“What’s the report Bones?”
“Well,” the first mate sighed deeply, “Captain, the storm is subsiding. That’s the first bit of good news. The second bit is that thanks to the efforts of the mage and the Lighted one, Frank as you call him, we’ve repaired the hull. I dare say, we’ll be ready to sail at first light, sir.”
“Excellent!” Said Carpatchian clapping his hands together. “Then all hands on deck Bones, it’s time to muster the crew. We’ll complete the first leg of this journey, and be one step closer to a pint back in Cillandar! A game of Spottle at the Touching the Flame.”
“Aye, Captain, first draft is on me, Sir,” said the first mate and he gave the captain a firm handshake. These two had been through a lot together. He walked out of the cabin and up the stairwell onto the deck to muster the crew as his captain had ordered.
The captain would later give his briefing that sunny morning. A few sails were replaced after the winged reptiles from Tuatha’s ballad had attacked the ship the night before last. Otherwise they were lucky. “Bones” McGrady had encountered many storms among the isles in his journeys and to have walked away from the last one this unscathed was nothing short of a miracle. By the Light, he thought, the last tempest took me nearly to the bottom of the sea floor! Lady Fortune smiled on me again, he thought. He was careful not to say the old superstitious expression out loud.
Especially not aboard the ship, Galline’s Pride.
They set sail and made a strong headway, early. Several of the crew wondered aloud what had become of Fritz’s ship. That vessel, unnamed as it was, had been seen taking severe damage in the storm, even perhaps worse than Galline’s Pride. They lost sight of it in the gale. Now, they sailed on, alone, and without escort. The morning was calm and peaceful. There was no sight of the other ship, but one man would be looking harder than the others, despite his nonchalance. Although he never said anything about it, his passengers and crew wondered what the captain was feeling at the moment. There was no one aboard who didn’t know Carpatchian’s former love was aboard Fritz’s vessel. Her name was Avine, the sister of Arvella who had taken up the position as the new innkeeper at the King’s Chamber Pot. Her sister, less demure, and much more of a pirate, was a tough woman, and so it seemed a tough woman to love. Carpatchian, all knew, never could quite get over her.
A ship should be named before it’s first voyage, Carpatchian had said when the others brought up the vessel. But that was all he’d say, and he certainly avoided any conversation involving Avine. And so did his crew, who knew better than to bring it up now out at sea. Celn tradition was different out here in the isles and because of that, Fritz’ ship wouldn’t be named until after it’s first tested voyage. This gave the Celns anxiety and caused rumor, something no captain needed more of at sea. But the rumor stuck to the ship and it’s name, while the eyes watched Carpatchian. His eyes, watched for signs of the ship that held his heart. The more Carpatchian stayed here in these rugged and wild isles, the more he felt they should be making their own traditions. And he knew he should be making his own too.
Areia was out on the deck, enjoying the breeze, when she shouted for the others. A piece of rigging drifted by in the white caps! A piece from another ship. “It must be from the commander’s vessel!” She declared.
“Right hard rudder!” Yelled Carpatchian, but it was too late. The piece drifted off into the waves and submerged. Carpatchian cursed, and brought his first mate, and his passenger crew together. “We’re going to tack Northerly, gentleman. Lady.” He looked to Areia. “That floating debris could only have come from the other ship. If Commander Fritz’s ship is thus wounded, they will have put in nearby, for that is what Av….their captain would do. We don’t have a choice to look for them now.”
All nodded. He was, of course, right.
It didn’t take long. Less than a few hours when they came around a bend and there in fact was the ship, leaning over on a narrow sandy beach. It had indeed taken major damage to all it’s masts, the largest of which had snapped at the first cross beam. Bits of wood and billowing sails littered the deck. It lay motionless and silent save for a flap of canvas here and there, but beyond the jungle screeched and howled with life. Bones tried to call out, but no one answered. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” muttered Thrak. “Any human have a bad feeling about this?” He looked around, but no one answered.
“Let’s row over and say hi,” said Andril. He turned to the bard, Tuatha, “Here’s your chance to join us, this time.”
“Yeah,” giggled Areia, “No need to Lyre about it this time!” She winked at Thrak, who blinked, and turned his snout away, disgusted at what he called “Human-humor”.
Tuatha placed one hand on the wheel, but McGrady, disgusted, slapped it away. Looking puzzled but with the proposition still in the air from Andril, Tuatha then placed his hand awkwardly on the railing. It looked out of sorts there too, so then he put it on the top of a barrel, before settling on it being on his hip. This only made him look more ridiculous. He looked up and fixed a stern expression to his face with his arm bent out to his side. “Oh, I am needed here, my good master. For all those who learn the path of heroes, one must also learn that bravest of ventures, independence! I will await your observations, relunctantly.”
Dereliction and Duty
Haryk pulled himself up onto the slanted deck, and saw the blood. There were patches everywhere. The kind of blood one sees in a slaughterhouse. The stains that tell you something died in that spot. “These stains are perhaps one, maybe two days old,” said the gunslinger to the others now standing with him. They held onto anything they could as the ship was tilted to port badly.
Andril looked at him intensely. He didn’t seem to have a problem maintaining his balance like the others did. It looked unnatural. “Two days? You’re certain?” Haryk nodded. Areia agreed. “That isn’t possible, the rain from the storm would have washed it away.”
“Nevertheless human, here they are.” Thrak motioned to the galley stairwell. He squatted low, holding the side of his lizard head to the entrance in the center of the deck. “Some one breathes still, inside.”
“You found but one survivor you say?” asked the captain.
“Yes. Inara Goldpetal. She is a companion of ours from Far Realm,” said Areia. “She is resting now. Frank has administered the Flame’s healing powers. But she’ll need some time to recuperate.”
“Suits me fine,” said Andril who stared at the trees beyond the beach through the galley porthole. “I have no intention of dragging myself through that tonight anyway. Besides, I think I’ll retire. I heard Tuatha is practicing on the top deck and most likely his musical “abilities” will summon a dragon that will show up and kill us all. I’d like to be sound asleep when it happens.” He cast his robes about his taut frame and marched off to his hammock. Thrak went to sleep in his specially designed hammock which was a custom made netting of ropes tied to several bulkheads. Frank, knowing that his change in appearance might be upsetting to the crew, was probably already getting his rest. In a few hours, he would be back to his typical Celn appearance. He had stopped asking why horns sprouted and his skin turned red, and his eyes blazed whenever he used the powers of the flame some time ago. But that didn’t make it any easier.
“I think I’ll join him actually,” said Areia. She removed a small flute from her satchel and took the stairs to the top deck two at a time.
“More Kill Devil’s Rum for us then, eh Bones?” smirked Carpatchian. The two officers were the only ones left.
“Just a nip my friend, lest the beasts that dragged the others away come for us like Ketians in the night too.”
“I think we’re safe these 300 meters off shore Captain,” the first mate said and he took a swig of his flask. It was a typical Celn fashion to drink from what was known as The Seven draughts, a flask which held seven decent sized drinks for a common man. He coughed at the potency of the rum and set his flask down. “No wonder this stuff made Humbolts’ daughters look good to this lot!” He chuckled.
“Shh…,” chided Carpatchian. “Let’s not upset our customers. Besides, I heard a couple of them are still chasing the mage!” The two men smiled and took one last sip before turning in themselves. Tomorrow would be an important day, for them all.