Balance

Sanity is Overrated

6th of Readying 383 ONT, Champion’s Boot: Rikka’s Cot

Doom, doom, DOOM!

The footsteps boomed behind her as Rikka ran fear granting her an unmatched swiftness and blurred the world around her. Yet she could not shake the steeps, could not shake the approaching shadow at her back.

Doom, doom, DOOM!

It was going to catch her. It was going to find her and there was nothing she could do to stop it. But to face it, to try and fight it was to die. So Rikka ran seeking succour where she could. And then she saw it, that very familiar sight of her family’s estate just outside of High Port. The elegant lines and arches making it look more grown than built but she knew it well for she’d spent the majority of her life within kilometers of its foundation. In front stood her parents and she raced towards them. But as she approached they both crossed their arms and the door boomed shut behind them.

Rikka stopped looking at first her mother then her father and the disapproval etched into their faces much as she had left them so many years before. “Be gone from this place and haunt us no more. Your wicked perversion of the Arts has cursed you and we shall not offer you shelter.” Rikka wanted to respond, to deny their words and accuse them of not being open to the diverseness of the Arts but the image began to darken and fade with the approach of the shadow at her back. She fled.

Doom, doom, DOOM!

Her steps led her to a temple, one dedicated to Ymeri and standing on the lowest step was Kaho. She raced forward to the Priestess knowing that she held the favour of the goddess and could aid in the battle against this shadow. Yet the closer she got the less of a priestess Kaho looked. First her clothes shimmered and changed to a drab and worn brown. Then her hair was shorn in half and her bearing shifted to someone afraid and unsure of themselves. Rikka stopped at the base of the step as Kaho turned an accusing eye on her for the other was swollen shut.

“Why did you have to meddle? Did you really think you were saving me? I could’ve atoned for my failure and found peace with Ymeri. And you, YOU could not help but meddle. Because of you I gave into temptation and because of you I am lost. Be gone from this place and haunt me no more.” She drew a wicked looking jade dagger and plunged it into her chest. Rikka fled.

Doom, doom, DOOM!

The crunch of stone and dirt became the tap of boots on stone as the scene changed again on Rikka. Standing in front of the embassy she saw Alyss. Dried left tracks for the corners of her eyes and down her cheeks as she glared at Paprikka. At her feet lay the dead body of Aurellia. “You failed to save my love then spurned the love I offered. You begged for help and again denied me my price and in doing so doomed everyone. His death, her death,” She pointed at the now smouldering body of Aurellia, “Are your sins.”
A tall man stepped from the shadows and embraced Alyss. His Gibson-blue eyes glared out at Rikka. “I paid the price you would not. Be gone from this place and haunt us no more.” As they turned to each other and embraced in a passionate kiss she fled.

Doom, doom, DOOM!

The world shifted as fast as she moved and she felt the planking of the Champion’s Boot beneath her feet. She staggered to a stop met with the entirety of the grim-faced crew. Not one offered her friendship but many offered words she did not want to hear. One by one they walked in line to her as if giving final words to a departed soul. Rikka tried to move but found herself bound in place by the cords of Prancer’s rope arm.

“You could not replace him, no one could. How dare you even try.” Mandy slapped Rikka hard across the cheek and stepped past.

Flitt hopped forward the small panty-caped mouse on his froggy shoulder. “Mousekins says you did not like the gift and are not worthy of the gift and you look at him strangely and he does not like it so you need to go.”

Odd as that was there was no time to dwell on it for Thalion quickly took Flitt’s place. He shook his head with pity in his eyes. “You are not a real elf. A real elf would face that which stalks you with head held high and spear in hand.”

“You tried to steal my phrase. Stupid elf, to anger a god so.” The Stryx tsked and walked past not bothering to look at her. She struggled against her bonds and felt them loosen as Prancer left her to walk with Miriel.

She was then jabbed in the ribs by the surly dwarven first mate. “Can’t tie knots, don’t know yer starboard from yer port. Was a mistake to rescue you girl. Most useless elf I’ve ever met. Good riddance.”

She watch the dwarf hobble away but a gentle hand on her shoulder brought Rikka around and face to face with the Captain. The sadness and pity she saw brought her to tears as did his words. “It is not right. None of this is right but it is what must be. Everything has a price. Be gone from this place and haunt us no more.”

“No,” she whispered. Drawing her blade the ebon edge drinking in the light. Feeling the steady weight of it in her hand she gained confidence. “No!” She repeated straightening her shoulder and standing taller. “NO!” She shouted raising her black blade high in defiance and the world and people around her melted to golden sands.

Doom, doom, DOOM!

The sun shone mercilessly down on her and the sands sucked at her feet with the shaking from the shadow that followed. Rikka scrambled to keep from being pulled under but there was nowhere that was immune to the pulling and the most she could do is keep from being pulled under. Beside her, standing on the shifting sand was the Fey she’d met before. His amused expression annoyed her even as she reached out to him for aid.

“Well this is a fine pickle you find yourself in.” He crouched, a small toy shovel appearing in his hand as he began to dig.

“Help me, please.”

“I think not. You chose to remain insane. I was only trying to help and you threatened me. This is your mess and you can deal with it yourself. Dust to dust and all that.” He tossed the shovelful of sand on her head and laughing disappeared.

Rikka was beginning to tire. The sand was winning and her desperation was growing. Then the entire world shook and she felt it all lifted up. From beyond a giant pane of glass an eye the size of the sun looked down at her. It was difficult to tell but it looked like a giant version of Pan and she was now inside an hourglass. Whether or not she was tiny and he normal sized or he was giant did not change the fact that she was being sucked down through the neck and running out of sand. “Dense is not the right word for what you are, but it is amusing to watch you flail and fall. And I am curious to see how this plays out.”

“I don’t understand and you didn’t help. Why even talk to me if you were not going to help? For a god you did nothing but mock me. Why show me your realm? Why talk to me at all if not to help me?” The sands were all but gone and she scrabbled against the hard glass sides to keep from sliding too far down. “If my life is to be cut short why do you not save it then? You are a god, there is nothing you can’t do.”

Pan did not answer and she began hammering at the glass with her sword. “If you refuse to help then don’t expect me to just give in to whatever is supposed to happen. I will fight with everything I have to live. Even if that means fighting gods.”

