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Author Topic: Chapter Four - Things Fall Apart  (Read 25749 times)
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Fu Luft
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« Reply #105 on: March 30, 2012, 07:36:08 AM »

A man's character, Fu would reflect later, cannot be told by what he does in the routine of his ordinary life. It is the extraordinary situations, the unfamiliar dangers, the unexpected challenges that reveal who he truly is.

“A mage,” cried the pirate captain, and ”perverted party!” And: “Grab him, lads!” Immediately, the captain's raggle-taggle henchmen turned towards Fu and motioned to apprehend him. He be afraid of magic! Fu thought about the captain, and inhaled sharply and with an audible snort. This captain hadn't yet seen the full power of Ximaxian art. Fu be sniffing a whiff of a chance, he be! Enlivened by this thought, the little wind wizard did not feel his pain anymore. Slowly and deliberately, he let the air out of his lungs through his teeth, and began to concentrate. See ye, master pirate captain, how ye be liking this here magic storm in that face of yours!

Unfortunately, his friends seemed intent to spoil Fu's plans. First, the dwarf interrupted his concentration by putting a hand on his shoulder, and shouting out at the pirate captain, with his mouth close to Fu's ear, and his wagging beard creating unwelcome perturbances in the air that really didn't do Fu's art and craft any good. And the things this dwarf said! He called Fu “an injured man” and “half dead where he's standing.” How in Grothar's name was that  supposed to help Fu to scare the Netherworlds out of the captain's bones?

Next came Fionn, the meddlesome mullog, and sang the same tune that the dwarf had started. ”My patient,” she said of Fu, and ”a sick man.” Fu looked aghast at his two friends. Were they going to let the pirates throw them into the water without a fight? Where was the courage they had shown, day after day, battle after battle, on the long and dangerous journey they had all survived together?

And just when Fu thought that things could not get any worse, Mallorix joined the chorus: ”This man is harmless,” Fu heard him say. Harmless! Did this lad have no sense? Did he not see what Fu was trying to do to save them all? ”...is  injured,” Mallorix went on. ” Let him join us and recover, and you'll see the truth.” At this point, Fu could contain his frustration no longer. But he was going to use it to his advantage, was going to let it all out to stir up an angry storm that he would direct at the pirates.

”Yes! Master! Captain!” he cried. ”Ye'll be seeing the truth of it soon enough!” His voice sounded funny to Fu. Thin, somehow, and whistling. He had shouted at the top of his throat's capacity, but for a blink there he wasn't even sure whether he had been heard. Surely that was just an illusion, though, brought about by the excitement of the battle.

”Look ye here!” he continued, stretched out his good arm, and blew across his open palm. A fine eddy of sea air began to swirl above his hand. ”Soon!” Fu wanted to cry. But it came out as nothing more than a tiny croak. ”Soon...” he tried again, but this time the sound was but a whisper, barely audible even to himself. Despite these setbacks, the magic seemed to be working, for the world around Fu was now spinning wildly around itself. Indeed, the effect was so strong that Fu was hardly able to stand steady on his own  two feet. He swayed, he wobbled, he tried to keep his balance by taking a sidewards step, but only managed to lop-side himself even further. Then his legs turned to butter, his eyeballs spun around like juggling balls, the world went upside down, then the lights went out. Trying to halt his fall, he managed to grab something – something that was unexpectedly furry. Was it the dwarf's beard? But it didn't do any good.

Whether his grip failed, or whether he dragged the dwarf with him, Fu did not know. All he knew was that he thudded head-first onto the deck, crunching his injured arm beneath his body. The pain was so strong that he could not even cry out. His stomach felt as though three trolls had danced a jig on it. His head was a pig's bladder filled with air and kicked about for a boys' game. His eyes, when he dared to open them again, stared up into the stubbly face of a pirate. The man stood perfectly steady on his feet. There was no storm tearing at his clothes. There never had been, or certainly not a storm due to Fu. What had pushed Fu out of balance, and what he had thought to be the beginning of a spectacular feat of magic, had been nothing but the dizziness of a man who was sick (yes) and harmless (yes!), and who right at this moment was feeling exceedingly small.

