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Author Topic: Chapter Four - Things Fall Apart  (Read 29540 times)
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fionn
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« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2010, 08:50:11 PM »

“Only last night I saw one as big as this, lurking on my cabin wall.  Not that I mind, of course, they do tend to keep the rat population down.”
Fionn grinned, displaying sharp teeth as she imagined the size of such a spider. We were right; everything does grow so much bigger in the outside lands! She wondered what such an enormous creature would taste like. She hadn’t liked to think that way of Ylva’s spider, seeing enough from the way the human treated it that this was not a potential snack. But a spider, from what this captain says, big enough to eat rats? In a land like this surely nobody goes hungry! ...Well, except for me, hmm? Ancestors, what kind of a mullog can’t eat what moves on legs? She blinked; that thought had almost sounded like the words of her parents, and that’s always an unsettling thought. Instead of dwelling on that she looked back to the captain, her smile hardening a little as she pondered his question. Yes, what? Well, we’re not entirely useless, are we? Pretty faces indeed...

“Well I dunno if I’d venture to speak for Ylva and Rhia, but I’m pretty sure we’re all more than just nice t’look at.”She let her grin widen slightly, aware of the irony in her saying that, scarred, skinny and, to these Big People, simply too strange to be pretty.
“Between us we’ve a little doctoring, a little fighting, and I’d hope enough common sense for three people, no?”
She glanced to the other two, to see if they agreed, her expression back to its usual mischievous smile.
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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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Yurie Yileen
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« Reply #16 on: December 03, 2010, 05:36:04 AM »

   Captain Skjangarris couldn’t help but smile as he listened to Fionn’s answer.

   “Well, common sense is rare enough, and good doctors are worth their weight in gold.  I hope that we don’t have too much need of your medical services, though I think…”

   The captain was cut short by the sudden arrival of one of his crew.

   “Sail sighted off the larboard bow, sir!” the newcomer reported crisply.

   Almost instantly, the captain’s face changed.  His smile dropped; replaced by a sombre countenance.

   “What colours?” he asked calmly.

   “Stormcloaks, sir,” the mate replied.

   “Stormcloaks, indeed.  I think it best if we have a look, don’t you?”

   The captain’s question was directed to his guests at the table, though the tone of his voice indicated that it was rhetorical.  Jumping to his feet, he hurried to the cabin door.

   “Well, are you coming?” he asked the group, before disappearing into the bright sunlight.

   Once back on the main deck, the captain looked out to sea in the direction of a small ship.  He raised a scope to his eye, and, for a moment, was completely silent.  The ship was obviously in a hurry, and by the look of it, she was plotting a course which would cross their own.

   “What do you make of it?” he asked the nearest member of Jorn’s quest, handing them the scope.  “A merchant vessel, or something more sinister?”
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Koka Bentarm
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« Reply #17 on: December 16, 2010, 07:25:46 PM »

Koka followed the captain out of the hut, and out into the glaring sunlight. The exercise brought a fresh sheen of sweat to the dwarf's forehead, though in a way she was glad to be out of the stuffy cabin. She was glad of one thing - the sun was so bright that even the thought of glancing up at the sky was out of the question, which helped her not to think about that wide expanse above her. At the rail she saw the ship in question. She accepted the scope and imitated the captain's use of it, placing it near one eye. There was a dizzying moment where the horizon suddenly leapt into view in a way it would never do if she only used her own two eyes. Also, when she moved the scope, everything flew by at a dizzying speed. But then she found the ship, which seemed to be heading in their direction. She looked at it in silence for a moment, then passed the scope on to the next person.

"Captain, I'll be honest with you... I hardly know the difference between a boat and a ship, let alone that I would know what these people are. If it is something more sinister than a merchant vessel, however, you can count on me to stand my ground... or, well, wood, as the case may be - so long as they're human beings to deal with. If they're the same as those... sailors..." she shuddered to think back on the event, even though some weeks had passed - "then I don't know what I will do. From the determined way in which they are moving, though, and the movements that I could see on board with your looking thing, I would say at least that they still have full sanity on their side, and know what they want."
« Last Edit: December 16, 2010, 07:27:45 PM by Koka Bentarm » Logged

fionn
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« Reply #18 on: December 20, 2010, 11:45:39 PM »

Intrigued, and not a little nervous as she remembered the eventful voyage that had brought them this far, Fionn followed with the others out to see what exactly a stormcloak was. It sounded like a highly useful sort of thing, though why you’d spy one out in the sea was a little hard to work out. Perhaps it was a feature of an actual storm? Do you get storms in such warm climates? Probably you do, she thought. Full of summer thunder and lightning and happy spirits causing mayhem. But provided everything is tied down, storms don’t hurt anyone, do they? And they don’t have sails.