“But can you fight fate?” Pan asked and her sword began to writhe in her grip shifting to become an eon serpent that coiled around her wrist and arm before sinking its fangs into her shoulder. Rikka cried out and fell grabbing for the snake’s head as even her sword turned on her. Down she fell through the neck and towards the shadow that waited below. It opened its maw to swallow her whole and she screamed in fear…

A strong hand grabbed her ankle and halted her plunge a few feet from the snapping darkness below. Shaking with fear she looked up and saw a chain of people all linked together holding her from falling. Thalion, Miriel, Horace/Aurellia and even Flitt. She could feel the strength holding her back and relief washed over her even as the dream faded into the early morning light.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Step, turn, step and thrust. Spin, duck and double slice spinning upwards to end balanced on one foot and blade extended skyward. A deep breath signalled the start of the next set of moves with her dropping into a roll and coming out of it into a lunge with a second set of horizontal slices. Each move was timed with the song in her head and mirrored by her sword’s own thrumming rhythm as they battled unseen enemies across the foredeck. Shadows stretched long behind her as the evening sun settled on the horizon dancing in time to her movements. The gentle pitch of the ship and the various obstacles on the deck made perfect obstacles to force her into adjusting her sequences into something that fit combat on board a ship. Perspiration shone on her brow but she was not close to stopping. Her shift was not set to begin for another two hours and she would use that time to train.

It had been a terrible dream. One of haunting portents she dared not think about, not right now. Instead she took solace in the end where she’d been saved and was determined to be found worthy of friends like that. And that meant working hard and doing what she could to be an asset not a hindrance. It would also help to keep the dream or any dreams away if she did not let herself relax and ensured that it was an exhausted sleep that found her every night.

She became the first to volunteer for any extra work and assignments. She was first on shift and first to lend a hand if there was nothing else for her to do. Rikka’s eyes shone with a desperate light as she trained and practiced hard wherever and whenever she could find the space. Early mornings were good near the bow and later a section of the hold where she’d first identified the magical items they’d recovered became a different kind of obstacle course. Through it all she kept smiling, tried her best to remain cheerful and banish the fatigue that began to eat at her.

When it came for her she would be ready and she would show Pan that help or no she would indeed fight whatever fate had in store for her. There was no other choice, right?

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Tummy Time Pt more

24th of Coldeven 383 ONT

“I think we are going the wrong way.” Maul-Chaluim offered once more as they hacked their way through the swamp

“Everyone here who has personally met the Goddess of the Night Wind please put up their hand” Curtis said with an air of authority that made Maul roll his eyes. Curtis proceeded to raise his hand high… Levan also started to raise his hand but at a quick glare from Curtis he quickly lowered it. “Well… as I appear to be the only one who has ever met the goddess, as the only one who can divine her will on this planet, I suppose we will have to trust my instincts on this matter.”

“I agree with the High Priest Tomas” Ossawk offered as he followed behind Curtis. Again Maul rolled his eyes, he was displeased about having another mouth to feed on this pilgrimage to nowhere, his anger or perhaps fatigue got the better of him

“You didn’t meet the Goddess, you disappeared for like a minute, then reappeared, that is hardly special, Soaz can turn invisible whenever she wants” the wild elf huffed as he used his machete to carve away a few vines

“I did so meet Her Awesomeness… and like I said, time operates differently on different planes, I felt like I was gone for hours…”

“You thought it had been hours since breakfast twenty minutes after eating, that is hardly an indicator of divine intervention” The wild Elf quipped as he bounced to the next dry spot on the path

“I told you, she commands a great ship that sails through the frozen ether between realms… we have been quested to follow our hearts and find the Mistress of the Night Winds homeland so that he powers will be multiplied and Argyle will once again know peace” Curtis’s voice took on a somewhat dreamy tone as he cast his memory back to his encounter with the great goddess, as he spoke Ossawk nodded… the Tengu’s people were very superstitious and their elders believed the hair brained story as soon as they heard it. At first Maul had been happy at Curtis’s quick thinking, but then he found out that the faun actually believed his own story, he had been insufferable ever since.

“That doesn’t make sense… if a goddess can’t find something on Argyle, then how are we supposed to do it… and if she is powerful enough to grant you spells and transport you across dimensions, why can’t she just transport you to where you need to be?” Maul stopped as he finished speaking and held up his hand for the rest of the party to stop… he had thought he heard something

“You just have to have faith Maul… and watch all the blasphemy, she works in mysterious ways you know” Curtis replied. Maul turned to glare at the faun

“Will you shut up? I thought I heard… AHHHHHG” he cried as a tentacle grabbed his leg and sucked him into the brown stagnant waters. He dropped his machete as he fell but managed to grab the root of a tree… “HELP ME!” he called. Levan and Ossawk ran forward but Curtis stopped and spoke

“This could be the goddess punishing you for your lack of faith” this caused his other two companions to give pause. The wild elf strained against the pull of the creature and let out a long growl

“THIS… IS… NOT… YOUR GODDESSS… IT’S AN ABERANT… TRYING… TO… EAT ME… YOU TWIT!”

“Are you certain? So certain you will die because of it? Or maybe you could admit that you might be wrong?” Curtis asked. Mauls hands were burning from strain and he could hear the cracking of the tree he held as it started to break under the strain

“FINE!… I MIGHT BE WRONG… NOW HELP ME OR THEIR WILL BE NO ONE TO FEED YOU ON THE REST OF THIS JOURNEY!” the wild elf yelled…. Curtis nodded to his companion drawing his knife as they raced forward Ossawk and Levon grabbing the wild elves arms while Curtis stabbed the beasts tactical until his let go. The party scrambled further way from the water breathing heavily

“Told you she was real” Curtis mumbled .

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You Got A Friend in Me

19th of Coldeven 383ONT, 10:45pm Tributary off the River Raitlien, 2 days journey from Caliber Keep AKA Hellrick

The wolfship wound its way down the tributary back towards the Raitlien. Thalion had little trouble guiding it with Flitt acting as bow watch. Tiril huddled with her daughter mid ship speaking in hushed words her in their strange language. Maddax approached the tiller and looked out at the winding river the left in their wake.