Yes, thought Fu later, when he had leisure for self-reflection. This episode did reveal my character rather well indeed.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2012, 07:55:35 AM by Fu Luft » Logged

Yurie Yileen
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« Reply #106 on: April 10, 2012, 04:01:38 AM »

   “Scared?” Eric cried in reply to Koka’s observation, “Scared?  O’ a scrag’y dog like tha’?  Nay, mate, bu’ I won’ ‘av filthy wiz’rdz aboar’ me ship!”  He pointed a finger aggressively at Fu as he spoke.  Landy still stood by his side, seemingly unmoved by the news, but his eyes were staring hatefully at the little magician.

   “I appreciate yer prepozal; there’z more decencee in yer lit’le finger then there iz in th’ ‘ole o’ tha’ wretch!  But th’ dog still diez!”

   Another man had come to stand by Eric’s side, though only a very careful observer would have noticed for he moved so quietly and unobtrusively.  His bright, sea-green eyes darted from speaker to speaker, and seemed to sparkle with a keen intelligence, though he remained silent.

   Eric hadn’t noticed the arrival of his friend, Oksund; his mind was too busy boiling in a steadily increasing rage.  Now the doctor and young lad had sworn their allegiance to the villainous mage.  Surely he’d put them all under some kind of evil spell.

   “Damn ye all!” Eric bellowed, drawing a cutlass.  “A wounded rat iz th’ wors' o’ all!  We’ll finish it off quick afore it can do fer us!”  He was well worked up by now, and could think of nothing more than despatching Fu to his rightful fate.  The rest of the ship’s crew could see that their captain wasn’t in the mood for showing mercy, but they held back from fulfilling their orders.  It wasn’t out of fear that they did so, nor from a sense of pity for Fu; no, they would happily slit his throat and dump him overboard, but they’d noticed that Oksund was whispering in Eric’s ear, and that often changed things aboard the Runner.

   The ever calm and rational Oksund was a balance to Eric’s irrational and wild ways; he had often managed to bring the erratic captain back to a state of mind almost approaching sanity.  In fact, even though Eric didn’t realise it himself, or at least wouldn’t admit it openly, most of the crew knew full well that without Oksund’s influence the Rainbow Runner would have long ago ceased to exist.  The man had an intellect and foresight that was lacking in their captain, and he knew how to sell his ideas to Eric without provoking him.  He’d been watching events unfold, and as usual his brain had been weighing things up without the superstitious paranoia of the rest of the crew.  Certainly, Eric had a point – if this man truly was a wizard then he would be a potentially dangerous liability – but he could also be a potentially powerful friend.  The fact that three of the Runner’s latest recruits stood by his side made the situation crystal clear – it would be insanity for Eric to kill the man.  To lose the abilities of an experienced mage would have been bad enough, but manageable; to lose the proven skills of a doctor, warrior, the labour of a seaman and experience of a former captain at a time when such assets were desperately needed could well ruin the whole endeavour; whether Eric liked it or not, these people were needed; not only these people, but their loyalty as well.  Oksund acted quickly, using his power of persuasion to try and alter his friend’s course.

   Somewhere in the thick fog of fury that had filled Eric’s head, the sound of a bell rang clearly.  Its reverberations spread, dispersing the madness almost as quickly as it had descended; Oksund was right, this unwelcome discovery could actually be made to work in their favour.

   Eric’s face cleared, the distortions of anger lifted, and from the depths of his chest a mighty laugh erupted.  Even though he still despised this self-confessed wizard, there was something overwhelmingly comical about the way he collapsed onto the deck, tugging at the dwarf’s beard in desperation.  Now, seeing the situation with new eyes that weren’t clouded by rage, Eric could see how pathetic this specimen seemed.

   “Aye, a true menace if ever there waz one!” he roared.  The crew joined him in his laughter, unfazed by this sudden and dramatic change of mood.  Oksund had worked his magic once again, and had now melted back into the throng.

   “Still, ‘e needz ter say ‘e’ll join us jus’ like th’ rest o’ ye when ‘e comez aroun’.  I still don’ trust ‘im, but I re’kon we can manage ‘im!  Now, ‘oo else will join us?”
« Last Edit: April 10, 2012, 04:09:18 AM by Yurie Yileen » Logged

Raworaan
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« Reply #107 on: April 10, 2012, 07:34:20 AM »

From his position at the back of the pirates Raworaan could not see what was going on. Indeed fate had conspired to date to keep him out of the action, and to many it might seem he was just a member of the crew. Ah fate was a funny thing. If it hadn't been that almighty row he had with his uncle Cyradin, none of this would have happened to him.

