Sudden Storm

The Winged Whale made decent time as it skimmed across the crystal waves of the Javan Sea. The ship’s newest captain, Idorsus Cragfin, was almost annoyed by the pace, but kept reminding himself that she was only being towed by five sets of arms–Durgrum and himself on one side, Genne and the twins on the other. All that considered, it was a wonder they were still going.

Of course, Idorsus had kept his crew in mind when deciding what ship to steal. The Winged Whale had been the only ship in the pirate fleet that might even be moved by five rowers.  Idorsus counted their crawling pace as a victory.

Below decks smelled of damp and mildew. Idorsus had never imagined he would associate those smells with freedom, but now they were sweet in his nostrils. This smelly rowing bench was his way to safety. As he rowed, his eyes burned a hole in the hull. He knew that just through the thick wood were three fully crewed pirate ships, all bearing down on his escaping craft.

“Almost there boys!”

Idorsus could hear Kovin yelling down from the deck. The first mate struggled to make himself heard over the creaking of wood and pounding of waves.

“And girl,” Genne called back.

“Not the time, Genne,” one of the twins growled from behind her, his face twisted up as he pulled on his massive oar.

“We’re almost out of the harbor,” Kovin said. “On my call, make a sharp turn to starboard and get your asses to the deck to work the sails.”

The rowers called up their agreement and returned to their task.  Once out of the harbor, they could hitch a ride on the southern-blowing winds. Their smaller ship could then put some distance between herself and the pirate vessels.

“Three!”

Idorsus pulled steadily; ready to heave for the turn.

“Two!”

Idorsus kept his rhythm.

“One!”

Rough hands tightened around rough wood.

“Pull!”

With roars of effort, Idorsus and Durgrum pulled hard on their oars, bringing the ship swinging starboard. The thick oar creaked and complained under the pressure, but held.

“On course!” Kovin yelled. “Come get the sails!”

Idorsus slid his oar from the sea and racked it before heading above. As he stepped onto the deck, he stepped into a different world than the one he had left. When he had descended below decks, the sun had been out and shining heavily. The wind had been only a soft, warm breeze.

Now, clouds darkened the sky, and cold wind lashed the deck.  Idorsus shivered, half from cold and half with excitement. This new wind would send the Whale speeding towards freedom.

“Looks like a storm’s brewing,” Idorsus said. “Get these sails up and we’ll be gone before the raindrops can hit the deck.”

He was wrong about that, as it turned out. Rain started to fall the sails unfurled and were filled by the driving wind.

“I think this is too much,” Kovin said as Idorsus approached the wheel. “The ship won’t be able to handle it.”

“She’ll do just fine,” Idorsus said, bending over to lovingly pat the deck. “She’s flying right now.”

And she was. The Whale was hurtling southward, racing through the sea. The pirates and the harbor were fading quickly into the distance, obscured by sheets of rain that fell more heavily by the second.

The ship was creaking and straining in the gale, but that didn’t mean anything was wrong. The sails were full and the rain was giving the crew a much needed wash.

“We should bring the sails in!” Durgrum yelled from the prow. “The winds are too strong!”

“You too?  Durgrum, the ship is fine.”

“Listen to him, Idorsus,” Kovin pleaded. “We’ve put enough distance between us and the pirates. We need to find shelter.”

Idorsus mulled it over. He was used to Kovin worrying, but Durgrum usually sided with him against the first mate. That the big sailor had also advised caution gave him pause.

“Alright,” Idorsus said, “bring the sails in. We can find shelter past those rocks.”

The rocks he pointed to were spikes that jutted sharply from the churning surf just off the forested coastline.

“Thank you,” Kovin said, and shouted for the sails to be furled.

But before any orders could be carried out, a gargantuan gust of wind swept across the deck. The sails filled and the mast strained. Then, with an ear-splitting crack, the mast splintered in two and was blown violently into the sea.

“Get to cover!” Idorsus yelled, suddenly scared.  The Winged Whale was thrown off course by the separation of the mast, and was headed straight for the rocky monolith.

Durgrum, Genne, and the twins all found something to grab onto as the rocks loomed closer.

Kovin wrestled with the wheel, but could do nothing, and the ship slammed into the spike of rock.

Idorsus was thrown by the impact, hitting the stump of the mast. His head whipped back, and the storm faded to black.

 

This is Part 4.

Part 1//Part 2//Part 3//Part 5

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To Unwanted Passengers

Idorsus Cragfin sat at the edge of the cliff, feet dangling, watching the pirate fleet that was docked below. The night before, the pirates had set the old Royal Harbor ablaze, distracting the Javan guard long enough for them to take the Low Berths, then the cliffs, then the entire island.