“I wanted to again offer my sincerest of thanks,” he said in remarkable elvish his accent was old, that perhaps of Northern Elves, like those who had lived in Morning Glory before the war. “We had plans of escape, but many more of my people would have died in a direct assault… thank you Sir Thalion, to you both…” he added nodded over to Flitt who manned the bow

“I merely did what any would do Sir Maddax” Thalion replied, recalling that many of the northern goblins thought of themselves as knights… he was surprised by the response.

“Just Maddax, I am afraid. I suppose it is right that you should know… I am a fallen knight, my title and rights have been stripped, until such a time as my worthiness can be proven once more”

“If I might ask… what happened? I’ll admit we have not known each other long, but your actions have been more knightly then many humans who have claimed such a title” Maddax looked back at the river and sighed forlornly

“It was about a year ago now, I had only had my title for a few moons, and was rising to prominence within Eltara… my family is an older one, and my skills were in full bloom, I am ashamed to say that my ego had been well and truly enlarged… My father had sent me out, a day’s ride or so east with eight riders, scouts had told us of orcish raiders in the area, and we were to protect a small farm village there and see that the people we safe. I rode in like I was a King from on high, set about designing a watch and preparing defenses, my men would see this town safe or would die trying. Two days passed, but on the third night the orcs attacked, they approached the village, perhaps eight or so of them, mounted on worgs and tried to sack it. My men and I were ready and easily repelled them, killing four and driving off the other four. But as they fled I got to thinking… if I killed them all, they would be unable to hurt anymore farmers… those who are willing to till soil in our country are rare, and must be protected at all costs… so I summoned my men and we gave chase after the worgs, it did not take us long, maybe fifteen twenty minutes to catch them… less than a minute to dispatch of them… but then I saw my folly. These orcs were a distraction, a sacrifice… and while my men and I were gone, the rest of their force descended on the unprotected village… they slaughtered the people, gathered what they wished and set fire to the homes and barns there. We rode back with all haste, but could not catch the orcs, nor bring the fire under control… we lost almost everyone. I spent three days looking for survivors, and burying the dead. I spent another twelve days hunting the orcs down and bringing them to Gabriel’s Justice. Then I returned and reported what had happened to my father and the elders; I was stripped of my knighthood and rank… After nine months of service as a foot soldier I was given a promotion to squad leader and permitted to range on a scouting mission to the south. I had thought a new trade partner and peace might forgive my transgressions… unfortunately I was duped again, this time by Vikar the Black, I have lost several men, our weapons, armor and mounts, and still need to find a way to get them home… I am no knight Sir Thalion… just a goblin in disgrace” the Goblin looked back over the ship where his men rested wrapped in thin blankets, awaiting a call to oars or battle. Thalion followed his gaze for a long time

“Knight or not Maddax, you are an honorable warrior, and can count me among your friends”

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Heading Up River

16th of Coldeven 383 ONT, 1:18pm Mouth of the River Raitlien, Champions Boot

“PULL… PULL… PULL” Thitmed hollered down the pipe as the oars pushed the mighty ship through the confluence and up the river. The Raitlien narrowed at its mouth creating a small rapid that forced the majority of the crew to man the oars. They had been at it for almost two hours now; and this was their third attempt. The previous two times had ended early with the bow being current caught and spinning the boat back out into the ice flows; the rooky crew was getting a lot of experience on the oars today. “BY ALL THE GODS I’M NOT DOING THIS A FOURTH TIME, NOW GET YER FINGERS OUT OF HER ASSES AND PULL THE GODS BE DAMNED OARS… PULL!” the dwarf roared as he manned the tiller doing his best to guide the ship with minimal resistance. The crew put their backs into and slowly, inch by elusive inch they crawled their way up river and around the bend into the first eddy. “DROP ANCHOR!” the dwarf yelled

“DROPING ANCHOR” Prancer called back undoing the lines and allowing the heavy anchors to drop. Only once it was secured and the ships drift had come to a halt did Thitmed give the order

“Rowers Stand Easy” Flit heard the word and let out a huge sigh of relief.

“Rowers Stand Easy!” he called to the crew in the oar benches. The brought their oars in and put them away “Paolo, water to the crew” he called, and watched in satisfaction as the little Halfling rand down the aisle bringing cups of water to each crew member who sat dripping with sweat from the exertion. “Twenty minutes rest, then back to stations” the Bosun called as he stood from his own seat and headed for the bridge. He stepped out into the cold air and quickly debated going back for his cloak, below decks felt like an oven and it stank of unwashed crew, the northern wind above decks instantly froze his sweat and chilled him to the core. He strode forward his destination was not far. He clambered up onto the bridge and moved to the brazier near the tiller. He nodded to the first mate, noting the blood on his hand, he must have broken a blister on their final approach. The first mate nodded back to him and signaled hello to whoever had come up behind him.

“Thalion, Aurellia” the dwarf said. The two were drenched in sweat, all hands had been needed on the oars and they had taken their turn without complaint… the Bosun was happy that he had been needed in the relay seat, else he’d surly be as exhausted as they looked. It wasn’t much longer before Mandy and Belinda made it up to the bridge, Mandy with a hot come of Kaffe for Thitmed. The dwarf had taken a liking to the hot drink, and it was one of the few things they had in good supply that also seemed to brighten the otherwise dour dwarves mood, no one objected to his taking a cup. “Lindy, ‘ows the Captain?” the dwarf asked as he took his first sip. She gave a slow headshake

“Not well, not well at all, The Kempia is doing what she can, but he needs a true healer not just spells, and he needs it fast. How long until we hit Caliber Keep?” the dwarf ran his fingers through his greasy hair as he considered the distance.

“A week and a day by a standard run, but if we’re fighting current like this the entire way? And have to navigate two rapids from below? Three… maybe four weeks… can we make it that long?” Belinda pulled open her blue ledger, the one she was rarely seen without, she flipped back and forth on a few pages and did the math.

“I suspect that with carful rationing and continued access to spells we can keep the crew happy and working for four and half weeks, longer if we reduce amounts, though rowers will need their strength. What is the next port after Caliber?”

