowly revealed as the Four Fleets sail the air-currents. Barnabus is often used as a deus ex machina, arriving on scene with important information or to face down an enemy that seems unbeatable. As early battles were largely against monsters or stragglers from the Daggers, it was believable that he could very easily dispatch them with ease.
Barnabus and Amisk eventually meet back up in the middle of Season 2, when Skyfell and The Alliance begin uncovering the secrets of the Apparatus, and following the quests given to them by the Sisters of Fate.
Barnabus died in the infamous battle of Black Thunder, when Isaac Kenting turned on Amisk Atere. His ship at the time, the Rosemary, was awaiting outside of Black Thunder Falls, where he would find the first piece of the 7 Pieces of Starboard. However, upon confirming it's existence, the Fell Fleet turned against Amisk at Kenting's behest. Threatened to hand over the piece, Amisk tells Barnabus to flee with it, however he refuses. He engages Kenting in combat, as the crew of the Rosemary takes on Kenting's contingent of the Fell Fleet.
In the middle of the battle, Kenting manages to toss Amisk over the edge of the falls. Holding on for dear life, Barnabus's first mate Terrance Lowry rushes over to try and save her, knowing their history. Kenting gets the better of him, however, and eventually holds him at gunpoint. He offers a trade, the piece for Lowry and Amisk's life. Barnabus accepts but is double crossed when Lowry too is thrown over the falls. Barnabus take a vine stuck between a nearby rock and swings down to rescue them both, gathering both Amisk and Lowry in his arms. Amisk manages to climb up the vine but in doing so begins to knock the rocks it is wedged between loose. Knowing that the vine wouldn't hold, he puts his hat on Lowry and tells him "The Fight is Never Over, Sail On" before using the vine's momentum to swing him and Lowry up to the surface of the falls. The vine snaps mid swing and while me manages to toss Lowry onto land, he ends up falling to his presumed death deep beneath the clouds. Amisk, Lowry, and the crew of the Rosemary are then taken hostage by Kenting signaling the end of the Discovery arc and the beginning of the Baron of Skyfell arc. The Rosemary is dismantled by the Fell Fleet, never to sail again,
Barnabus was unaware that Sinthia was his daughter at the time of his death and she would go on to form her own faction of sailors that remained largely independent of the Four Fleets, though she would become obsessed with bio-hacking in an attempt to unravel the secret to her father's long life.
Lithia was a noblewoman and after Kenting took over Skyfell, she joined his court in an attempt to help take it down from the inside. She acted as an inside informant to both the Alliance and the Daggers in their conflict with Skyfell.
Leadership of the True Winds fell to Terrance Lowry after Barnabus's death. While he was never as inspirational as Barnabus himself, he still managed to rally the fleet behind his final words: "The fight is never over. Sail on!" This would later become the official motto of the True Winds and would be printed on True Wind flags.
Barnabus the Pale
Captain Barnabus would later make a return as a Pale Sailor, commanding one of The Pale's only Dreadnought class ships. As is usually the case when someone returns as one of the Pale, this Barnsbus was nothing like his former self despite retaining all of his memories. His jovial love of adventure was gone replaced with cold ruthless pragmatism. Pale Baenabus would eventually be captured in an attempt to remind him of who he was, but his responses to his loved ones desperately trying to jog his memory further proved the nature of the Pale.
"I remember it all. The memories are proof that I am not him. My place is not here."
Despite his Pale nature, Pale Barnabus nearly cried when he learned Amisk, Annie, Molly, and several members of his crew had died at the hands of Isaac Kenting. Some imagine it was actually because of his Pale nature, since the original Barnabus would have never shown that much weakness.
- Amisk Atere - Barnabus regards the former Grand Admiral of Skyfell as his longest and most trusted friend. Rumor had it that he had romantic feelings for her, despite being married to Kelsey Barnabus.
- Annie - Annie was 'adopted' by Captain Barnabus after the events of Hellman's Gate. He always promised her that "The Ropeswingers are a family". She grew into Barnabus' second daughter in some ways. Her death was a devastating blow to the crew he left behind, especially Terrance Lowry who attempted many times to step into his shoes as a surrogate father, but could never quite replace the Captain.
- Kelsey Barnabus - While officially Captain Barnabus's wife and mother of their daughters Sinthia and Lithia, Kelsey knew that Barnabus's only love was adventure. Kelsey would only rarely be visited by Barnabus, spending most of her time in the Skyports. She, herself wondered if Barnabus ever truly loved her, or if her marriage to him was just a political convienience since she was a Skyfell noble.
