Balance

A Ripe Land Pt 3

14th of Patchwall 381ONT, Amberdale, Kezrenad, two days before Water Lookout

“We can’t allow this to keep happening, first it was the Yeoman, then Eddy Twinkets and Let’s not forget what happened the Shane’s homestead… we need to stand up and fight while we still have a fighting chance” Evard Ficken stood on a chair on the stage in the small town hall talking to the assembled townsfolk. There were some 50 or so people gathered in the town hall, some women and children and the fighting aged folk of most the township. It was Woody Tompkins who stood up next to speak.

“Still have a chance? He has at least 150 men, and he’s bought Sheriff Tait… we would be slaughtered” there was a murmur of assent throughout the crowd but Evard stood again, as he did, his daughter Addie tried to urge him down, but he shook back his hand

“I have fought my entire life for what we have now, I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let some rich bastard stroll in and take it from us. We have to stand up together now or He’ll pick us off one family at a time and…” Evard cut off his words as the door swung open. In walked four men, each had a chainmail shirt and a heavy crossbow in their hands, behind them was the none other than Sheriff Tait, he stepped into the room and stood beside the door. Next marched in Abraham Swanson a muscled bound half ogre cradling a massive musket in his arms and a nasty scowl on his face. At long last entered Count Aderal followed by his ever present shadow Prescott. The armed men fanned around the room as the Count worked his way to the front of the room eyeing the blacksmith and Saloon owner who both still stood as he did. Evard, at his daughters urging relinquished the stage to the Count and resumed his seat amongst the gathered villagers.

“Peoples of Amberdale, I come to you as not just a Count from Don-Ton but as a man of integrity, wisdom, education and…” he paused with a slight frown as he took in the simplistic decorations of the town hall “… taste”. I have found gold in the mountains here, and have brought workers and industry to the land, and instead of embracing me, you and your ilk continue to be an ever present annoyance, making trouble for my people… trying to enforce land claims and property lines… and other ridicules assertions. In my infinite generosity and wisdom, or perhaps due to the fact that next week I may well be a father…” he turned what some could only guess to be a smile on Prescott “I have decided to settle on these claims once and for all… I will offer 10 Don- Ton Gold Pieces for every parcel of land…”

“Are you nuts, my land is worth five times that” said Edwin Larsen, a local carpenter. The Count glared at the man and it would not be far-fetched to believe that the Count was trying to bore through his soul with his withering glare. Then as if coming to a quick decision the count nodded and pointed to Edwin

THUNK

There were a series of screams and cries as a heavy crossbow bolt lodged itself in poor Edwins neck, he gasped and gurgled as he slumped into his wife’s lap before falling to the floor dead… some in the room tried to stand or rush to his aid, but the other men at arms pointed their weapons implying a similar fate to any who dared to intercede. The Count grinned a predators grin and continued

“I think you will find my offer most fair and generous, I have even decided to allow you all some time to think about it; My son will be born in Abarrow in two weeks’ time, When I return with him I will expect you all ready to sign over your land, if you choose not to… well I guess we will see what happens” The Count made a motion with his finger and quickly the towns folk found themselves herded outside at weapons point, women and children were push and bullied and the threat of weapon use was evident, once they were amassed outside the Count spoke “I think these gatherings are proving poor for the public good, there will be no more” with that several more men approached with barrels of oil and began soaking the town hall. Within moments they were finished and the building was lit up. People cried and screamed but the good people of Amberdale were forced to watch. As the flames reached their zenith enough was enough

“You coward!” Called Evard “You petulant little boy… you can’t do this to good people, I won’t allow…”

BANG

The count pulled his pistol and shot the old innkeeper in the chest, he fell backwards gasping. But he had been a catalyst, others turned and tried to fight and within the minute twenty five of the most able bodied townsfolk lay dead or dying on the ground, their children and loved ones brutally pulled back from their bodies and shoved into the remainder of the crowd. The Count turned to the Sheriff

“Leave the bodies to rot where they fell until I get back, let that inspire further contemplation from these fine folk…” he then turned to Prescott “I think our point is made… let us head toward Abarrow and collect my son from that whore”

“Yes my lord” replied the loyal steward

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A Letter to the King

To: His Majesty King Tobald of the Kingdom of Kezrenad

I pains me so to deliver you this most unfortunate news. On the 9th of Planting I am afraid you stout and loyal Yeoman passed away. It is the belief of my personal physician that the man had caught a spring chill and with his tender age degraded into a fit of pneumonia. Alas it is my understanding that he likely died horribly choking and sputtering desperately grasping for breath and finding none would come to his frail beleaguered lungs. If only my retinue had made into Amberdale sooner, perhaps we could have seen to the man and aided him, but that is not how the gods appear to have willed things.