“Next one marked on me charts is Chistles Point… there probably an outpost a day or two outside of there, but that’d be another two and half to three weeks from Caliber”

“The Captain is not going to make six to eight weeks without a proper healer” Mandy put forward

“And the crew is not going to row all the way to Chistles Point on half rations” Belinda put in. Thitmed glanced across the deck and then down at his charts

“Well… I suppose the real question we need to answer then is… who, if anyone is at Caliber? Elf… how long would it take that bird of yers to fly 400 klicks?” Thitmed asked… It was Thalion’s turn to stop and ponder

“I’m not sure, four… maybe five days depending on the wind… why?”

“Because I think we’re gonna send you off ahead, Lindy, give the elf, rations for six days. Thalion, I need ya to go to Caliber, find out if there is a port, or anything there, if there is, procure us the food and supplies we need and have it ready for us for when we arrive… if they have a healer, bring him back for the Captain”

“You can’ just send Thalion off alone, even with Eltheron…” Belinda protested

“Its fine Belinda, you can’t spare the rowers, and too much more weight would mean I would be hampered on what I can bring back” Thalion said in soothing tones

“Aye, but she has a point, ya can’t walk ten feet from the ship without getting yerself into trouble…” his eyes glanced across the officers “… Take Flitt with ya, he aint too much weight and isn’t manning the oars anyway… both ya get going quick, and be back with good news quicker, ya hear me?”

“Aye Aye Sir” they said in unison, leaving the bridge to fetch their things.

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Another Day In Hell Pt 2

15th of Coldeven 382 ONT, 10:15am, Kordrans Hall, Hellrick

The King sat in his throne looking at the assembled warriors, merchants, Jarls and Earls. These were his people, and as always they had the right to bring grievance to him… and today they had grievance.

“They burnt me ship! How am I to live without a ship?” Hauk Svanson cried. There was a resounding assent to his words.

“This is surly the work of Vikar the Black! I say we go and string him up once and for all!” Kaare Stava yelled, he was one of Kodran’s oldest supporters and greatest warriors. The crowd roared again, the thirst for vengeance was high

“Friends… FRIENDS!” the King called standing and raising his voice to be heard “I like you also believe that the ships came from Horgsholt. But we have lost half our ships, and they have lost none, until we rebuild we cannot go chasing after them, I will not send four ships against their ten, I will not have you die in vein” his words rang across his hall, he could see his wisdom pouring into them, they were still angry, but they could understand

“BULLSHIT!” a voice cut across the hall from the doorway, he looked up and sighed seeing Tiril Thorkleson standing in the doorway.

“Shut up women, you have no voice in this hall” Hauk yelled to her. He did not get much further as she strode up to him in three mighty steps and sent a thundering fist into his nose. The man staggered back and cursed “You Bitch!” he said as he wound up for a strike, but was met with two quick punches prior. He reached to his belt and ripped his dagger from its scabbard. Only to hear the loud

SHHHHINK

Come from behind him,

“You wouldn’t be drawing a blade in the King’s own Hall would ya Hauk?” Came the deep baritone of Torstein Wellhaven. The man stood at least seven feet in height with a thick blond hair and a large bastard sword. “Not even you would be that stupid…” he finished. Hauk nodded to the large man and put his dagger away. Tiril did not wait for the battle to start again, she pushed forward towards the throne and continued their plea

“We can’t do nothing! They took Stina! I won’t have my King, the man who has sworn to protect my family tell me to sit easy while the rape my daughter… I want them dead… I want them all dead!” she proclaimed setting steely blue eyes upon the King. Kodran sighed and looked at her

“I just finished telling them Tiril, we can’t chase yet, I wish that we could, but I won’t send men to die on a lost cause”

“You Coward!” she yelled, but was cut off before she could continue, her hair was ripped backwards from behind and she quickly found herself on the stone floor of the hall with Torstein’s sword to her throat.

“I like ya Tiril, but unless your next words are the lands most humble of apologies for slurring me Kings noble character, I’ll slice yer head clean off” his words were deadly serious and she knew he would do it without question.

“I apologize my King” she said through gritted teeth, anger just below the surface

“It is a hard day for all of us, your words are forgiven… let her up Torstein” Kodran said. The large warrior removed his sword from her throat and grasped her wrist pulling her back to her feet.

“Is that it then?” she yelled, trying to gain back some momentum. She searched around the hall for any who would take up her cause “are there no hero’s left? Will you all just allow this insult to stand, they burnt our ships, robbed our stores and stole our women, MY DAUGHTER! Will no one bring the fight back to them?” The room was deadly silent before Kodran spoke again

“I know your pain, Vikar stole my owns sons life from me… I will not spare a ship to you, I cannot risk it, but if you must follow this through on your own, you may have one of the small fishing boats, and try a rescue on your own… that is the most I can offer. May the Machra fury fall upon your enemies”

“Icey death to them all” the room finished the kings prayer. It wasn’t much, it wasn’t what she wanted, but it was hope, and that was enough for now, she would take it

“thank you my King” she said bowing her head and turned to leave, she had not made it through the crowd when a voice called out again

“My King, Tiril raises good reason sire” she stopped and turned as the crowd went silent

“What have you to say Torstein?” Kodran said

“Vikar and his black fiends not only stole her daughter, but they have insulted my King by tarnishing his home and trying to slur his reputation… Allow me to go with her, and bring the Kings Justice to those that think Hellrick is set for easy plunder” the room was deadly silent… it was a well-known fact that King Kodran did not enjoy his champion being far from home. The King scratched his beard and sized up the crowd

“So Be It, avenge my honour Torstein Wellhaven”

“Thank you my King” and with that the large warrior turned and joined Tiril as they headed to collect supplies for their journey.

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Another Day In Hell
Mature Subject Matter Post Rated R... be warned

14th of Coldeven 382 ONT, Beaches just south of Hellrick

Tiril walked among the wolfships with a basket in her hand, the river eddies had gone out and she scoured the beach for freshwater clams. Every so often she would look down the beach to assure her daughter did not tarry too far. The girl held a basket identical to her own, and was quick about her work. Tiril did not have much time this morning, the Oldvik was not a forgiving man, and had little patience with those who were tardy. The thick morning fog lazily danced on the river as it slowly seeped out of the town. She pulled her furs closer around her, it was cold; and it would be late Readying before any true warmth visited Hellrick. She bent down and collected another clam, hefting her basket, experimentally, if Stina collected half as much then they would be fine she considered

“Morning Tiril” a voice called from the deck of one of the beached vessels. She turned and smiled seeing Jarl Orest. The old sea wolf was standing towards the stern of his vessel with a steaming cup in his hand and a thick bear hide wrapped around him.