She frowned, squinting as her eye adjusted to the light outside. It didn’t look much like storms were coming, cloaked or otherwise... She stood on tiptoes, trying to see what the captain, and now Koka, were looking at. When the scope, a tube-sort-of-thing, all glass and metal, was handed over, she eagerly accepted, curious to see what was inside worth looking at- she gasped when she held it up to her eye, and started back slightly, blinking, before looking again, sweeping it over the wide blue horizon slowly till she found the speck they had looked at. It was a boat. That was about all she could offer on the subject, and she handed the scope on reluctantly, unaware of the grin that had spread across her face at discovering the instrument’s use. A device for bringing things nearer! Vital, of course, in such a bewilderingly enormous world!

She dragged her attention back to what Koka was saying, and nodded, trying to look like she knew what was going on. Then she stopped, because that wasn’t helping.
“Can I ask, uh... What’s a Stormcloak, sir? Is there a reason such a ship might be heading for us?”
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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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Hylphán
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« Reply #19 on: December 23, 2010, 09:19:21 AM »

     Hylphán, his eyes never leaving the approaching ship, reached for the scope and raised it with practiced ease. The other ship was built for speed. Its shallow draft and sleek design would allow for agile maneuvering and the ability to sail almost into the wind. The sailors aboard her were busily pulling canvas covers from a number  of items on deck. All this flashed through his mind in an instant, as he realized what the sailors were uncovering -- catapults!

     Hylphán quickly estimates the number of sailors he sees, knowing there will be more belowdecks, and without looking away from the cutter spoke to the captain. “Captain, we may have a problem here.  I suggest you get the marines armed and ready for trouble. They appear to be pirates, and can outrun and outmaneuver us easily.” Lowering the eyeglass, Hylphán turned to the captain and locked eyes with him. “It seems they have a number of catapults, so we need to keep changing our distance from them once they get in close enough. Get closer, then pull away, in a random pattern so they have a difficult time adjusting the range of the catapults. Be prepared to be boarded, and get anyone not fighting belowdecks. It would be wise to put a couple of your best archers in the rigging, to improve their range, and tell them to shoot for the catapult operators. Fire arrows can be shot from the main deck rail as well, to try and burn their catapults. I estimate we will be fighting more than fifty men, cutthroats all. Do you agree that this pretty well describes the situation Captain?”   

     Not waiting for an answer, he turned, and looking at the other members of the
group, Hylphán grinned slightly and asked them “Shall we get this party
started?”
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Fair winds and following seas till our paths cross again.

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Fu Luft
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« Reply #20 on: December 24, 2010, 01:09:12 AM »

“Can I ask, uh... What’s a Stormcloak, sir? Is there a reason such a ship might be heading for us?”

Fu stood next to Fionn when she asked her question. As the captain seemed to turn his attention to Hylphan, who was just now looking through the scope, Fu answered in his stead.

”The stormcloaks be a guild of ship owners. They be loading those ships of theirs with wares of merchants, who be paying them for passage and goods. I be knowing about them stormcloaks, for I was working for merchants not too long ago.”

Writing contracts, inventories, and family histories had seemed boring at the time, but Fu would gladly have committed to ten years as a scribe, without even a Prayday off, if that would have got him out of this treasure hunt, which, he felt, would surely be the death of him.

”I be thinking we should be stopping for yonder ship, and hear what knews they be having.”

Suddenly, an idea came to Fu. Maybe this thought of going back to his scribe-work did not need to remain a thought? With a little trick, it could become reality! He would have to lie, which he didn't like. Then again, what was better: being a liar or being a corpse?

For a blink, Fu hesitated. Was he about to do something stupid? But the hope of rescue from this suicidal mission won out. He said to Fionn:

”Actually, I was meaning to be asking ye, since a healer ye be. I be feeling a pain in my chest, here …” – Fu pointed at the area around his heart – ”… I be thinking I might be ill. I be feeling queasy, too. And my head, oh, I be thinking the sun be too much for my head. I be thinking I be falling ill, and …”

That was it! Rescue was at hand!

”… and I be feeling it be getting worse." Fu coughed a little, to emphasize the point.  "I don't be knowing whether I be ready to be going on adventures with such an illness. Do ye be thinking that I be contagious? I would not be wanting to be bringing my illness to other folks. Mayhap we should be asking yonder stormcloaks where they be bound? Mayhap they could be taking me to land, for my illness to be treated?”

In his mind’s eye, Fu already saw himself stretching out on the deck of the stormcloaks’ ship. Safe and sound he’d be, and never would he see the captain ever again! Nor the Wizard’s Bane nor zombiis nor pirates! Never again! Yes!

Fu looked at Fionn, and did his best to give his face a troubled and pained expression. Then he started noticing what Hylphan was saying:

”... tell them to shoot for the catapult operators. Fire arrows can be shot from the main deck rail as well, to try and burn their catapults. I estimate we will be fighting more than fifty men, cutthroats all. Do you agree that this pretty well describes the situation Captain?”

Fu’s expression turned from fake dismay to genuine terror. Fight the stormcloaks? But why?

”Capat... Catapap..." he stammered. ”What?"