I do not wish to speak ill of the dead you’re Majesty, but I am afraid that you Yeoman while popular with his people has been rather lax in assuring the town’s safety, upkeep and tax collection. As I felt that you would want these matters seen to I have taken it upon myself to assure that things are kept to your high standards. Enclosed please find this chest of silver which equates to the back taxes that these Harbinger and Amberdale owe to you. If your Majesty is happy with the current arrangement I am more than willing to continue to oversee these fiefdoms for you saving you the expense and cost of sending new administrator so far and covering their wages; it is no trouble at all and gives me purpose while I oversee my mining claims.

Deepest regards,

Dictated by Count Aderal C. Fahee, Son of Duchess Lorain Gorlia Bromhall of the House of Pepsica, 3rd Daughter of Lord Caspian Pepsica, 9th in line to the Throne of Don-Ton

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A Ripe New Land Pt 2

9th of Planting, 381 ONT, Kenzrenad, Harbinger, 4 months before Water Lookout

Yeoman Oton stood from his old cherry wood chair. His bones creaked as he forced himself into a standing position to face the man at the far end of his receiving room.

“This must come to an end Count Aderal,” his voice wheezed and coughed from the spring chill but there was still and air of authority to it. “This is the fifth complaint in three months about your men being violent to my people in Amberdale” The Count glared across the room at the elderly Yoeman with a look of annoyance and contempt. Every fiber of the Count’s being hated that this jumped up commoner had the power to summon him here.

“Yeoman Oton, as I have stated your people are making mountains from molehills, this is a frontier town, and as such people can get a little rowdy, but all the disputes were taken to the sheriff and he said things were fine” the Count moved forward with is hands outstretched as he spoke, his face wore a small smirk that others might suppose was an attempt at a placating smile

“I will remind you Count Aderal; that I am the law in Amberdale, and the Sheriff is but a stop gap measure, I have heard complaints from the people and I will see these infractions stopped. King Toebald may have given you the right to mine in those mountains, but he did not give you title or right to assault my people. I am ordering you to bring your accused men before me so that I might make proper judgement” there was no wavering in the Yeoman’s voice as he made his declaration he stepped across the room and his blue eyes held those of the Count’s. The Count’s face began to grow read with anger he let out a few breaths as he tried to control his temper

“You… are ordering me?” he said the voice raising an octave in his outrage at the very concept of the matter

“Yes, I am” the Yeoman replied his voice level

“You…. You… YOU!” the Count sputtered “HOW DARE YOU!” the Count’s gloved hands shot out like an attacking viper locking around the throat of the elderly Yeoman. “HOW DARE YOU! HOW DARE YOU! YOU ORDER NOTHING… NOTHING!” The Count was red with rage as he strangled the Yeoman. For his part the Yeoman attempted to break free, but the strength and rage of the Count proved too much. The Count sputtered and spit in the Yeoman’s face as he drained the life from him “YOU… DO… NOT… ORDER… YOUR… BETTERS!” he said shaking the man a she choked him. This carried on for some minutes the two slumping to the ground until finally the Count regained his composure. He turned to his loyal ever present Steward “Look what he made me do, just look Prescott”

“He was quite out of line my Lord” Prescott responded

“He was, wasn’t he…?” The Count said as he rose to his feet dusting off his gloves “Well, we will have to do something about it, he has those two thugs of his who roam this abysmal town… have an accident find each of them… quickly, and arrange for my things to be moved in here from the hotel, this building is in much better repair that that dreadful little inn”

“Of course my Lord” Prescott responded, the steward bowed his head and turned to leave when he was stopped

“Prescott… Bring me a glass of port, it helps calm me after such frenzies”

“Right away my Lord”