“Morning Orest, you are up early” she called back to him

“It is in the early morn when the most beautiful of sights are to be seen” the old sailor called giving her a hungry appraising look

“Poetry is not your strong suit Orest, stick to weapons and ships” she said with a laugh

“Any time you like Tiril I am happy to show you my mighty weapon” he said making a crude gesture to accompany his witty words. She was about to respond with an equally crude joke when Orest stood straight and began to gasp

“Orest? Orest are you ok?” she called taking a few steps towards the ship. The old man seemed to be flailing his arms over his head trying to reach something behind him. She took another step forward, then stopped as he fell forward, revealing a large javelin in his back. Her eyes popped open wide as she looked around in a panic. Further down the beach she saw large Wolfships, three of them, with red and yellow sails come out of the mist. On instinct Tiril dropped her basket and through herself flat. She her two arrows thump into the ship behind her, and a cold hand grapped her heart as panic began to rise. She crawled on her belly back the way she had come, back to where she had last seen Stina picking her way through the tidal pools

“STINA!” she called “STINA!” her daughter did not answer her. She could her the war cry’s of the men as the jumped from their vessels; axe, sword or spear in hand with large shields as they charged up the beaches towards the settlement Hellrick. “Machra, lend me your Icey furry” she prayed as she scrambled to her feet and began to race down the beach. “STINA! STINA!” she yelled. She heard the gentle rush of air as the wolfships of Hellrick were set alight, now the city bells were ringing, but much damage would be done before her people could muster any kind of real defense. She cast her eyes about for her daughter, desperately trying penetrate the mist and the smoke “STINA”

“MOR! MOR!” she heard her daughters call, screaming for her mother. Tiril raced through the mists to find her. There being dragged by two brutes, her shirt half ripped from her chest was young Stina. A deep rage ran through Tiril as she charged her daughters assailants empty handed. They heard her roar and one turned laughing easily as she approached

“Looks like we won’t have to share after all” the one with axe said. He companion smirked easily throwing Stina over she shoulder and wielding his sword one handed. Tiril flung herself at the axe wielder grabbing his beard and pulling him down with her as she barreled into him and fell to the ground. The man staggered and flung her off, but not before she could pull the long knife from his belt. The two stood and faced off against each other. A large chunk of the man’s beard had been ripped from his face and now it openly bled. “You’ll pay for that bitch”. He said stepping forward and swinging his axe at her. She side stepped the blow and two other, her eyes always locked on the other man who was loading her daughter onto his ship. She stepped under a swing and slashed with the knife, she felt it connect likely breaking several links of the man’s chainmail but having no other real effect. The man stepped in close and balled his fist punching her in the nose. She felt it crack and her eyes began to well as blood poured freely. He followed up the maneuver by smacking her in the temple with the haft of his axe, her knees went weak under the blow and she fell, the man throwing himself on top of her and ripping at her clothes. She shook the daze from her vision and clawed at the man as she felt her breeches begin to rip.

“MOR!” she heard the distant call of her daughter, the fear in her child’s voice and felt a new strength come upon her she screamed in rage reversing the grip on her dagger and plunged it down hard, harder then she thought was possible, it went right through his steel helm and his skull. The would be rapist stared at her blankly as he slumped forward dead.

“NO!” she screamed as she shimmied and struggled to crawl out from under him. She focused using every ounce of strength she had and rolled the beast off of her. She could hear the sound of her people now, she could hear the fight taking place along the beach. She staggered to her feet, taking a moment to claim the axe of her assailant. Then off into the smoke and mists, she raced towards the ship she had heard her daughter cry from. Making it to the edge of the mighty river. The ship has cast off already and was rowing away “STINA! STINA!” she screamed as she raced along the river bank, desperately trying to catch the ship…. “STINA I’M COMING!” she cried as she watched her life sail away.

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Fixing the Chain of Command Pt 6

13th of Coldeven 11:37am 382 ONT, Ice Flows

The crew of the Champions Boot assembled on the foredeck of the ship. The only one not present was the captain who seemed to ill to get out of his bed. The officers lined up on either side of the crew as the Master Gunner tied Prancer’s hand to his rope around the mast, his shirt had been removed and he had sworn he would not untangle the ropes. Aurellia turned to him, unhappy about the situation and offered him a small dowel of wood.

“Bite down on it, trust me, it’s for the better” she knew he had been in the mines but his back was unblemished and his noble upbringing made it unlikely that he had ever been disciplined like this before. He nodded to her and took the dowel in his mouth, keeping his chin high.

The crew stood waiting as Thitmed warmed up with the whip, an item no one aside from Haturtt or Belinda had ever seen him use. His first few strokes were sloppy as he cracked it out over the side of the deck, but after a few more the muscle memory kicked in and he seemed confident he would deliver solid clean hits.

“This is Stupid, clearly it is not Harolds fault, I will end this myself” Miriel said angry at what was happening. Thalion put a gentle arm on her shoulder and shook her head

“This is a very old custom, if you get involved it will be much much worse” the elf said, knowing the Strix spoke out of concern and not insubordination. Thitmed stepped forward and addressed the crew

“Some of you are new to this ship, others have traveled with me for some time now, whenever you joined I believe it was made clear that on this ship, order and decorum will be maintained. MY CREW DOES NOT BRAWL! MY CREW DOES NOT SETTLE DISAGREMENTS WITH SWORDS AND GUNS! My crew works together, and has officers to sort such disagreements.” The dwarfs eyes locked with each and every crew member before turning back to face Prancer’s exposed back “Harold Forbes, you are convicted pf brawling and trying to kill a member of my crew. Your punishment is a reduction of rations and fifteen lashes to be carried out forthwith, do you have anything to say?…” he waited a long pause but nothing came from the bound sailor. “So be it… Bosun, Count the Lashings as they land”

“Aye sir” Flitt said in a subdued voice

CRACK

“ONE”

CRACK

“TWO”

CRACK

“THREE”