Now the pirates were busy up in the city executing the Javan Council, so the fleet was left with only a token guard.

The ship Idorsus was going to steal was a fast one. The Winged Whale sat high on the sea at the edge of the fleet, and only four pirates paced her deck. He and his crew would soon deliver them a message. The Whale was to be his, and other passengers were unwanted.

“Good thing all those council members are getting the axe,” Idorsus said, grinning at his luck.

Kovin Drake, his first mate, frowned. “Those are good people dying up there,” he said.

“Which means there are less bad people down here,”Idorsus said. It amazed and troubled him that Kovin was so skilled at finding something to complain about.

“Remind me again why I’m going to be doing the talking.”

“Because, Kovin, if a pirate was having an excellent time looting, then was sent back to guard a ship, he’d look grumpy. And I’ve never seen anybody look quite as grumpy as you.”

“Besides,” said Genne Porter, approaching with her hands wrapped around the hilts of her daggers, “The rest of us are going to swim around and climb over the side, and you can’t swim.”

Kovin scowled. “When were you planning on telling me this, Idorsus?”

“I wasn’t. You get worried if you know the whole plan.” Idorsus scowled at Genne, then decided to forgive her lapse. Maybe something good would come of Kovin knowing. Genne was a smart girl.

Idorsus patted Kovin on the head and started down the switchback stairs carved into the cliff, calling back over his shoulder, “Grab Durgum and get to distractin’.”

With Genne and the twins following, Idorsus stepped into the surf. He had shed his boots, but was a strong enough swimmer that he kept his other equipment. His broadsword, sealed against the water in its scabbard, was only a slight inconvenience.

The water was calm, and Idorsus made his way to the Whale easily. He pressed himself against the hull, joining the barnacles in clutching at the wet wood. As Genne and the twins arrived, Idorsus thought the barnacles must be glad for the company.

“…here to fetch you,” Kovin’s voice drifted from the deck. “Grimson sent us.”  The name was one Genne had heard two pirates saying.

“Grimson can send a hundred men; I’m not leaving until Vardon says to.”

So Grimson wasn’t in charge of these men. Unfortunate, but the mistake distracted the other pirates on board. Idorsus heard three more sets of boots stomp across the deck towards Kovin.

“Now,” Idorsus whispered, and one of the twins tossed a small grappling hook over the side of the ship. One by one, Idorsus, Genne, and the twins hauled their sodden selves up the rope and dropped quietly to the deck.

“I understand that you have your orders,” Kovin was saying, “but so do I.  Grimson isn’t going to be happy if I don’t return with you.”

“I might be able to help you there,” the pirate said. From where he crouched on the quarterdeck, Idorsus could now see the pirates. The one speaking was the largest of the lot, but they were all fairly scrawny and filthy. “Vardon wrote down his orders. I’ll give them to you, and you can show Grimson.”  The pirate started to turn. “I left them up on the quarterdeck.”

Worry was visibly taking over Kovin. If the pirate turned, he would see Genne and the twins sneaking up on him, blades bare. Idorsus drew his broadsword as a precaution, but gave Kovin a moment to say something.

“Don’t walk away from me while we’re speaking,” Kovin said.  He looked furious; Idorsus knew it was because he had been forced into the speaking role, but the pirates thankfully took it to be directed at them.

“What did you just say?”  The pirate turned back to Kovin and drew his cutlass. He and his three friends looked surprised by the sudden change in emotion.

“I said,” Kovin replied, calming as he saw Genne and the twins move into range, “Don’t walk away from me, filth.”

The pirate leaped forward, sword raised high, but collapsed to the deck with Genne’s knife buried to the hilt in his back.  The other three pirates dropped just as quickly, two to thrusts of the twins’ blade and the last one to Genne’s second dagger.

“That was close,” Kovin said, stepping over the corpses.

“Just close enough,” Idorsus said, grinning as he approached. “You sure kept it exciting.” He thumped Kovin’s chest in appreciation and began to give orders. “Durgum and Genne, cut the ties then get to the oars. The twins and I will join you. Kovin, take the wheel.”

The mate nodded solemnly and took his place on the quarterdeck. “Let’s be quick about it,” he said. “We aren’t out of this quite yet.”

“I know.” Idorsus grinned. The fun was just beginning.

 

This is Part 3.

Part 1//Part 2//Part 4//Part 5

All Flags Fall

Read part one of the adventure here.

 

Idorsus Cragfin peered over the crest of the red tiled roof, trying not to let the executions in the square before him dampen his spirit.