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A Ripe New Land

17th of Sunsebb, 380 ONT, Kenzrenad 8 months before Water Lookout

Count Aderal C. Fahee reigned in his horse as he surpassed the final ridge which finally gave him his first glimpse of his destination. Abarrow Keep was still over half a day’s ride away, nestled up against the purple waters of the Odyssey Lake and with the back drop of the Ridge Thorn Mountains it made for quiet the sight. The Count could easily imagine a painter making the journey to capture the landscape. The old weathered stone keep had a small level of charm to its crude design, the wooden walls and palisades around the town were laughably cute in both design and age, should the keep need to defend against anything aside from roaming goblins it would be sorry shape. He turned and looked back at his retinue; he traveled with twenty mounted men at arms and fourteen servants. He had needed to rent all four wagons in the town of Stormbreak and was severally glade that he had opted to ship in his own horses. He turned to his steward Prescott and spoke

“Prescott…” the man middle aged man quickly hurried his horse forward to hear his lords words

“Yes my Lord?” he asked in his refined Don-Tonian accent

“This place is a shit hole, I can smell it from here, when we get into town, buy out whatever building they have for an inn, I don’t want rabble staying in the same building as me… have the bed ripped out from my chambers, have the sheets burnt and have a new bed built with my own sheets. I will be damned if I’ll be exposed to bed bugs or whatever other lice creatures this foul little island holds”

“Of course my Lord” Prescott said dipping his head and allowed his horse slow letting his master once again take the lead.

The column rode for the remainder of the day approaching the town at Abarrow Keep near sundown. Prescott had ridden ahead to make arrangements and soon Count Aderal found himself standing outside “The Yellow Oyster” with a dubious look on his face. As he suspected there was ripeness to the town that spoke of common people who had yet to understand the basics of sanitation. Prescott approached

“Everything is as request my Lord” the humble steward said with a bow. The Count raised an eyebrow in doubt.

“Will we be sampling these yellow oysters Prescott?” he asked with a sneer

“No my Lord, your personal chef has taken command of the kitchen, it has been sanitized and he has inspected the local market and found food that will be able to be prepared to your standards”

“Excellent work Prescott, now… see to it the King is prepared to receive me in the morning, and find me a local women, have her cleaned up and brought to my chambers for entertainment purposes”

“Of course my Lord” Prescott said, bowing his head once more and turning to go to work on his Lord’s business

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Freefall

8th of Reaping 379 ONT, Rehume

After their confrontation in the market, Aurellia tried to lay low. She told herself that it was fine, that staying away was exactly what she wanted. That her obsession had been out of hand anyway and that keeping her distance was the only sensible thing to do. That resolve lasted exactly 3 days.

Three days of remembering the warmth that had radiated off of her body, the way her breath had smelled faintly of peaches, and Serenity’s piercing green eyes looking right into hers. Once she calmed down and thought about those eyes she realized that she hadn’t seen fury in them. Maybe it was just the hopefulness of memory, but there seemed to be a curiosity and a restlessness in her eyes that Aurellia knew all too well. She needed to see Serenity again, to know for sure what was behind those captivating eyes.

When she could stand it no longer, she began to check some of Serenity’s most common haunts. But two days passed and she didn’t catch so much as a glimpse of her. When that didn’t work, she inquired with some of the other vendors and learned that Serenity no longer worked in the fish market. It was the same in the pubs, no one had seen her. She had vanished like smoke in the late evening’s sky.

Never in her life had Aurellia felt so obsessed about anyone or anything, she didn’t even know what she wanted exactly, but just to see her again would have been such a relief. And yet, it wasn’t to be. Serenity had disappeared from Rehume as mysteriously as she had emerged, and Aurellia was left feeling empty, and more alone than ever.

Finally, desperate and full of the sort of bravery that only inhabits the fool-hearted, Aurellia quietly boarded the Better Days and climbed the rungs up to the crows nest. How posh, she thought as she climbed, to have a ladder laid out for you.
When she reached the lookout she unpacked her bedroll and hunkered down for the night. She could see the empty boatslip where the Scurvy Naive made it’s home, and imagined Serenity here, watching her. Why did the idea give her pleasure?
Her heart beat fast and she imagined she could feel the residual heat that Serenity’s body had left behind. But then she heard a short exhalation behind her.
She rolled over quickly and found Serenity sitting with her legs over the ladder’s edge.

“Fancy meeting you here” Serenity said non-nonchalantly, again holding that intense eye contact that Aurellia had been haunted by.