The crew winced as bloody tracks began to appear on Prancer’s back

CRACK

“NINE”

CRACK

“TEN”

There was a brief pause as Prancer had slumped to his knees under the blows, Thitmed was not a cruel man and allowed the sailor to settle before the next blow landed. He noted the sniffles of the crying Cabin boy and the tears being forced back from Mandy’s eyes, but stoically ignored them, there had to be order on this ship, without it, they were all lost

CRACK

“FOURTEEN”

CRACK

“FIFTEEN, all fifteen blows completed Sir” Flitt called out. Thitmed stopped and rubbed his shoulder

“I consider this matter closed Mr. Forbes, Master Gunner, release Mr. Forbes, Kempia, see to it that his wounds don’t get infected, no magical healing or pain relief is to be offered without my direct say so” Aurellia stepped up quickly and helped Prancer out of his bindings and brought him over to Miriel who supported him as he hobbled to the Priestess. “Master Gunner, lash Mr. Craw to the mast please.” Aurellia was a little less gentle with Craw as she fastened him to the mast, but she still offered him the dowel, he nodded taking it.

“Sailor secured sir” She said as she stepped back into line

“Baker Craw, you are convicted of brawling, and disregarding a duty shift. Your punishment is a reduction of rations and ten lashes to be carried out forthwith, do you have anything to say?…” again he waited a long pause, when no response came he called again “Bosun, count the lashings as they land”

“Aye Sir” Flitt offered again

CRACK

“ONE”

CRACK

“TWO”

CRACK

“THREE”

To his credit, the large man never cried out in pain, never gave more then a grunt with each landed blow, he held his feet and absorbed his punished

CRACK

“NINE”

CRACK

“TEN”

“TEN LASHES COMPLETED SIR” Flitt called out

“I consider this matter closed Mr. Craw, Master Gunner, release Mr. Craw, Kempia, see to it that his wounds don’t get infected, again I want no magical healing or pain relief without my direct order” Aurellia stepped forward and helped the large man from his bindings, she offered an arm but he shook his head and walked on his own to the Kempia. Thitmed watched the Priestess look them over “Are they ok Kempia?” she looked the wounds over once more before turning to the First Mate and nodding, she did not seem phased by this punishment. “Good” the Dwarf said “Bosun, these two are on duty until I say otherwise, hard labour for the rest of today, I will be very disappointed if I see them doing anything that is not backbreaking labour”

“Aye Sir, right away sir” Flitt called stepping forward

“Let this be a lesson to the rest of you, I will not tolerate these actions on my ship again, nor will I be so lenient next time… Dismissed” he called as the crew saluted. The dwarf coiled his whip and stalked off to his cabin, in a mood blacker then Talibs cowl

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Fixing the Chain of Command Pt 5

13th of Coldeven 10:54am 382 ONT, Ice Flows

Mandy had been underwater for a long time now, she only had another twenty or so minutes before her spell of water breathing would end, then she would have to see about getting another one, she tried to work faster but was only three quarters finished. There had been a sizeable about of damage along the stern keel with several micro leaks and a lot of drag from shards. If things were going to come down to speed later she owed it to her crew to have the best smoothest haul possible. She took out her chisel pulling off a half sundered board, she had learned the tricks of her hammer, she could not fix the ship, but when something was no longer attached, it wasn’t the ship anymore, she could then fix that piece and then reinstall it. It made the work slower but still satisfying.

“Human Child, Human Child, Ours to have, Ours to hold… under the ice”

Mandy spun around to look into the black, she fished the glow rod from her vest and held it high casting the light as far as it could… she saw nothing, had she really heard that? It had been so faint almost like the sound of wind on ice, but still… Bosun Rogard has always said ‘if your gut is telling you something, its best to listen to it’ she held her hammer high in her other hand and scanned the area carefully ready to tug her rope should the need arise.


Prancer hopped down from the mast and patted Paolo on the shoulder

“Not bad kid” he said warmly “We may just make a sailor out of you yet” the kid beamed under the praise “now head below decks and grab us both a tea or at least some warm water, once we’ve had a little break I’ll show you where we stow the emergency sails and how those work” the Halfling boy nodded and scooted off to the mess leaving Prancer a moment to stretch and look about, his eyes cast up and down the deck until they settled on Horatio and Baker. Horatio was holding a rope and staring over the side of the ship, he appeared to be fishing with a thick cord… Baker sat, he back against the railing, crossbow beside him smoking some rolled Tabaco. Figuring the two were on break as well Prancer wandered up hoping to get to know his fellow crewmates a bit better. “Gentlemen” he said nodding as he perched on a nearby crate. Both nodded back to him but little more. Prancer reached a little deeper to start up the conversation “Not too bad a morning considering we’re staring down the Don-Tonian Navy huh?” Horatio spoke first

“Not bad at all, at all, at all, I am worried but that is because I think it is good to worry, cause Mouskins needs to be safe, and I was told we were going to be safe, but I don’t feel like it is as safe as they said and…” the little guy went on for a bit. After Paolo came back with the tea he sipped his, and had near finished it when something occurred to him

“Where’s Mandy? I thought you two were working with her this morning?”

“The little fire cracker?” Craw asked taking a swing from his water skin “she’s below working on the ship” Prancer stared at him for a minute, putting together what was going on

“If she’s below, shouldn’t you be on watch then?” Prancer asked, his brows furrowing

“Meh, the gnome’s on the rope, it’s fine…” he didn’t get any further, a brown leather boot kicked him square in the jaw.

“By Talib’s shrunken member you ugly piece of sailors skid” Prancer swore… Paolo took a step back, he had never seen the jovial fellow like this before, Horatio turned to watch the events unfold. Baker was on his feet in a flash, coming up with an uppercut that connect and sent the swashbuckler staggering back a few feet.

“You’re in it now you monster humping priss” Craw said ripping a long knife from his scabbard and squaring off. Prancer quickly drew his rapier and set it to the on guard position

“My father said you have nothing to fear from a lazy man. Now you will apologize to Mandy for your negligence and then beg for my lover mercy for your foul tongue else I will cut it out and present it to her”

“Your Love? You mean that scantily clad Strix whore?” Craw said, he was ready for Prancer, but perhaps not as ready as he thought, the one armed sailor was surprisingly good with the rapier and he quickly found himself on the defensive, and bleeding from a lucky shoulder strike.