- Lithia Barnabus - Captain Barnabus actually had quite a good relationship with Lithia. Being raised as a noble, she was able to navigate social situations that he was not. Not only that, but she was always willing to give him information about rumors to chase and adventures to hunt. While he wasn't particularly there for her childhood, Lithia still strives to live up to the Barnabus name.
- Sinthia Barnabus - Captain Barnabus was completely unaware that Lithia had a twin sister, by design. Sinthia despised Barnabus for leaving her family before she even knew him. She ran afoul of the wrong side of Skyfell, ending up in the prison, Rosa's Point. Captain Barnabus would eventually capture her and formulate an uneasy alliance, which proved more fruitful for his fleet after his dead than before. Sinthia has a particular obsession with figuring out why her father seemed so larger than life. She swore there was some mechanism, technological, biological, or magical that helped him survive all those years.
- Milo Barnabus - Captain Barnabus's estranged brother who he has not seen since he left his hometown for Skyfell. He later reconnects with Milo's son, Tilo.
- Tilo Barnabus - Tilo joins up with Barnabus's crew as a deck cadet, but his identity as his nephew is only revealed midway through Season 3 after forming a friendship with Terrance Lowry. His revelation is used to introduce a flashback episode detailing Barnabus's early origin. Tilo survives the Battle of Black Thunder and the sinking of the Rosemary though he is not as heavily involved with the True Winds afterward. Instead he seeks out his last remaining family, Kelsey, Lithia, and Sinthia Barnabus.
- Terrance Lowry - Barnabus saw a lot of himself in his first mate. Since the beginning of the series, it was clear that he was training Terrance to take his place once his inevitable end would come. Terrance treated Barnabus as a superior officer, despite Barnabus's attempts to get closer to him on a personal level. He only really understood Barnabus's motives after being saved by him at the Battle of Black Thunder and later reading his journals, which included passages adressed specifically to Terrance knowing that he would read them after Barnabus's death.
- Shunt Worldfork - Shunt was moved by Barnabus's speech "Who We Are is What We Do!" which convinced him that he can be an important independent person regardless of being a manufactured Steamedore. He looks at Barnabus as something of a mentor and father figure and would frequently amuse him with tricks only his mechanical body could pull off. After Barnabus's death, Shunt would become the leader of the True Wind's engineers and would become responsible for uniting the True Winds and Cogs Folk against Skyfell in Barnabus's name.
- Captain Alexander MacAlister - Captain Barnabus became friends with Captain MacAlister shortly after the True Winds were formed. He prized MacAlister for his sharp wit and ability to laugh even at the most dangerous of times. In the books, Barnabus was often seen opening up to MacAlister in times of weakness. However, to keep up Barnabus's larger than life persona, the TV show omitted these scenes. As such, MacAlister was rewritten to be mostly comic relief and was only shown in a few scene before Barnabus's death, and briefly mourning his death afterward.
- Captain Gunner Trelawny - Another captain who looks at Barnabus as something of a mentor figure, Trelawny doesn't really factor into the plot heavily until season 4, and thus doesn't get to interact with Barnabus much until shortly before his death. However, the show and books included several scenes in flashback that showed Trelawny's service to Barnabus as a member of his crew, adoption of Barnabus as a father figure, and eventual betrayal by Barnabus as he is left behind. Trelawny become very cold and closed off after Barnabus's death, leaving the Fleets all together. While it was theorized he would join the Daggers as most Fleet deserters did, he later returned to the fleets in season 5, forming a close bond with Terrance Lowry, the new head Captain of the True Winds. His attitude toward Barnabus can be summed up in the famous line "The old man wasn't perfect, so I guess I gotta try and do better than him. I only hope someday, someone comes along to do better than me."
- Ales Mortalis - Barnabus's relationship with Ales was largely professional, though he would frequently commission her cartography skills to turn rumors and hearsay into actual usable maps that could guide his fleet to ancient treasure and ruins of the Before.
- Molly Mildred Fyrespire - The owner of Barnabus's favorite tavern and a close personal friend. Much of Barnabus's history is told via flashback scenes framed in the context of him talking to Molly over a drink. After Barnabus's death, Molly moves her tavern onto a ship in order to better serve the Alliance before settling back down in Season 5, only to eventually be raided by a Skyfell contingent who set her bar on fire due to her prior association with Barnabus. They attempt to interrogate Molly for the information she knows about Barnabus's past but she refuses to talk. She is left tied up and presumably burned to death in the flames.