“I didn’t know how else to find you” the words slipped out before Aurellia had a chance to think about them. Her whole body broke out in a cold sweat. She was unsure how she would get past Serenity this time, and unsure if she wanted to.

A slight smile danced through Serenity’s mischievous eyes. “Why did you want to find me?”

“I don’t know, honestly I don’t. I just, I’ve never met anyone like me before, and I think you might be a little bit like me, and that’s exciting and confusing, and I just have so many questions.”

“I told you to stop following me, and then you went to all the places I had been, and talked to everyone who knew me. You are not great at following directions, are you?”

Aurellia sat up. If Serenity felt threatened by this, she didn’t show it. Her body seemed relaxed and at ease, the complete opposite of how Aurellia felt. There was a question here that Aurellia was searching for. She was fumbling under the watch of those green eyes. Wait, there it was, “How do you know where I went?”

“Well, I was following you of course” the tips of her lips curled ever so slightly after she said this, and she broke eye contact for the first time, choosing instead to look at the loose paint that she had started picking at on the board beside her.

Feeling bolder, Aurellia asked her why she would want to follow her.

“Maybe ….because I’ve never met anyone like you before either. And because I was a little sad when you stopped following me. And because sometimes my curiosity gets the better of me…………… And because I didn’t want to leave without at least telling you my name.”

Now Aurellia was the one staring.

“My name is- "

“Serenity,” Aurellia finished, “I know. My name’s -”

“Aurellia.”

The way Serenity said her name, so breathlessly, made every hair on Aurellia’s body stand up. It made the whirls across her skin dance beneath her clothing. She felt electric, and more alive than ever.

Serenity looked up again finally, and saw the wind tousling Aurellia’s hair about. Ice blue eyes peered out of the pink storm, locked on to her own. Those eyes were filled with a fierceness and a longing that she had not anticipated. Serenity reached out and touched the bright blue whirl under Aurellia’s eye. At the touch Serenity would swear that the whirl glinted in the twilight. The wall between them crumbled instantly, as Aurellia leaned forward to kiss her, forgetting completely about the trapdoor in the floor between them. She tumbled, though slowly, down to the ship’s deck below.
Serenity followed quickly, using the rungs to slow herself before hitting the deck. Laughter spilled out of her as she knelt beside Aurellia, she pushed back the rosey hair and found blushed cheeks that were almost the exact same colour. Aurellia looked embarrassed and hurt by the laughter. Serenity leaned forward and kissed her cheeks gently. Aurellia looked into her eyes, slid her hand over the whirl on Serenity’s neck, and pulled her closer. She kissed her softly, and Serenity leaned into it, touching her tongue lightly to Aurellia’s lips.

In that moment the world fell away, and there was only the taste of their lips, the warmth of their hands searching one another, the sound of their gasping breaths. Nothing that came before, and nothing that followed this moment would ever make them feel as alive. Serenity slipped her right hand under Aurellia’s knees, and lifted her without any trouble, carrying her to a bed which sat in one of the four staterooms on the large vessel.

When Serenity slowly began to undress her, Aurellia came to her senses enough to ask, “What if someone catches us in here?”
Serenity looked around the modestly furnished stateroom and smiled. She walked over to the door, produced a key from her jacket, and locked it. She lit a lantern on the dresser and walked back over to the bed.

“You don’t have to worry, none of the crew would dare come into my room.”
She removed her jacket and shirt, baring the most spectacular breasts Aurellia had ever seen. Aurellia’s pulse quickened with delight at the sight of more blue whirls scattered across them.
“Now,” Serenity resumed undressing the beautifully blushing girl on the bed before her, “let me look at you.”

Aurellia had never been naked in front of someone like this before and her first instinct was to cover up. But when Serenity gasped, “You are gorgeous,” and reached out to caress a glinting whirl on her breast, there was not room for modesty in her ecstasy. She pulled Serenity on top of her and lost herself in the taste of her skin, like warm honey mixed with the slight saltiness of sea air.

Neither girl left the ship for the next two days.

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Two can play

33rd of Wealsun 379 ONT, Rehume

Aurellia watched as the Other One, as she had come to think of her, walked through the market. She had been watching her for months now. Through talking with others at the market and in the pubs she had learned that the Other One’s name was Serenity, that she was part of the Better Days crew, and that their ship needed considerable repairs before it could set sail again. She had also seen the small blue whirl on Serenity’s neck while she was eating in the Imp and Spider, and once she was pretty sure she saw Serenity use the wind to send a child’s paper airplane back up to the window he had launched it out of on her walk home.