“That’s just unnecessary,” Durgum Wurs said, wincing as the harbormaster’s arms were cut from his torso. The massive sailor was quite the sight as he tried to keep his bulk out of view.

Idorsus agreed. It would be much easier to stay positive if the pirates had only been decapitating the Javan officials, not dismembering them.

“Shit.” Idorsus’ first mate, Kovin Drake, was pressed thin against the roof tiles. “Shit, shit, shit.”

“Keep your curses,” Idorsus said. Kovin irritated him sometimes. Would it kill the man to show some optimism?

“Keep my curses?” Kovin whispered back as they watched another group of pirates marching the members of the Isle Council into the square. “How about you keep yourself in the present. I don’t know what world you keep drifting off to, but in this one a fleet of pirates just seized control of the entire isle.”

“I’m on the same roof as you are, Kovin.”  Idorsus knocked on the red tiles as proof. “I’m just not convinced that we’re doomed.”

Screams swelled up from the square as another official was relieved of their limbs.

“You’ve never thought we were doomed.”

“And we never have been.” Another knock on the tiles. “Otherwise we never would have ended up on this beautiful roof on this beautiful island.”

“He has a point,” Durgum said. “The cap’n has always gotten us out alive.”

Kovin glared at him. “Fine,” the mate said, turning back to Idorsus. “Let’s look at the facts: there are thousands of bloodthirsty pirates in control of the Isle. There are six people in your crew. Our ship is a burnt wreck at the bottom of the harbor.  How, since none of those things worry you, are we going to get out of the Isles alive?”

“You forget,” Idorsus said. “We got into a bit of pirating before the council gave us honest work. And we’re better at it than these brutes.  It won’t take much to steal a ship and be on our way.”

“Even if we make it out, what are we going to do about the Javan Council?  They’ve clothed us, fed us and given us work for six years.”

The pirates had moved onto the council members. The master of law lost a leg with a piercing wail.

“We won’t do anything.”  All flags fell, and the green Javan tri-star was no different. The wealth of the Isle had been sure to draw trouble, though a fleet the size of the one that had attacked was surprising.

Kovin’s frown deepened; he was clearly struggling with the plan. Idorsus had known he would. The mate could never see the good in things. He was the type of man to focus on the storm keeping them from the harbor and not the rain it was gifting the mainland.

“Okay,” Kovin said, “we’ll do it your way.”

“I know,” Idorsus said, and nodded towards the square. “Look.”

As a small group of pirates started down an alley past the butcher’s shop, presumably to fetch more victims, Cragfin’s plan leapt into motion.

Genne Porter stepped from the back door of the shop and slid silently into the group, daggers flashing, her movements sharp but subtle. The twins moved in behind her, longswords sheathed, hands ready to quiet any noise made by the dying men.

As the twins dragged the corpses into the shop, Genne threw sawdust over the pooling blood and flashed a thumb up to Idorsus on the roof.

“Time to go,” Idorsus said. Without waiting for a response, he slid down to the eves of the roof and dropped lightly to the cobblestones. “You coming?” he whispered back up.

Kovin and Durgum followed, the big sailor trying and failing to land lightly behind the mate.

“When did you plan that?” Kovin asked.

“As soon as I sent Genne off to scout. I gave her different orders as soon as you were out of earshot.”

“And why the hell would you do that? I’m your first mate, Idorsus; I have to know what is going on.”

“You worry too much. I didn’t want you to fret about it.”

Genne had the small wooden door cracked as the three approached, ushering them quickly in and shutting it behind them with a soft thud.

The interior of the shop was dimly lit by faltering torches, and the ruddy light shone on a floor slick with blood; a mixing of the animals’ and the pirates’. Rows of meat hung behind a filthy counter, and most knives were absent from their pegs.

One of the twins (Idorsus could never tell which) was trying on one of the black leather tunics worn by the pirates. The other was busy stripping the remaining corpses down.

“You were supposed to avoid cutting the leather, Genne,” the clothed twin said as he fingered a puncture in the tunic.

“He moved. I was aiming for his throat. Don’t worry about it; we can explain it away once we reach the ships.”

“This is your plan?” Kovin asked, incredulous. “We’re going to dress up as pirates and try to steal one of their ships?”

Idorsus nodded, exited about how well everything was going. “Most of their force is ransacking the Isle, not guarding the fleet. We’ll be off before they notice a thing.” He gave Kovin what he knew was an infuriating smile. “What could go wrong?”

 

This is Part 2.

Part 1//Part 3//Part 4//Part 5