- Adrianne - While Barnabus was only somewhat aware of Adrianne's existence, Adrianne looked at Barnabus as a goal to set. If she could prove herself to him and the True Winds, she could be a true Sky Pirate. Barnabus unfortunately died before her dreams could come to fruition but Terrance Lowry eventually granted her an important position in the fleet after his death and the sundering of the crew of the Rosemary.
- Lena Cohen - A notable member of the True Winds, Barnabus regards Lena as one of his best warriors and sailors. He also keeps her around because he finds her rivalry with Drusilla Spadeworthe amusing. After his death, Lena Cohen would be promoted to Second Mate under Terrance Lowry's new leadership.
- Captain Drusilla Spadeworthe - In Captain Barnabus's own words "I really don't understand nobles." He seemed reluctantly tolerant of Spadeworthe's tendency to poke her nose into his business and while her presence sometimes caused confrontations to turn chaotic, he was generally appreciative when he could rely on her firepower in a battle where he was outnumbered, even if she was on the opposing side.
- Keelie Lawless - While briefly serving under Barnabus on the Rosemary, Keelie acted as if she owed him a debt. However, she leaves the crew before his death and is rarely seen mentioning him outside of a brief scene mourning his death.
- Chief Gunner Damian Blastfuse - Barnabus is annoyed but tolerant of Blastfus's pirate persona, and while he has attempted several times to explain the difference between a pirate and a sailor to Blastfuse, he has chosen to pick his battles and let it be. Regardless, Blastfuse is fiercely loyal and nearly gave his life for Barnabus at the Battle of Black Thunder. He would continue on as chief gunner and security officer for the Rosemary after it was rebuilt following the fall off the mainland.
- Cabin Boy Connor - As Connor was made up entirely for the show and has no parallel in the books, his relationship with Barnabus is ill-defined and we rarely see them interact.
- Captain Leslo Gilliweed - Despite having a reluctant respect for Barnabus, Gilliweed also held a lifelong grudge against him, blaming him for being mangled in battle as a youth in his crew. He swore revenge against Barnabus, but that revenge was never to come as Barnabus died before Gilliweed could fulfill his goal. This only drove Gilliweed into a deeper obsession, hoping to somehow exact vengeance against Barnabus even after his death. Gilliweed would carry this grudge until his own death in the Battle of Draco.
- Priscilla Whistleworth - Seeing her tenacity in escaping Captain James Arcana, Barnabus offers Priscilla a position in the True Winds, though she spends much of her time on other ships in the fleet, following her own plotline instead of the plotline of the Rosemary.
- Hari Ramsden - Barnabus first meets Ramsden when the latter is working undercover as the cook on the Foxglove. Ramsden appreciates the potential of cultivating a work relationship with Barnabus for the benefit of Devanian foreign policy and influence goals. On a personal level, while they don’t exactly trust one another, there is a degree of admiration and even affection that eventually develops between them.
One of the defining traits of Barnabus are the many rumors that surround him, all of which have never been verified and are patently false, but all of which have a small nugget of truth to them. Here are a few examples.
- Barnabus is actually a mutant whose mutation prevents him from dying of old age.
- Barnabus once met the goddess Edrun and seduced her, which granted him a gift to find lost forgotten treasure and awaiting adventure.
- Barnabus once outdrank an entire ship's crew worth of Necronauts and didn't even have a hangover the next day.
- Barnabus has died once before, but somehow keeps coming back, as if death itself is scared of him.
- Barnabus beat a demon in a sword fight with only his bare hands.
- Barnabus can speak an ancient language of the stars, that tells him tales of the past whenever he looks up to the night sky.
- Barnabus has a strange addiction to taking in teenage orphans and stowaways.
- We can only sail the skies because Barnabus believes that we can.
- The character was named for renowned fantasy author Neil Gaiman.
- Of all the major characters that Barnabus has relationships with, over half of them are stowaways on his ship at one point. Many of them are also orphans who longed for a life of adventure in the sky, or prisoners who escaped capture. Barnabus's tendency to bring on young children and stowaways frequently has been mocked extensively by the fanbase. He has mockingly been compared to Batman for his tendency to mentor young orphans with absurd skill. He has also been called a "Stowaway Connoisseur" among other nicknames