Hylphan hadn't heard him, or paid no heed: “Shall we get this party started?” the elf asked.

There was no reason to fake an illness anymore. Fu was starting to feel exactly how he had described it to Fionn.

”Oh, Grothar, Master of Winds,” he whispered. ”Please ye, anything but this. Anything but another battle.”
« Last Edit: December 24, 2010, 01:42:16 AM by Fu Luft » Logged

fionn
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« Reply #21 on: December 29, 2010, 03:08:25 AM »

”The stormcloaks be a guild of ship owners.”
“...appear to be pirates, and can outrun and outmaneuver us easily.”
Turning to glance between Fu and Hylphan, Fionn raised an eyebrow sceptically. Make your minds up, guys...

She was about to say as much aloud, when she realised Fu was looking out of sorts. Or more so than usual. She tilted her head to eye him carefully as he spoke, her sighted eye taking him in sharply, carefully ignoring the commotion nearby. He might not be really ill but he was scared, and well he might be. she kept her face as blank as she could as he spoke, wondering if it really had been fair to bring him, however capable he might have been in a tight spot. As Hylphan’s words seemed again to catch his attention he visibly paled.

Ancestors, don’t let him panic, that’s no help to anyone...
And what is a catapult, for that matter? Sounds interesting.
Pay attention, Fionn.
She looked back to Fu, and grinned in what she hoped was a reassuring manner (though a set of sharp teeth tends to make reassuring a debatable issue in the best of circumstances).

“You do look a little peaky, sir, I’ll admit...” she paced round him, making a show of looking him up and down.
“But I don’t think you’re contagious, or we’d have heard about it before now... no, looks to me like what you need is fresh air and something to take your mind off things. Something like-“

”Oh, Grothar, Master of Winds, Please ye, anything but this. Anything but another battle.”

Her smile vanished. He really is scared, isn’t he? This isn’t good... she looked at the others, and back to the ship that was the source of such concern, noticeably closer even to her poor depth perception. She shifted, standing up straighter, a hand going to the pocket where she vaguely hoped she’d put her knife.

“Just... just take it easy, right sir? you’ll be alright. Trust me, I’m a doctor.”
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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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Koka Bentarm
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« Reply #22 on: December 29, 2010, 11:19:24 PM »

Koka was for a moment distracted by the conversation between Fionn and Fu. She was struck by the difference in reaction between the two at the mention of pirates. The little wizard shrank back, muttering something that she didn't quite catch, and he paled visibly. The mullog, on the other hand, stood up straighter, peering intently at the approaching ship, and even changed her tone - at first rather sarcastic - to something bordering on reassuring. And that while she was so much smaller! Koka could not help but be impressed by her courage.

"If there's going to be fighting, as our elf-like friend here assumes, I had better go get my bow ready. Captain, perhaps a place can be found where a wizard might feel safe enough to perform some of his magics without fearing a stray cutlass or arrow to interrupt him?" She wasn't entirely sure if that was the best course, but she didn't really want to put the wizard in the path of danger if it wasn't necessary. She just hoped that 'a safe place' would not automatically mean that he did not need to do anything to contribute to the battle.

Leaving those better able to organise these things, she quickly went into the cabin where they had been gathered and took her bow and quiver, which had been resting against the wall while the meeting was going on. She immediately went out again, and looked around to see where she might be best placed to face the oncoming enemy, if enemy it turned out to be. In the rigging, as Hylphan had suggested, was all fine and dandy, but her arm prevented her climbing. It was only when she found a spot to her liking that she realised how the half-elf had more or less taken over command from the captain. She didn't know his past experiences, but if she were the captain she wouldn't let that happen. She was curious if Skjangarris was going to react.
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Kyros Scaldai
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« Reply #23 on: December 30, 2010, 07:58:50 AM »

Kyros Scaldai was in a good mood.

The best he had felt, in fact, for months. The best he had felt by far since- since that wretched pox riddled dog faced son of- no, calm down now, old boy – since the end of his triumphant days.

Well, I could hardly have been expected to feel bonny and bright with a merry spring in my step, could I now, in the condition I was living over those months, he thought, as he woke that morning aboard the Silent Tear. Months riding place to place till his arse was sore, just to find a bed for the night and often still ending up beneath bushes that seemed more of a funnel for the rain and weather than a shield, months zigzagging across the country to collect this stash from that hidey-hole, or this favour from that money lender. Months avoiding anywhere he might be known and worse still, months avoiding bounty seeking sell-swords and rogues who had heard the pirate Scaldai was landbound, and months spent in filthy taverns trying to plan, trying to find some way to rise again. But worst of all, months on dry land, shipless and crewless. On land, there was no drill. There was no order to anything; not properly, not clearly.  People did as they pleased, not as you commanded, and even thieving and criminality was so unorganized, so inefficient. A ship, even in piracy, properly handled, was a perfect machine. On land, everything seemed to him so much more like a burning anthill. It was more than enough to exasperate any true sailor.

But now, there was Jovloff’s gold.