Thoughts of her were never far from Aurellia’s mind, no matter what she did to try and distract herself. If she were sitting on the mast of a ship, trying to listen to the wind and quiet her mind, she could not stop scanning the piers below for a hint of Blue hair. Practicing her shooting she would find her mind wandering to questions about the mysterious girl, and wondering if her whirls were as sensitive as her own, and if they would be in the same places on her body. She was consumed by her need to know more about this stranger who seemed to share some of her most puzzling traits.

She had also caught Serenity spying on her on two occasions. Once she was in the middle of bartering with Charles at the bakery and saw Serenity peering in through the corner of the window. The other incident was more recent, and much more embarrassing. Aurellia was sitting alone on the mast of the Scurvy Naive while it was in port resupplying. She was lying down on the crossbeam, one foot propped up and the other dangling over the side. On her stomach sat a small basket of strawberries her father had brought her from Eiradon. She was using the wind to lift the strawberries out of the basket and bring them to her mouth. Keeping her eyes closed, the sensation of the strawberries touching her lips would prompt her to open her mouth. These exercises had become more challenging over time to compensate for the strength of her emotions. But on this day it was purely about pleasure and when she opened her eyes and sat up, only to see Serenity sitting in the Crows Nest of Better Days, staring right at her, she felt instant dread. It was like a cold hand had reached up inside of her and closed around her heart. She closed her eyes and rolled off of the mast, falling gently to the deck below. When she reached the deck she ran, not looking at the deck of the Better Days as she went by, and she didn’t stop until she was in her room at home. She left the last of the precious Strawberries scattered across the deck of the ship, and could not bring herself to go back to the Scurvy Naive for the rest of that docking.

Now the Scurvy Naive was out on the river without her again, and Aurellia’s embarrassment had turned to rage. She was furious that she had wasted time hiding at home when she could have been talking with the crew, or begging her father to take her along. Any chance at that had been dashed anyway when her father found the rare gift he had brought her spoiled on the deck of his ship with no explanation that she was willing to give. She had decided this had to stop. She was going to confront Serenity and tell her to stay away from her.

She was struck by how confidently Serenity moved through the market, so different from the way Aurellia felt in crowds of people. Aurellia preferred to go unnoticed. It was easier to learn things about people if they didn’t notice you. Serenity reached the fish stand she worked at and disappeared in the back. This was good, this was all part of Aurellia’s plan. Aurellia was going to walk in like she were a customer and tell Serenity firmly and clearly to stop following her. But when she walked in, the stand was empty. No fish on display, no one there.

She turned to leave and came face to face with Serenity. She stood in the doorway, hands resting on either side of the jam. Aurellia’s eyes went wide but she stood her ground.

“Stop following me” Serenity said firmly.

Aurellia couldn’t think of anything to say, she stood transfixed to the spot. Fear mixed with excitement and dread, building a cocktail of unpredictability within her. She could smell the vague saltiness of Serenity’s skin, feel the cool breeze swirling about her.

She opened her mouth to speak, but with no words, she ducked instead to the right under Serenity’s arm, and ran, disappearing into the crowd.