Whatever the name of that port was, the cause of the argument, and indeed how long it had been since he had come on board had all been forgotten by the lad. In the time that he had been on board, Raw, as he was known for short had become stronger and sinewy and sun kissed. He had shinnied up and down more ropes than he cared to remember and he had scrubbed the decks far too often for his liking. He also learnt rather quickly not to argue about the orders given, as these sailors proved to be far less forgiving of him than his uncle ever was. One thing he had never really got an understanding of was the use of the cutlass. Instead he preferred to use the sling.

Raworaan ascended a rope so as to get a vantage point. He watched as the funny short little man stood up to Captain Eric, and then the others come up alongside the funny short little man. The Captain seemed to take offence at something that the dwarven female said, whatever she said didn't carry to him, but the Captain's response carried clearly to him. Then Oksund stood alongside the Captain and whispered something. The Captain then roared in laughter as the funny little man collapsed, and along with the others in the crew, Raworaan laughed as well.

Raworaan climbed back down the rope and picked his way through the crew until he approached an apple barrel. He longed to get in there and eat some apples and sleep for a while, but didn't want to miss any of the excitement. The lad's eyes were on the dwarf as he approached. She had a beard. That was funny as well. And there was another funnier one with them ... a bald female ... Raworaan laughed again despite himself.
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If anyone out there calls those two 'teenagers' I'll turn them into frogs. The correct term is adolescence and the only good thing that comes out of it is that most everyone grows out of it. (paraphrasing David Eddings)
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Koka Bentarm
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« Reply #108 on: April 17, 2012, 01:31:58 AM »

For a moment it looked as though things would go wrong. She had wanted to shame the captain by calling him afraid, but instead she had angered him more. He almost seemed ready to throw each one of them who stood up to him overboard. Then someone stepped up to him and whispered in his ear. She could not hear what the man was saying, as just at that moment Fu decided to show them all the truth of their words, but collapsing - and grabbing her beard as he did so! So much for gratitude for even standing up for him. She was almost pulled off-balance, but manages to keep herself upright and tug her beard free, though losing a couple of hairs in the process.

By then, the crisis was over. Instead of killing them all, as she had been afraid he would, he suddenly started laughing, roared with laughter in fact, and his whole crew joined him. She wondered if they were afraid of him, so minutely did they copy his every moodswing. Anger one minute, laughter the next... She was beginning to have doubts about the wisdom of joining such a man, especially on a mission which might turn out to be quite dangerous. But she had given her word already. She would not go back on it so soon. Ok, technically she had given her word to Ranskjun as well, but he was not here and Eric the pirate was. She'd rather survive now, and see the end of this quest, than to go back to someone as far away as Ranskjun empty-handed. Besides, she might still get to see this trinket he wanted and see if it really was just emotionally valuable. Probably there was more to it. She would see.
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Royce Brodlyn Kristoph
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« Reply #109 on: April 17, 2012, 12:24:22 PM »

The battle was over, but the danger was about to start.  That was the thoughts going through Royce's mind as the captain and the Captain of the Pirates spoke to one another.  They were nearly at the mercy of these pirates.  Who knew what might come of it.

The Pirate Captain was calling out now, asking for him and the others to join his crew.  Royce spat onto the wooden blood caked deck.  That would be the day.  He was a friend of Ranskjun, and he was not about to forget that and go treasure hunting with the pirates.  Ranskjun had trusted them to get it for him.  Royce had no intention of betraying that trust.

Suddenly, little Fu spoke out harshly against the pirate captain.  Royce felt a deep pride well up within him for the diminutive mage.  Then his blood turned cold when the pirate called for Fu to be detained.  He couldn't let this happen.

"You'll not harm him!"  In an instance, Royce pulled out his sword and stepped forward.

Immediately, two pirates barred his way.  The first forced a cutlass directly at Royce, who parried it easily and came back with a slash that ran across the pirates chest, dropping him to the deck.  The second brought his cutlass straight down.  This, Royce only partially blocked, feeling steel bite into his shoulder.  Still, he was able to thrust his blade forward into the soft belly of this pirate.

His gaze went to the pirate captain.  Only a few more steps, now.  A strange, but powerful pain suddenly exploded in his chest, and he looked down in wonder at the handle of a dagger protruding from his shirt.  Around it, a karikrimson stain fanned out in every direction.