A few chance meetings in ports with old acquaintances who had not yet heard of his downfall, a few whispers that the merchant Jorn Ranskjun was plotting something, and hushed mentions of the dread pirate Jovloff- that captain Skjangarris of the Silent Tear was once more bound for Queen’s Harbour in the Shoals- well, a little enquiry and a few rather more arranged meetings later and here he was aboard the Tear, having been bound for the Scattersand Shoals anyway on a passenger ship, in another desperate attempt to start again. He knew of Ranskjun, and had met his runner Skjangarris before in his old glory days, of course. And the name of Tendrim Jovloff he had known since he first set foot on ship and turned an ear to the stories of sailors.

Something in his spirit had lifted as his boots clipped the planks of a vessel once more. The rising feeling in his chest had begun as he approached the Silent Tear, moored in Queen’s Harbour. She was small, of course, but neat and slim and well-built none-the-less. The finest craft he had seen in a fair while, after the scarred cut-throat’s ships and patched up tubs that bobbed about the rambling shanty towns of the shoals, all of them mongrel beasts compared to the thoroughbred he was now sailing upon. And it was so good to be sailing again. Standing at the stern of the Tear as she left the port behind the evening before, the lift in his spirits had positively soared.

And of course, there was Jovloff’s gold.

Why, he thought, it feels so wonderfully almost like the fine old days- but no- mustn’t think too hard on them, silly boy, or you’ll remember why they’re the old days and not the current, and then you’ll be mopey. But simply being out beneath the sails and spray again, on a good ship and with a clear goal to drive him on and the promise of rich reward- it was a tonic to the soul.

So. Jovloff’s gold.

Even thinking it woke something like hunger. To imagine those piles of treasure, to scoop it in handfuls, in waterfalls, to have so much gold- but they were a long way from booty yet. Better focus on the tasks before him than dream far distant.

Jovloff’s gold!

To think, I might well find it! The legendary stash of the legendary pirate. One would have thought it would take a positively mythological  feat to recover something as lore drenched as that horde. Well. That, or piratical experience to fathom a piratical trail, he thought, as he rolled from the hammock old ghost hair Skangjarris had allotted him. Allotted! To be directed so feels positively offensive, but I shouldn’t grumble. It will all have to tolerated if you are to snatch even a penny of- oh, but I’m nearly salivating, foul thought- of Jovloff’s gold. You are not a captain. Well. Not yet.

Jovloff’s gold. Oh, it’s a foolhardy and downright suicidal quest
, he thought, as he straightened his white shirt, then slung on and begun to button his black waistcoat. But you, Kyros, are a fallen gentleman ready to follow any star out of the gutter. And this treasure will prove, hah, to be a blazing sun of redemption if only you can stretch high enough. If it can only be reached, I might be redeemed. Or at least, enriched. Grinning, he pulled each silver toe-capped boot on over his dark grey trousers. Yes, with the spoils- easy there, try not to get too excited, old boy, or you’ll have no energy left for the fun later on- with those legendary spoils I shall be able to set myself up again. In moral or immoral venture! I shall have a ship again, and crew- no, twenty ships, if the legends have not been too enthusiastic in describing the exact quantity of gold. I shall sail far away, where no one has ever heard of Kyros Scaldai and his- his downfall- and then, when I’m strong enough, I’ll sail back and teach all those who laughed, who went against me, to ever question Kyros Scaldai again- teach with blade and fire and- no. Hush, now and do your hair. You’re far off all of that. It’s still a foolhardy and dangerous quest. Nothing good ever came without some bloody hard work somewhere down the line.

But to have even the palest glint of hope on the horizon set Kyros Scaldai grinning. He was in a good mood.

With a small dab of oil and his shaving mirror, he slicked his fringe back from his forehead in a low sweep, quite unflashy. He had grown out of styling elaborate horns or oiled-back looks since he had been on land. Besides, in this heat, any fancier stylings would quickly wilt.

There. He was dressed. That had been the only real pleasure in his landless purgatory: to be really able to look after himself. He could wash and shave often, and oil his hair every day, and choose outfits without fear of them being spoiled, and oh, it did boost a man’s confidence to feel he was well groomed and dressed. In these tropics he would doubtless have to relinquish his best clothes and would eventually give in to the heat and keep in old shirts and trousers, but for these first few days, he would try and keep smart. Not too flashy, though. He had to make the right impression on the rest of the treasure hunting party. That was important. The subject of his previous occupation would have to be avoided, in particular. They were hardly likely to warm to a pirate, former or not. None of them looked particularly criminal, from the brief contact he had with them so far.

But it was all, in the end, for Jovloff’s gold.