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A Strange Wind Blows

1st of Planting 379 ONT Rehume

Aurellia smiled as the breeze untucked her hair from behind her ear and laid it delicately across her face. The spring day still clung to the chill of winter like a child unwilling to give up it’s favourite play thing. In the harbour below gruff sailors shuffled about bundled in their warm gear, still weary from the long winter, anxious to set sail again. But here in the breeze Aurellia could only feel the hints of warmth, promises of summer days to come, like a lover’s whisper in her ear.
She tucked the hair back where it belonged and opened her eyes, looking at the sky overhead. She was surprised to see an eagle in the air directly above her. Her surprise softened to curiosity as she studied the bird. It was maybe only 15 feet higher than her in the sky, but its wings were beating furiously, fighting a wind that she somehow could not feel. She could hear the bird’s frustration, muttering something very unpleasant about “that girl and her tricks.” She closed her eyes again and quieted her mind, she hadn’t called to the wind accidentally in many years. When she was young it had gotten her into trouble and caused questions that her father made clear were not welcome, so she had worked hard to stay in control.
But when she looked again the bird was still fighting, now twirling every once in a while which had certainly escalated his frustration.
“Cut it out,” he shouted, much louder than was necessary for Aurellia to hear him, “I’m sorry, okay?”
Aurellia’s eyes went wide and she rolled carefully onto her stomach to follow the bird’s gaze.
Four ships away, a figure stood in a crows nest.
Aurellia’s heart began to beat out a death march.
The movement had caught the girl’s attention, and she locked eyes with Aurellia as the wind left abruptly and the eagle went careening ahead in a crazy dive bomb for freedom.
Aurellia jumped to her feet on the crossbeam of a mast she knew all too well.
They stood level with one another, the two ships in between them were fishing barges, giving them a clear line. Each girl’s posture was squared off, tense. The crashing of the blood in Aurellia’s ears drowned out every other sound at the harbour that day.
She took in the girl’s soft blue hair, the impressive bow that sat against her back, the slender and almost stretched quality to her body that Aurellia had always associated with her own uniqueness. It looked as though the wind had coxed their limbs out longer, or perhaps it was their longing for the wind itself that always caused them to reach farther than others would dare. The large splattering of white goo on the girl’s shoulder was the last thing Aurellia noticed about her, and a chuckle burst out before she could contain it. The girl’s jaw set at the sound, she drew her bow lightening fast. As a shocked Aurellia began fumbling to free her musket from her ill-designed holster, the girl shot an arrow onto the bridge of the ship below her. The thinnest of ropes trailed back up to the crows nest and Aurellia watched in shock as the girl flung herself over the side and slid along the rope as though she were riding a wave on the sea.

By the time Aurellia reached the deck of the Scurvy Naive, the mysterious girl had vanished into the heart of Rehume, leaving Aurellia with nothing but questions.

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After the Meal Pt 2

14th of Patchwall 381ONT, Champions Boot, Captains Dinning Table

“You know you shouldn’t have dressed him down in front of the crew” Belinda said as her fork toyed with the food in front of her. Hatrutt had outdone himself, broiled asp with orange juice and water chestnuts on a bed of cooked amaranth and lemons. Served with flatbread, jarlsberg, Berdruskan, gooseberry and black walnut soup and hard boiled eggs. Even if the flatbread and jarlsberg were missing it was still a fine spread. She looked hard across the table at Thitmed as he stared intently as his soup. The silence stretched on a long time before he responded.

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“Aye, you’re right of course, but me temper got the better of me, a grown man, a Bosun not the less brawling with a sailor, what was he thinking” Belinda smiled and took a small sip of her soup

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“He probably wasn’t, did you see the bruise on poor Mandy’s face? The poor girl’s eye will be swollen for a week I’m sure. How would you have reacted if you had witnessed Ungel beating on her?” a cloud passed over Thitmed’s face as he compressed his anger, he murmured a lame response

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“In his culture that is a normal reaction, the man needed a lesson against not licence to brawl”. Belinda could tell that the dwarf didn’t believe his own words, she pointed her spoon at him across the table

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“You know as well as I that you would not have tolerated anyone being treated like that, especially a nine year old girl”

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“She’s ten” Thitmed murmured but quickly dropped his gaze to Belinda’s intense stare. “I suppose yer right, I’ll make it up to him when the chance next arises” she nodded her smile returning to her features. She took her glass of wine and took a careful sip smiling savouring the flavour

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“I love this vintage…” she said

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“Ego quoque, et replebor doloribus usque ad alas mox” (translated from elvish “I do as well, it to, alas will soon be gone”) both Thitmed and Belinda started a bit to hear the Captains voice, it was easy to forget he was sitting at the table sometimes, the Captain continued “Ut inter ligna Berdruskan nobilissima omnium uvae Argyle. Decem et octo annorum et eruditiores facti sunt super panem et per eos annos trecentos occupat cursus maturescere. Sine invigilare et curare ut haec delicata Elfin Vynthiswere vites, pauci admodum, quibus solummodo locis ofArgyle, bene ego timeo, qui Berdruskan etiam decidet de terra” (Translated from elven: “The grapes for the Berdruskan are among the most noble of all grapes on Argyle. They have been cultured and bred for over eighteen millennia, and it takes over three hundred years for them to go through a ripening cycle. Without the elfin Vinters to oversee and care for these delicate vines, the ones that only grow in a very select few places on Argyle, well I fear that Berdruskan will also fade away from the land.”) The Captain raised his glass offering a toast to his friends “Bonis dum ultimum” (Translated from elven: “To Good things, while they last”). Belinda and Thitmed raised they glasses and echoed