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“Human Child, Human Child, Ours to have, Ours to Hold, forget your life, forget your friends, ours to hold under the ice” the voices were definitely real. She tugged on her rope again, still she wasn’t being pulled up. With her tool belt, hammer and supplies it made swimming all but impossible and she wasn’t strong enough to climb with all of her equipment. She scanned again, and then just on the fringe of the sea floor she saw them. Two of three creatures all sickly thin and pale, wearing shards of former clothing, with long gaunt faces and black orbs for eyes. “Human Child, Human Child, Ours to have ours to hold…” their song was sickly with an unearthly melody that made one want to give up and just surrender. Her hammer throbbed in her hand, she was scared.


Thitmed stood on the bridge his eyes locked into the spyglass watching Mirel wheel and turn In Sync with the elf and his bird. “Good” he nodded to himself, another few practices and the two might just have it, that girl Rikka might not be the most useless elf he’d ever met after all. It was then that he noted an abrupt change of course from Thalion, he had broken off from the exercise and was b lining right for the bridge. “Gods be damned” the dwarf swore, what could it be now. The eagle didn’t even land, just passed close enough to the bridge for the elf to drop off, then turned and circled the ship “Cutting it a bit short don’t ya think?” Thitmed asked as the elf steadied himself from the jump

“Mandy,” the elf said with a tone of worry “She’s in trouble, where is she?” Thitmed screwed his face up remembering as he turned back to the ship

“She’s working on repairs with… What in the Gods be damned sea?” as he turned he saw the duel taking place on the starboard deck he said nothing to Thalion who was hot on his heels just scooped up his axe and raced down to the deck.

“Mandy?” Thalion called as they approached but the elves words were lost as Thitmed bellow a terrible roar

“DID YOUR BRAINS GET SMASHED ON DUMATHIONS FORGE! BY YOLO’S AXE I WILL HAVE THE HEAD OF ANY MAN STILL HOLDING A WEAPON WHEN I GET TO THE MIZZEN MAST!” the roar thundered across the ship, causing Aurellia and Robinson on the bow to look back and quickly hurry to see what was going on. Whatever the quarrel had been between Prancer and Baker, neither questioned the first mates earnestness in his threat as both had sheathed their weapons and stepped back as he approached. Craw had not managed to land a blow on Prancer, but he had a few razor cuts for his efforts. “WHAT IN THE GOOD GODS OF ALL DO YA THINK YER DOIN?” Thitmed bellowed as he approached. He was vaguely aware that Thalion and Horatio were working on the ropes but he didn’t care just then, his focus was on these two idiots.

“Hit kicked me in the face sir” Craw said coming to attention

“He was being derelict in his duties, and he punched me” Prancer hollered back standing at attention himself

“He cut me sir, here, here and here” Craw said point to the several cuts he had received

“It’s not my fault he is terrible with a sword” Prancer shot back

“I’ll show you terrible with a sword!” Baker said stepping forward and pulling a knife, at the same time Prancer took a step forward his rope arm extending. Thitmed spun quickly the flat of his axe slamming into Bakers blade hand forcing the warrior to drop his knife, he continued the spin balling a fist and stepping into the blow landing a solid punch to Prancers nose. The human fell back under the weight of the thud.

“MASTER GUNNER!” Thitmed Hollered

“Aye” Aureelia said approaching cautiously

“If that man moves more than a hair, his hands even bleed in the direction of another weapon shoot him!”

“Aye Sir” She said pulling her pistol and pointing it at Bakers Head

“Robinson, hold Prancer, if her struggles crush him!” Thitmed ordered

“Aye Sir” The Half ogre said, pulled Prancer to his feet and pinning his arms in a bear hug

“Fighting on my ship, with weapons! In all my years, I can’t believe anything so stupid, we are staring down the gods be damned navy of Don-Ton and yer brawling on my deck! CABIN BOY!” he yelled as his tired hit new heights! The Halfling boy stepped forward nervously “go to me quarters lad, on the wall there is a large dusty whip, get it for me quickly” the boy nodded and took off. Thitmed glared at the two idiots who were both still breathing heavily

“Craw, brawling on my ship doesn’t happen, you try it again you’ll be swimming home, got it?” Craw glared at Prancer, but nodded his understanding to the first mate. “Good, Prancer, I expected better of ya, where was yer father’s wisdom on brawling like a village simpleton?” Prancer merely hung his head in shame, the First Mate continued “Craw, 10 lashes for brawling. Prancer 15 for starting it and drawing blood with a weapon, and since you both have so much energy you can be damned sure that you lost your rations for the next two days! This is over, understood?” both men mumbled assents


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Mandy felt the creatures getting closer, she was feeling the urge to untie her harness and join them, to just give into their song “Human Child, Human Child, Ours to Have, Ours to Hold…” she was picking at her harness, trying to get it undone when she felt herself being lifted… “no…” she didn’t have the energy to fight it, she felt kinda strange, but she didn’t want to leave either. She felt herself break out of the water and was being lifted towards the deck, she looked down at the icy blue and saw the creature staring back at her

“Soon, human child, soon”

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Fixing the Chain of Command Pt 4

13th of Coldeven 10:13am 382 ONT, Ice Flows

Mandy watched has Miriel, Thalion and Eltheron took flight once more, they flew low along the ice flows until they were well out of view of the Don-Tonian Navy ships, then began a series of aerial maneuvers. She had seen them talking carefully with Mr. Ironbraid and Ms. Ananke and knew they were practicing for some kind of special assault. She wondered briefly why they were sticking around instead of running through the Ice Flows, but assumed that the Officers knew what they were doing and had a plan of some sort. She shook her head straight and went about her work, presenting herself to the the Kempia for the spells.

“It is not a preferred action of mine to prepare spells associated with water young Doyle, please do not make this a regular occurrence” The Kempia said in a tone that donated razor thin tolerance

“It won’t be, I just need to check the keel plating to see how bad it was banged up when we launched the ship” Mandy responded. She headed over to the main mast where the majority of crew were assembled for the day.