And it was now time to go forth and start making that good impression. Skangjarris had assembled them all for a meeting in the main cabin, doubtless briefing them on the same general points of the quest the captain had told him before he had boarded just before the rest of the party were likewise picked up from Queen’s Harbour. He meant to go in and introduce himself while they were all so neatly gathered. But bounding down to the cabin, he found the room empty, glasses of drink still ringing the table. The old lewd song he had been half-humming wavered as his good mood sank a half-inch. But no matter, no matter. He could still introduce himself, could he not, only in not quite such a precise manner as he had been mentally rehearsing. Besides, the errant party were soon located up on deck, stood together at the prow. They were, with the captain, passing round a scope and apparently looking towards a ship fast approaching. Some gut feeling pulled his good mood down a further notch as he watched it speed on- but never mind all that now, say hello while they’re all together.

He strode towards them, and surveyed the group.

He had seen them all before, around the Silent Tear as on such a small ship one could hardly avoid fellow passengers, all of them instantly distinguishable from the actual crew. Close up and gathered together, they were an odd bunch. In his experience, when rich merchants like old Ranskjun wanted something dangerous and secret done, they hired burly louts with too little brain to conceive of disobeying for the physical parts, and the best and most discreet gentleman sell-swords and spies, whose high fees were justified by quality for the parts requiring rather more in the intelligence department. Less than half this party came anywhere near either of those two categories. But they are not without promise. Not at all.

There were three men who did look more like the type he would have expected to be on this sort of job. He appraised their build with the old captain’s eye for picking crew: one, approaching middle age, though still fresh faced and well-muscled, if not hulking, and a little shorter than Kyros, another tightly powerful man of a similar age, with white blonde hair and around Kyros’s height, and another chap, closer to Kyros’s age and likewise slim but muscled, and shorter than him. That was good. He hated it when men were taller than he was. Lucky I’m a pretty lanky bugger, then, isn’t it?

But then there was a slim woman, and a girl who was surely scarcely twenty. Neither of them were bad looking, even pretty, at the right angle. Perhaps they held some secret knowledge or magic to help divine the treasure. They hardly looked like warriors.

Then, there was a dwarf.  Kyros liked dwarves. Well, liked was rather strong. He approved of dwarves. And this dwarf seemed as solidly and standardly dwarven as any of his fellow cave dwellers. As we watched, the dwarf strode away after saying something he was too far off to distinguish.

And then there was a very odd little thing that had been puzzling Kyros for a while. At first he had thought it was a child, perhaps the cabin boy, though it seemed feminine in feature. Looking more closely, however, it held itself with a controlled confidence that was somehow very adult. It was so skinny, and gangly limbed, with odd greyish flesh and a quite bald head, as well. He concluded it was not human. Though what else it might be he had no idea.

Another perplexing character was the small, dark young man who was one of the least ship-worthy men Kyros had ever seen gracing a deck. Not only did he have the soft look of a fellow who spent most of his life inside, rarely exerting himself, but he was plainly scared, bordering on terrified. Terrified of what? Best not to dwell on that for now- And last besides the captain was a lad still a little more boy than man, who Kyros had before assumed to be one of the crew.

All in all, they were an odd, if not bad bunch to be setting out with.

He clapped his hands, hoping to pull their attention from that sinister ship.

“Ah, hello. Good morning to you all. I hope I’m interrupting nothing too urgent- but I thought to introduce myself while you were all gathered like this. I am Kyros. Kyros Scaldai.” He smiled warmly and nodded low: almost a bow. ”I’ve seen you all about on ship, of course. I’m not sure if you are aware, but I have been drafted in to join you on this, hah, quest, by your good employee Jorn Ranskjun, and captain Skjangarris. I was in Queen’s Harbour already, so it was all most convenient. I can wield a blade and know my way around a ship, so to speak, so I hope I shall prove useful to you all on this venture, and get to know you all better in the coming weeks.”

My, Kyros, but you sound almost modest. Keep that up and you’ll be relegated to the lowest menial level.

But introduction over, that approaching ship caught his sight and drew it inexorably. Now his good mood has really lowering. He needed no scope to gauge it would cross their path, and soon. And a tight feeling around his belly, all instinct and no thought, told him it was something very bad, and of the sort of bad he was used to being on the inflicting end of. How beautifully awful to be on the other side, now! The dread was different to the feeling he had when a fellow rogue ship was bearing down, ready to attack. It was less of a thrill, and much colder. Then he realised: what if the scoundrels bearing down were known to him? Sweet Baveras- let them be some far southern band who’ve never heard of Scaldai and the Scythe of Queprer or else my cover amongst this group as a man of law and good moral conduct be blown to pieces, and so soon! But I cannot flee or shirk or I’ll look a weakling coward, and that would shake these motley lot’s view of me just as irrevocably.

As his mind fretted and twisted and thoroughly obliterated any trace of a good mood, some lower part of brain managed to gather itself enough to keep smiling and say:“I rather suspect by the look of you all that the ship we are about to meet is not, shall I say, of a desirable nature. Might I look through the scope? Or would it be more prudent to fetch my sword?”
« Last Edit: December 30, 2010, 08:34:42 AM by Kyros Scaldai » Logged

Yurie Yileen
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« Reply #24 on: January 04, 2011, 04:25:36 AM »

  The first two members of Jorn’s hired hands confessed pretty much what Captain Skjangarris already knew; that they knew nothing of nautical matters.  Still, Koka’s resolute attitude to danger was very reassuring.