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“Bonis dum ultimum” from there the conversation was struck up and the officers talked in earnest of the goings on for the last few days
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After Battle Meal Pt 1

14th of Patchwall, 381 ONT 123 miles from Lockland, River Rhone

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Mandy carefully laid out the silverware as she had been taught by Mr. Ironbraid prior. Her tongue stuck out at the corner of her mouth as she pulled the ancient silver utensils from the well-used heart oak case. Brows furrowed in concentration she resisted the urge to look at the drawing until after she had made a decision. Does one place the salad knife before the fish knife or the other way around? Boldly she placed the salad knife beside the dinner knife, blade facing towards the plate. She looked from the setting to her drawing and cursed, she was wrong again.

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“A very unladylike expletive, filia” Mandy jumped, she had not heard the Captain enter the quarters and her face turned a crimson of shame. If Mr. Ironbraid found out she had cursed in the presence of the Captain he would likely see that she would regret it dearly… worse yet she felt ashamed of her outburst. The Captain crossed the room and looked over her shoulder carefully and smiled as he spoke in elvish “Prandium, Piscis, et Acetatia cutellulus, et patella indu coclear” she smiled at the way the Captain taught. He often spoke to her in Elvish, but would always point as he spoke each word so that you would grasp its meanings. In this particular case the ‘dinner knife followed by the fish knife and lastly the salad knife, always from plate to spoons’. She nodded her understanding her cheeks maintaining a red that matched her hair. The Captain moved to the heart oak case and withdrew an ancient saucer, slowly he turned it over in his hand staring far away at the design. Mandy waited a few moments but seeing as no further tutelage appeared to be forth coming she corrected her utensil error and continued to set the table. She was setting for three, as Mr. Cane had said he would not be joining the dinner this evening, Jonathan needed to be maintained after being put through such rigors. Master Kenko had not deemed to answer his door, so she assumed that yet again, he would not attend dinner. That left the Captain, Mr. Ironbraid and Ms. Featherfoot for the officers table. She looked at the aged water clock on the wall and hurried her pace knowing that dinner was quickly racing upon her. After laying the final dishes she stoked the small brazier and set the kettle upon it before heading down to the galley to ask Master Nooduleh about the meal and the wine paring for the evening.

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Mr. Ironbraid had been in good spirits after their latest adventure and had authorised Mr. Nooduleh to give an extra half ration of food for the evening meal and an extra rum ration each to the crew for excellent performance, he had also asked him to make up the Captains favourite meal and to have a full table setting, apparently it helped focus the Captain. She hurried across the mid deck and down the stern stairwell towards the galley. She worked hard to suppress a smile as she saw poor Hiro sitting at a little table chopping onions. He was such a nice fellow, it was a shame he had to sit down here and cut away when most of the crew was relaxing. Despite his chore he looked up and offered her a half smile as she worked her way through the room towards the kitchen window. The room was already getting crowded; anyone not on duty could smell the food cooking and was hovering waiting for the bell to ring. She leaned into the kitchen and smiled at the little old gnome who seemed to move around the room like a blur drawing what he needed from every crevice and cranny to pull the meal together. She perched in the window sill leaning in and smiled

.

“Evenin’ Mr. Nooduleh” she said cheerfully to the cook, he paused for a moment to offer her a smile

.

“Mandy, I haven’t been a Mr. anything in over seventy years, I’ll learn you yet that my name is Hatrutt” he chided playfully

.