Royce glanced back at Fu, and his mouth slowly formed the words, "I'm sorry", though no sound escaped.  Turning back, he took another unsteady step, but a hulking pirate stepped before him.  The pirate slashed at him, but Royce was able to parry this attack, though at the cost of losing his grip on his weapon, the feeling in his fingers gone.

An evil grin came over the pirates face, as he thrust his cutlass forward, embedding it deeply into Royce's belly.  Royce felt himself falling to his knees as he looked down.  Strange how this newest wound did not hurt at all.  As he stared downward, he saw the pirates hand reach forward, grip the dagger handle and pull it free.  A moment later, he felt his hair being pulled from behind, forcing him to stare into the sky.  As he felt the blade press against his throat, then being drawn across it, he could hear the sound of his grandfather's gentle voice.

"Come, Royce.  Time for some fishing.  Come along, lad."
« Last Edit: April 17, 2012, 12:27:34 PM by Royce Brodlyn Kristoph » Logged

Royce

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« Reply #110 on: April 19, 2012, 07:53:49 PM »

Things seemed to be calming down, though Fionn barely registered what was said as Fu collapsed; his attempt to cling to Koka’s beard had at least slowed his fall, and she was darting forward to crouch at his side in moments, gently rolling him onto his back so the injured shoulder wasn’t crushed, leaning over to examine the wound, pressing a finger to the human’s throat to feel his pulse. She registered the sudden shift in the captain’s voice, from towering rage to hilarity, and decided, in the matter-of-fact way she decided most things, that she hated this captain. If it weren’t for the others, she would probably just-

Thinking back, she was never entirely sure what it was that made her look up. Perhaps the events of past days had made her more sensitive than she realised to the sounds of edged weapons on flesh. Perhaps she smelt blood, though the likelihood of that through the pungent wall of pirates and the recent bloodshed on the deck seemed slim. But she looked up from Fu, for a moment, and saw something fall to the deck through the forest of legs that surrounded them all. Something heavy and soft and quickly dragged away and confusingly coloured in reds and browns and pinkish tones, and a roll of white like an upturned eye, glassy and empty and dead.

The hand not still pressed to the soft skin just under Fu’s jawline clutched at an amulet.
 “Protect us from the brutalities of the big folk. Ancestors please protect us.”

It was a hoarse whisper, and she sounded younger than herself.
She stared as Royce was dragged out of her sight, and wiped furiously at her good eye, which prickled suddenly at her, and wanted to yell out and point but couldn’t seem to make herself speak anymore, so she simply counted the beats of Fu’s pulse and stared and stared.
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"If it's teeth are longer than your fingers, for the Ancestors' sake, assume it doesn't want it's belly tickled..."
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Fu Luft
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« Reply #111 on: April 28, 2012, 11:22:25 PM »

The pain danced a devil's dance all over his body. Fu squeezed his eyes tight shut. He clenched his jaw and and pressed his teeth on his lower lip, until blood began to seep out in the pattern of his dentition. He could not shut his ears, but his hearing withdrew all the same. All sounds were muffled. The laughter of the pirates, the shouting of their captain, the creaking of the ship as it rocked gently on the waves – they were soft and distant, as if they had traversed a massive stone wall before reaching Fu's ears. Eerie it was, dreamlike, but also strangely comforting.

His mind was playing tricks on him, and Fu began to know it. Unwilling to cause himself further embarrassment, he did not attempt to sit up. Instead he left his helpless body in the care of Fionn. She was crouching next to him, gently rearranging his screaming limbs into a marginally less painful position, feeling for the wound she had treated earlier, touching the pulse at his neck. Fu felt like a child, and relaxed into the feeling, handing all responsibility for his life to the young mullog healer.

“I'm sorry,” someone said. Fu heard it clearly, as if whispered by a tiny man sitting in his ear, or even in his brain. He knew the person whom the voice belonged to, but his pain-addled mind could not understand who this person was. Next to Fu, Fionn too was whispering. “Ancestors please protect us,” she hissed, her breath whistling past Fu's cheek. Fu wondered what had made her say that. Did she think he was dying? And then, as suddenly as thunder in the night, Fu realized what he had heard.