   The next hand to hold the scope was Hylphan, a man whom the captain had put down as a seasoned sailor.  Would he recognise the threat?

   After listening to his fairly concise appraisal, Captain Skjangarris smiled slightly.  Yes, here was a man who had been in trouble with pirates before; probably used to giving the orders rather than taking them.  “Too many cooks spoil the broth,” the captain thought to himself.  Still, there were more pressing matters at hand.

   “Yes, Hylphan,” the captain said in response, “that would seem to describe our situation.

   “Ah, yes, Koka; very good, but avoid the rigging, that’ll be the first thing they fire at.”

   Whilst the dwarf went to fetch his bow, Skjangarris turned his attention to the pale little man, who turned out to be a wizard, after all.

   “Best you stay well out of harm’s way, I think.  To be honest, though, I’m not sure we’ll have to fight.  These pirates don’t appear to be Blades, so we might be able to bluff them and be on our way.  But yes, Kyros, I think you should keep your sword handy.”

   Captain Skjangarris retrieved the scope, and had another look through it as he collected his thoughts.  Hylphan was right, there’d be at least fifty hands on the enemy ship; probably more.  They were well armed, and obviously well trained.  Unfortunately, apart from the newcomers, the Silent Tear only kept a crew of a dozen marines, which meant that if it did come to a fight, they’d be vastly outnumbered; at least two to one, probably more like three to one.

   It had been the captain’s intention to out run any potential predators, as was his usual strategy.  But he could see that the approaching vessel had already made good progress, evidently under the control of an extremely competent crew.  The usual pirate gangs in these waters were fairly sloppy in their seamanship.  The Crimson Blades were better known for their ruthlessness than skill.  If it had been the Blades chasing them, then the captain would have expected to see a lot of luffing and wasted movement, but this wasn’t the case.

   It seemed a much better option, then, to strike the flag early and let the rogues see that they were carrying nothing of worth.  The captain already had a well thought out cover story which would explain the mules and provisions below deck.  It all depended on the temperament of the other ship’s captain and crew.  Skjangarris had negotiated deals with plenty of pirates in the past, and he felt confident in his ability to weigh up the measure of a man in a very short space of time.  In fact, he’d already made a number of assumptions about the nature of the approaching crew, and reckoned that they’d be happy to leave with medicines, supplies, and whatever jewellery or riches they could get their hands on.

   Turning to a nearby sailor, Captain Skjangarris ordered him to ready the marines; to negotiate a good deal, it would be necessary to let the villains know that if they did choose to overstep the mark, they’d certainly pay a price.

   Then, he let the others know his plan.  “We’ll ready for battle, but try to avoid a bloody fight.  Truth is, we’ll be outnumbered and we need everyone here to stay alive.  Our priority is to complete our mission for Jorn, not to trade blows with petty crooks.  I need you all to follow my directions, even if you think a different course would be best.

   “Now, Rhia, I think it best you get below decks.  One of our marines will look after you.”

   By now, the ship’s marines had surfaced, and one of them offered to take Rhia out of harm’s way.  Captain Skjangarris gave directions to the marines, and waited, as the now not-so-distant cutter approached.
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Fu Luft
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« Reply #25 on: January 04, 2011, 09:45:03 PM »

”Trust me, I’m a doctor.”

Fionn had the kindness and firmness that good healers cultivate in their dealings with anxious patients. Her one eye regarded Fu. Like a gnacker mollusc she was being looking,  Fu would think later. For like the one-eyed shellfish, Fionn looked wary, on the look-out for danger, but at the same time patient, as if nothing could pry her loose from where she stood. Fu’s memories would return to this moment for a long time to come, and whenever they did, he would end up wishing that his own character was furnished with some of Fionn’s steadfastness and courage. She wasn’t a fighter, and looked so small that a pirate’s boot might crush her. And yet here she was, trying to reassure a panicking coward.

But those thoughts would come much later. Right now, Fionn’s labours were lost on Fu. He stared down at the little mullog, who still looked like an imp to him, like a wizard’s servant, and he did not feel reassured. Stiff as a rod he stood, unable to move, unable to think, unable to say anything. His eyes did not take in what was going on around him. He could barely hear the voices of the people preparing for battle. It was as if all sounds were muffled by the thick fog of his fear. Only snippets made it through to his ears, and shrieked in his head like ghosts.

    ”Captain, perhaps a place can be found where a wizard might feel safe enough to perform some of his magics?”

    ” I can wield a blade.”

    ”Would it be more prudent to fetch my sword?”

    ”Best you stay well out of harm’s way.”

    ”Get the marines ready!”

   ”I think it best you get below decks.”

Something horrible was about to happen. Fu felt it. Deep in his stomach he knew that this day something would be taken from him that he would never be able to get back.