“You got it Mr. Nooduleh” she said finishing their running joke “Cap’in ‘ill be ready ta dine on time, do I need a red or white wine t’night?” Hatrutt paused for a moment thinking before he responded “You’re going to want to pull the Berdruskan Mandy, that’s the one in the dark green bottle with the red tree stamped into the cork, pour it into the wide lipped decanter and give it about ten minutes before serving it” Mandy nodded solemnly and was about to hop down from the sill before he called again “Here Mandy, why don’t you take up the bread and oil plate now, let them nibble while I pull the rest of the meal together” she reached over and grabbed the large tray turning quickly and heading for the stairs. She worked her way through the galley looking over her shoulder to quickly quip at Mr. Hiro on her way by, “Try not to look so sad Mr. Hiro” she said with a giggle to the tear stained onion chopper, the apprentice cook looked up and gave her a mock shaking of the fist eliciting another giggle as she turned to the stairs

CRASH

Time slowed for Mandy as she looked on in horror, she had walked right into Mr. Ungel and her tray clattered into him spilling the fine dips, oils and vinegars that Mr. Nooduleh had prepared. The bread flung through the air like birds scattering after a musket shot, little bowls and plates smashed on the ground, some breaking others just spilling. She looked up and saw the anger in the half orcs face as a series of apologies began to burble to her lips. She saw as the large beast of a man’s eyes widened in outrage, as his hand rose and delivered her a mighty backhand. Mandy felt a red hot pain in her jaw as her head snapped back and her feet left the ground and she flew backwards, she was vaguely aware of a resounding RIIIIIIP noise as part of her dress tore, apparently a bit had been caught. Her back screamed to her pain as it crashed into a bench, she sat their panting for breath stunned by what had happened.


Ungel moved forward but in a flash the crew began to yell, jeer and take action; Mandy was popular, especially among the new recruits. Flit hopped in between Mandy and Ungel as Hiro stood a very competent grip on his chopping knife, the threat was obvious. Sir Thalion and Aurellia, who had been speaking with Hatrutt and hovering near the galley window turned and cried out as they began approaching the scene. It was Loann who moved quickest though as he grabbed the half orc by the scruff of the neck and threw him down on the ground. The Half Orc let out a start in surprise as the Bosun let fly two solid fisted punches to the face. The Orc tossed the Bosun free and scrambled to his feet grabbing a stool and turning to strike the Bosun when a sharp cry and the sound of a pistol being cocked stopped everything

“Oi!” Thitmed Ironbraid called, “Brawling is a flogging, using a weapon on the Bosun is death… think real hard if that’s where you want to be” the room was eerily silent for a moment before the half orc lowered his stool and the Bosun regained his feet. “Good choice… now what in Anamacharas Ungodly Land of Foul Frozen Drifts is going on down here? Is this what I get for offering an extra rum ration?” as the dwarf spoke he uncocked his pistol but didn’t holster in just yet.

“Girl threw a tray at me Master Ironbraid, gave ‘er a shove to teach a cabin boy ‘ow to be’ave and the came and attacked me before I could let the lesson kick in” the half orc said as he rubbed his jaw

“Mr. Rogard what do you say to this?” the First Mate said in a steely voice

“Discipline of the Cabin Boy falls to the Bosun, Sir, he had no right to hit her, I was correcting the problem when you arrived” Loann responded

“I see,” the dwarf said “Mr. Rogard they may deal with issues of ship discipline with your fists in Pirates Swoop, but so long as you are aboard the Champions Boot you will conduct yourself as a gentlemen, are we clear?”

“Yes Master Ironbraid”

“You are restricted to half rations for a week, and docked a weeks’ pay. Mr. Ungel, discipline of the cabin boy or other sailors is the preview of the Bosun or an Officer, if you have a problem in the future bring it to Mr. Rogard or myself, understood?”

“Yes Master Ironbraid”

“Good, now… brawling with the Bosun will cost you a month’s wages or ten lashes… the choice is yours Mr. Ungel… you have until dawn to decide, understood?” the half orc stared at the dwarf with anger in his eyes but had not the will to argue.

“Yes Master Ironbraid” the half orc growled

“Good, you are both finished your dinner, confine yourself to your bunks until your next duty rotation… now!” the two saluted and left the room, both angry. He turned and looked around the room to make sure there was no other trouble brewing; at long last the dwarf holstered his pistol… “Ms. Ouellette, take Mandy on deck to get some air, get a cloth with cold water for her eye and see that it doesn’t swell shut. Mr. Hiro, you will fill in for Mandy for the remainder of the evening, speak with Hatrutt about her next duties.” With that the dwarf turned and left the room allowing a long sigh of relief to drain from those who were holding their breath.

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On a Boat!

Aurellia kept mostly to herself, quiet, stoic. And yet inside………

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