He could not open his eyes, or life his neck to look, but somehow he felt  what had happened. He released the clutch of his teeth on his lip, and with great effort asked Fionn:

”Where is Royce?”
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Eric Kattaisson
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« Reply #112 on: May 28, 2012, 05:47:44 AM »

   Eric turned when he heard a body slump onto the deck; in an instant he saw what had happened.  “Well, I guess thatz one o' em 'oo won' be joinin' us,” he thought to himself as he thanked the eagle-eyed pirate for preventing an attack.  Turning back to the small band of new hands, he could see that the recently deceased man meant something to them.  Not wanting another altercation to break out, he spoke to them.
   “'tiz a shame tha' such a brave man should choose to die like tha'.  I would ov dropped 'im with th' rest on a spi' o' land jus' like I said I would; 'tiz a shame.  We'll see 'e getz a proper burial az befitz a sailin' man.  Now, if thatz all o ye 'oo wantz ter join us, then 'tiz time ter get movin'!”
   The crew gave a quick cheer, obviously keen to get back to work and on the trail of Jovloff's gold.
   “Righ', ladz; tek wha' ye can back ter th' Runner.  Our new 'andz can 'elp!”  With a chorus of aye, ayes, Eric's crew started to disperse, heading off to loot the Silent Tear of anything they needed.  Eric, meanwhile, turned to Landy.  “See tha' th' cap'n 'ere n' iz crew are secured.  Pu' 'em in th' 'old back on th' Runner.”  Landy nodded and started to give orders to round up the members of the Silent Tear's crew who weren't joining them.
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Don't talk ter me 'bout naval tradition; why, 'tis nowt but drink, whores 'n the lash!

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Mallorix Volinkov
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« Reply #113 on: May 28, 2012, 11:28:17 AM »

With Fu's sudden collapse, Mallorix's fears that the mage might be viewed as dangerous slowly began slipping away. He stepped over to his friend, kneeling beside him. The pirate captain began laughing, and soon the rest of his crew had joined in. Mallorix knew that, at least for now, Fu was safe.

A cry and a thump made Mallorix turn. He caught a glimpse of someone falling, and a red stain spreading on the deck below the feet of the pirates. The body was quickly dragged away, and in a moment, Mallorix saw the face of the dead man. It was one of the adventurers, the swordsman, whose silver-touched hair and deep stare spoke of many things seen over many long years. On that face was a look of peace, untouched by the angry red wound below it.

The healer girl had seen it as well, and was staring in the same direction. She made no sound, and Mallorix was silent as well.  The silence was finally broken, not by them or the pirates, but by Fu. Mallorix barely heard the whisper that escaped his lips.

”Where is Royce?”

Looking down at the mage, Mallorix could only shake his head. He then knelt there quietly, in respect for the dead.

The next to speak was his new captain, Eric Kattaisson, giving direction where there was nothing.

“'tiz a shame tha' such a brave man should choose to die like tha'.  I would ov dropped 'im with th' rest on a spi' o' land jus' like I said I would; 'tiz a shame.  We'll see 'e getz a proper burial az befitz a sailin' man.  Now, if thatz all o ye 'oo wantz ter join us, then 'tiz time ter get movin'! Righ', ladz; tek wha' ye can back ter th' Runner.  Our new 'andz can 'elp!”

The pirates, happy to take whatever they needed, quickly dispersed across the ship. Another group went and began herding the crew of the Silent Tear into a group.

Slowly, Mallorix stood and looked around. He turned to a nearby pirate who looked like he had some authority.

"What should we do?"
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"I despise merchants. All of them are fat, rich men who yell about things and take your money."
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Eric Kattaisson
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« Reply #114 on: August 18, 2012, 06:42:43 AM »

   The loot from the Silent Tear had been safely stashed aboard the Runner and the uncooperative members of its crew were now securely locked in the hold.  Eric had instructed that some of the sail cloth from the doomed ship be taken and used to wrap the bodies of three men.  Most of the fallen had been left aboard the Tear to burn with her, but in Eric's eyes  three individuals were worthy of a proper burial; two of his own crew and the man who had needlessly sacrificed his life.  Actually, Eric didn't really consider the latter worthy of a sea-burial, but Oksund had quietly suggested to him that by doing so he'd be able to gain more respect from his latest converts.

   Now, with the blazing sun beating down, Eric stood on the poop deck surveying his crew.  They'd assembled en masse to say farewell to the recently departed.  Three canvas wrapped bodies lay side by side on the main deck, each a reminder of the inevitability of death.