He had a vision of a sword cutting up a body. The sword worked slowly, methodically, slicing the body into neat little pieces. Like a child that has a piece of cake and uses a knife to carefully divide it into equal slices, intending to share with her friends. The sword cut, and the pieces of body were lying there: a finger here, a slice of belly there, a nose sitting on top of a piece of heart. They were being separated from one another, separated from where they belonged. They were being wronged. They were helpless and alone. And they endured it all.

There was no blood in Fu's vision. Only terror. Cold, stupefying terror.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2011, 10:00:19 PM by Fu Luft » Logged

Kyros Scaldai
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« Reply #26 on: January 05, 2011, 07:51:09 AM »

There. It was confirmed. They were about to be crossed by rogues. And if they were crimson blades – he would wait to see the ship himself before discrediting that possibility, no matter what Skjangarris said- they were about to engage in a battle they would likely not win. The group was tensing. He could almost feel it in the air; a tightening, gathering feeling. As if the ship and its passengers were readying themselves to spring. That, or readying in anticipation of the blow.
 
“...But yes, Kyros, I think you should keep your sword handy.” Skjangarris was ordering the group and the crew, now, gathering them into an arrangement that might withstand this attack. Irritation twisted his brow briefly at the sense that short command gave him of being but one in the web the captain was arranging – but he means no ill, Kyros, and you must, you absolutely must tolerate it if you are to succeed. You cannot reach the gold alone. He nodded at Skjangarris’s suggestion, and waited a moment longer to hear the rest of the captain’s orders.

“We’ll ready for battle, but try to avoid a bloody fight.  Truth is, we’ll be outnumbered and we need everyone here to stay alive.  Our priority is to complete our mission for Jorn, not to trade blows with petty crooks.  I need you all to follow my directions, even if you think a different course would be best.” There. The man has good, plain sense, no? This may well be an almost peaceful encounter! But some deep part still scowled to hear another man say that he, Kyros Scaldai, was to follow his directions. I’ll follow your orders, Skjangarris, until they endanger me. I put myself out for no man.

As the young lady was led below deck, he darted away to fetch his blade. The tight feeling was gripping harder with each step. I had almost the same sort of feel in my gut, he thought, as when readying myself and the crew, to engage a target. But while the anticipation of combat and booty was heady, euphoric even, this tension was cold as dread.

By his hammock once more, he crouched and unrolled his pack. His knife was already slung beneath his shirt, so now he carefully unwrapped his sword and pulled the belt of the sheath tight above his waist. It was steadying, somehow, to go through such familiar motions.

He drew the blade, slowly, almost enjoying it, and arm stretched, felt for that balance point. The familiar weight was another odd comfort. Oh, but you are a beautiful creature, he thought as light flashed from the metal. Thick and sharp enough to slice flesh but light enough to manoeuvre swiftly. Rapier has never quite seemed the right word. It makes one think of those silly, finger thick things young gentlemen layabouts engage each other with for sport, imagining a sword fight to be some kind of noble display of skill, not a means of murder: instead something with proper gentlemanly rules where one can never use a fist or a kick- when in battle, real battle, fists and kicks are as important as cuts. But light sword or short sword is not right for you either- belittling sounding titles, indeed.

He thrust once, twice, and satisfied the old skill was still with him, sheathed the narrow sword and began back up to the deck. He had briefly considered wearing his uglier, heavier blade instead- but unless pirates have got into the habit of wearing full mail and armour while I’ve been out of their company, a lighter edge should suffice. Besides, a thrusting sword is so much more efficient than brutish cleavers made for cuts, where one has to hack off as many bits of the opponent as one can and hope something important is hit or else he bleeds to death. Which is certainly very effective, but so sloppy- whereas with a thrusting blade, with a lunge one may puncture a man’s heart and be done with it.

Having a weapon weight on his hip was reassuring and he felt almost content again, as he rejoined the group. He ran a thumb over the fine metal work of the hilt and watched the ship approach and tried to bring his mind to the calm, unfeeling focus best suited to conflict or combat.

But beside him, someone was going from calm to panic. The unimpressive, dark little man had gone positively rigid. He looked quite shut off from all going on around him.

A liability, said the old captain-voice. Fear like that will only tangle things and trip up the rest of us. He should be moved out of the way or else left to stumble over his own terror away from others. He had seen too many greenhands with who looked like that as skirmish loomed, on his crew and on opponent’s. Most of them ended up with a slashed throat or slit belly soon enough.