“Morning Mandy, bit chilly today no?” Flitt greeted her, she had learned he wasn’t a fan of the cold. She smiled back at him,

“I’m ok, who do you need for your roaster today… I could really use Prancer and if Ms. Ouellette has time, her as well” Mandy offered

“Sorry Mandy,” Aurellia said with a frown, “I am still sighting in the bombard, and those muskets that were left in poor condition, beyond that Thitmed has Robinson and I on standby for some master plan of his, we are training on the bombard all day to get our reload time down”

“Rough take Mandy” Prancer said putting his hand on her shoulder, “Bosun just ordered me to take Paolo up and down the sails and show him how to re-secure when it’s torn… nice to be on your pick list though” he said offering her a winning smile. Mandy took a deep breath seeing things going a little sideways from her plans but forced on a smile

“That’s ok Prancer… ummm… Flitt maybe you could give me a hand, I am working on the keel after all and…” the Grippli was already shaking his head

“Bity and are ordered on a scouting mission, there isn’t much under the ice, but if we can find anything to eat we are gonna grab it and bring it back… I’ll try and poke in on you when I can though. Oh and make sure you have a spotter too, you never know what’s creeping around down there in the dark… ouch” he grimaced as Aurellia punched him in the arm and shot him a glare, Mandy was quick to intercede

“That’s ok, I’m not afraid… I guess I will work with…” she did a mental calculation of who was left “ummm Mr. Riley and…” she couldn’t help let out a small sigh “Mr. Craw” she noted he at least looked equally unhappy.

The Bosun finished his duty briefing and the team broke apart, many were lagging, half rations sucked, Hatrutts thrice used tea bags were beginning to wear thin as well. This was the worst time for rationing, when there is still lots of food in the hold but everyone is going with less. She headed over to the starboard side with Mr. Riley and Mr. Craw and went about organising her ropes and systems.

“ok, I will be heading underwater to inspect the keel line, starting at the bow and heading steadily stern. Mr. Riley, you are my rope man, if you feel me tug three times please pull me up in a hurry, understand?” Mandy explained

“I can pull ropes, I am very good a pulling ropes, all you have to do is tug the rope and I can pull it, everyone says I can pull the ropes cause I am good at pulling them…” she listened to the gnome mumble a few times more about his rope pulling skill and took that as a positive before turning to Mr. Craw

“I need you to please be my spotter, who knows what’s down there. Have your crossbow ready to fire on anything that looks menacing, if you’re unsure, pull me up, I would rather be interrupted then eaten” she said working hard to keep a positive tone

“Sure, whatever” Craw said, rolling a cigarette, she waiting a long moment seeing no action from him

“So… get your crossbow please” Mandy urged, a hint of annoyance in her voice. The large human glared at her as he finished rolling his cigarette, he took his time for a long slow drag before casually heading towards the locker and pulling out his crossbow and leaning against the railing

“At your ready sweet cheeks” Craw said in a fake nice tone. Mandy ignored him, put on her harness and secured her tools before stepping over the side of the ship and signalling to Mr. Riley to lower her down.

“Good Luck” the little gnome offered as she disappeared into the dark cold waters

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Fixing the Chain of Comand Pt 3

13th of Coldeven 8:19am 382 ONT, Ice Flows

Mandy sat beside the Captains Bed wiping is brow and cleaning it off the sweat that continued to form there. He was so pale, so weak, she was scared for him. In the past when she had had a problem the Captain had always been there to listen to her, now she wasn’t even sure if he was awake.

“He doesn’t listen to me, he just sees me as a cabin boy, I think they all just see me as Mandy the cabin boy, sure they are happy when I fix things, but to them I am stuck as a little girl… I don’t know what I should do… Mr. Ironbraid and the rest of them are so busy, I feel like I would be bothering them with this… I don’t know” Mandy wiped his brow again, and to her surprise the Captain began to speak

“Florem iuvenum flos cito cupis My sweet young Elora, non esse naturae donis concessis, but it is time and experience that are what truly make a sailor, scit enim cantavit et hic sensus est. Camus is of another land, he hails from a human education and sees you as lesser because of this. Et fortis æmulator est Elora, Dux autem vobis, quia unus dies of the North West Feather and he will always be a rigger. Those who do not understand potential often fear it and seek to snuff it out. Ne per media sua sunt dryadalem eris iniuriae civium, you are of the proud line of Cailana; per flumina, per venas quam quod faciunt contra terram. In a few short decades he will be old and grumbling by a fire whilst you lead your crew across the seas to find the long lost horizon. Omnia sperantibus Elora, Omnia Serantibus…” the captain drifted off there and Mandy scrunched up her face in frustration, her elvish wasn’t that good yet and she had only caught about every other sentence.

In the past when the Captain gave her advice he often spoke in parables and metaphors, but she wasn’t sure that he was even speaking with her, she looked to his wall where the portrait of Elora Cailana hung, Captain Folas’s youngest daughter, Mr Ironbraid had told her, she had died during the great invasion and had gone down with his ship the North West Feather. She closed her eyes and wept for her Captain. Elves were supposed to be immortal, she could not imagine world without the captain in it… was it selfish to hope that he hung on for just a few more decades? She wouldn’t live that long, not compared to what the Captain considered a blink of an eye… not the way Sir Thalion or Ms. Ananke spoke. She felt a lump of shame stir in her stomach, and hung her head. How many humans, halflings, gnomes and dwarves had the captain stewarded in and out of this world? Nobly protecting them and allowing them to leave with the peace that he was there taking care of things, and now she wanted the same. He had no family left, they had all died in the war, it was just her and this little crew. NO she decided, she would take care of him, he would be treated with honour and respect, but he would know that they would be ok after he was gone, that at least, no matter what happened Mandy Doyle would be here looking after things. That meant not complaining about little problems anymore, putting her head down and getting the job done. no matter how mean some people were.

She stood up placing the captains tea pot near his bed so he could reach it if he woke and was thirsty. Then she reached into her pouch and pulled out the roll she hadn’t eaten at breakfast, it wasn’t much of a meal today, but she’d been an orphan and was used to dealing with less, the Captain needed to get his strength back. She placed the role beside his tea pot. Wiped the tears from her eyes and kissed the sleeping elf on the forehead. She was the Master Carpenter of the Champions Boot, and her Captain needed the ship fixed, even if she had to fix it all by herself, she’d get it done!

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