   “Now, ladz,” Eric began, straightening himself up as he did so.  “Yer all knew two o' these men well; Fridloff and Hannverg, and yer all mus' 'av the same respec' fer 'em az I doez.  Th' thir' man 'ere, Royce, wazn't one o' us, but 'e deserves a propa burial on accoun' o' 'iz courage.”

   A murmur of discontent rippled around the crew, a few whispering to each other about the unfairness of it when there were plenty of more deserving hands from their own crew who had fallen that wouldn't get the same treatment.  Eric raised a hand to quiet the men, and addressed their concern.

   “Aye, tiz true there be plen'y o' good men on yonder ship 'oo deserve a good burial, too.  But on accoun' 'o time we can't do right by all o' 'em.  'n it seemz only right tha' we give one o' the Tear's crew a propa burial, since so many o' them fell, too.”

   The muttering faded away, and although not all were happy with the decision, they didn't raise a voice to argue.

   “So, Fridloff – wha' can I say?  A more 'ardworkin' mate could ne'er be found!  'e gave more ter this ship than most o' yer ever will, 'n 'e ne'er once complained!  Aye, we'll miss 'iz jokez 'n all – alwayz a smile on 'iz face!  Fridloff, mate, yer cheered me up more timez than I carez ter remem'er!  We'll mizz 'ee, mate – but ne'er forget yer!”  Eric paused for a moment before raising a roaring cheer in memory of the fallen man.  Then, without undue hesitation, Landy and three other men lifted the first body and cast it overboard.  Eric whispered a short prayer to himself, and then launched into a requiem for Hannverg, who had apparently been a notorious womanizer and one of the Runner's best drinkers.  Then, as before, Hannverg's body was launched into the deep blue sea and private prayers were said.

   “Now, 'tiz th' turn o' our new recruitz.  I ne'er knew the man Royce, so I givez it' o'er ter ye ter say somethin' o' 'im.”  Eric gestured for the small band of Jorn Ranskjun's hired hands to join him on the poop deck and speak.
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Don't talk ter me 'bout naval tradition; why, 'tis nowt but drink, whores 'n the lash!

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Mallorix Volinkov
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« Reply #115 on: October 30, 2012, 07:38:31 AM »

There was only silence from the others, so Mallorix stepped forward first. He stood there silently for a few moments, collecting his thoughts, before beginning the eulogy.

"I didn't know Royce well. You could say he was an acquaintance, or perhaps maybe a friend in the sense of people traveling together. I didn't know him well, but I still have the greatest respect for him. Royce... Royce was a kind man. He protected the weak, and used his strength to save others. I have never met anyone more selfless. He fought to save everyone from danger, but never thought about himself. He put others first. In the short time I knew him, when we were in danger on these seas, not once did he hesitate to go into danger to help other people. He was a good man, and I wish I knew him better when he lived."

His words said, Mallorix stepped back and hung his head in silence. He didn't feel as sad as he would if a family member had died, but he still felt a loss, a regret that a good person had left the world.
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"I despise merchants. All of them are fat, rich men who yell about things and take your money."
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Koka Bentarm
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« Reply #116 on: November 07, 2012, 09:10:01 PM »

Koka's face was set with sadness. She did not cry - she rarely did - but a stone seemed to have lodged in her stomach, and the corners of her mouth were drawn down, hard though that was to see behind her beard. Why did he have to die? And why like that, attacking pirates who had already conquered them? He had shouted something, but she had not heard what. She had, on the other hand, seen the face of the pirate who had killed him, seen the evil grin as he drew the dagger across the man's throat. She was not sure if any of the others had seen it, but she had, and she swore vengeance against him, even if she could not enforce it right at this moment, unless she wanted to die herself. But he would be going with them to find the famed treasure, and accidents did happen. He had not needed to slit Royce's throat. They might still have saved him, but for that.

She only half listened to what Mallorix said. Her face remained stony. It was not that she was not interested. But if she listened too hard, the tears would escape. Not crying was a strength now. She refused to cry in front of these battle-hardened pirates. When the young sailor stepped back, she wanted to have her say. No sign should escape of her plan, as yet half-formed. But she owed her friend at least that. She took a step forward.

"Royce, my friend. We've known each other for a short time, but in that time I have come to respect and love you - not only for your bravery but also for your kindness. I wish you could still be among us now. One thing is certain: I will never forget you." For a moment she looked like she might say something else, but then decided against it. This was all she felt equal to at this moment. She must not let the tears fall.
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