“Ah, excuse me- sir?” he said, gripping the man’s shoulder in case it jolted him back to sense. “But: are you quite all right? You look rather unsettled, you see.” he looked up to the rest of the group and tried to smile. “Or is this his normal expression? Perhaps you should join the young lady downstairs if you’re unwell.” Huh, unwell indeed- how tactful of you, Kyros- but then to name him afraid and shame the man would hardly help. ” Baveras knows, a battle with pirates is an engagement hardly likely to soothe the nerves, mm?”
« Last Edit: January 05, 2011, 05:17:19 PM by Kyros Scaldai » Logged

fionn
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« Reply #27 on: January 06, 2011, 11:56:56 PM »

A new, calm and more than usually self-assured voice distracted Fionn from her musings on how best to calm Fu. She looked up, and a little further up, at this Kyros Scaldai, smiling in what she hoped was a friendly rather than distracted manner. A small part of her mind, that was somehow not preoccupied with near-panicking big folk and the prospect of pirates, wondered why the big folk so often had such sharp faces. Perhaps it’s the stronger winds up there, carving their features like snow shaped into snowdrifts.

“Best you stay well out of harm’s way, I think.  To be honest, though, I’m not sure we’ll have to fight.  These pirates don’t appear to be Blades, so we might be able to bluff them and be on our way.  But yes, Kyros, I think you should keep your sword handy.”Captain Skjangarris’ words cut through her thoughts, and dragged her back to the problem, or rather problems at hand. One thing at a time, Fionn...

Fu wasn’t any calmer; he looked worse, in fact. Every feature on him frozen and reeking fear, staring blankly as if he was seeing into the spirit world. The eru of fear itself, clasping a person in its great arms and squeezing, filling up their mind and screaming like a child, wanting everything to be like before, even if before was so long ago it barely exists.

A hand fell on the frozen man’s shoulder, and Fionn threw a grateful look to the face at the other end of the arm. A human voice, he needs now. And, if needs be, someone big enough to manhandle him to safety. She nodded to Kyros, one hand absently drawing the short, serviceable knife from her pocket. It looked ridiculous, like a pin wielded by a swamp rat next to the boat full of swords and bows and whatever-a-catapult-is. Still, it was something. And there were always teeth.
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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 #28 on: January 10, 2011, 04:55:38 AM »

Someone touched Fu’s shoulder. He flinched and gave a little scream. The shock tore his mind away from the nightmare of his vision. But now he faced, once again, the nightmare of reality.

He looked up at the lank sailor. The sun was behind the man, and blinded Fu’s eyes as he tried to make out the other’s face, which seemed to little Fu as if it was floating high up in the sky.

Fu became aware that the tall man was saying something. He seemed to be speaking about  Fu, rather than with him. A bloodrush of humiliation began to whirl in Fu’s head. Had he been lost to his visions for so long that he had already become the subject of disapproving talk, while he was standing right here?

But then the tall man addressed Fu.

”Perhaps you should join the young lady downstairs if you’re unwell. Baveras knows, a battle with pirates is an engagement hardly likely to soothe the nerves, mm?”

Fu’s mortification turned to anger. These sailors were taking course right into pirate-infested waters, they had no idea what they were doing, they were playing with his life, and the lives of everyone on this ship. And now they wanted to send him down into the cabins, where they could forget about him, where there was no escape, where he couldn’t see what was going on.

Before his mind’s eye, he saw the image of the ghost ship, the Laughing Lady, as it was being consumed by flames in the middle of the ocean, like a doomed island, like a fire monster eating itself. Fu and the others had barely escaped from the burning hold. He wouldn’t get stuck inside a ship ever again. And certainly not during a battle.

”No,” Fu gasped. ”I be staying out. Out, be hearing ye!”

He wriggled his shoulder out of the man’s grasp, and turned around. The ship looked horribly small to him now. There was really nowhere to flee to.

On the horizon, the pirate ship was moving closer. Fu breathed heavily. The sweat that had been flowing freely down his body in the heat turned cold, and Fu began to shiver.

Then his legs began to move. He took a few steps. Slowly first, as if trying to see whether the wooden planks were still supporting his body. Then he moved faster, and faster, until he was running over the deck as if his life depended on it. When he reached a railing, he simply turned and resumed his run in a different direction.

He had nowhere to run to, of course. And he knew it. But he had no way of telling his legs this.
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Koka Bentarm
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« Reply #29 on: January 10, 2011, 06:33:12 PM »

Standing ready with her bow some way from her companions, she realised that she was still too early - the other ship was approaching fast, but not quite that fast. She had liberty to look around - she preferred not to think too much about the ship, lest it ruin her calm. She saw a tall man talking to the little wizard. One of the sailors, she thought - she might have seen him working when they boarded the ship. She could not hear what he said, but the final part of the wizard's answer was clear enough for her to hear - "Out, be hearing ye!" Without knowing what had gone before, the statement left her somewhat bewildered. Then she realised the tall man might have suggested he go inside. Well, that was not what she'd had in mind when asking the captain for a safe place for the wizard. How was he going to do his magics when he couldn't see what was going on?

His following actions, however, puzzled her even more. How was he going to do his magics when he was running around like that? And then he was approaching her, and she saw his face, which explained a lot. He was still panicking, just showing it in a different way than asking Fionn about his health. She took her bow in her right hand, stretching out her good left arm just as Fu was passing. She was planning to grab hold of his clothes and convince him to at least stay behind her, where he would at least stop running everyone in the way.
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