20 June

The Stowaway - A Tale of Elyria

By Snipehunter

“Well,” Torgin began slowly, “I don’t think ‘friends’ is the right word, and I don’t rightly know they were To’resk, not for sure. They were a little odd. Something in the eyes, maybe?”

Torgin sat in an ornate wooden chair, his hands were tied together around its broad back. It was, he realized, the most uncomfortable chair he’d ever rested his rear upon. Funny how that worked.

Across an equally fine desk, its edges carved into standing ocean waves, the Baroness sighed in frustration before thrusting herself to standing. In contrast to the appointments of her cabin down in the hold, the Baroness wore the same simple uniform as her crew. However, where the standard cloak was simple broadcloth, the Baroness’ cloak was lined in muslin. The same with her shoes: carefully preserved, luscious leather showing none of the wear and cracking common among the shoes of her sailors. The Baroness didn’t put on airs, but she was clearly a creature of comfort. Maybe Torgin could use that.

“What do you mean they weren’t To’resk? Who the damned else would they be?!” The Baroness practically spit the last word.

“The thing is, I've heard Croçais before and that wasn’t what they were speaking.” Torgin sounded calm, but he was drawing his account out, desperate for an angle, a story he could use to save his life.

“Fine. Set that aside for now. Tell me about them. You say you were their prisoner. How did you come to be in their custody?” The Baroness sat back down and leaned forward. Torgin was out of time. The only story he had was the truth. Maybe it would be enough. Maybe the Baroness would believe him. At this point, the diminutive Kypiq had nothing left to lose.

“I suppose I’d best start at the beginning then…”

“Here you go then, off with you, you stowaway!” The amused lilt in the carter’s voice betrayed any attempt at stern reprimand he might have made for Torgin. Shaking his head ruefully he doffed his cap and motioned to the wooden gatehouse before them.

“I’ll not vouch for you at the gate, you’re on your own!” He called out as Torgin stepped out of the hay in the cart, brushing himself clean and tossed a lazy wave to the old man at the head of the cart as he sauntered by.

Torgin turned, “Hey uncle, don’t tell me dad, yeh?” His grin was sheepish, his eyes squinted in a simulated wince.

“Are you kidding Torgin?” The old man laughed, “He’ll be elated to be rid of your trouble, even if just for a season.” He waved at the gate again, “Go on then, go fish for your fortune!”

Torgin wondered at that as he passed through the gates, clutching his pack straps tightly. The guards spared him no more than a bored glance, no need to be “vouched” at all. Not that Torgin noticed. He chewed at his lip, thoughts of his father on his mind. His father didn’t hate Torgin. Not really. But to say the old man regarded Torgin with affection would stretch the imagination. His father was fond of saying “you got a foul spirit in you” as he scolded Torgin but, even now, the boy had trouble imagining his father meant it. He just wanted more from Torgin than he was willing to give.

But, Torgin’s uncle probably had the right of it. His father wanted nothing more than to see Torgin take responsibility for himself and leave the home. That had led Torgin to Tidewater Downs, in fact. It was ridiculous on the face of it; the most gregarious of the entire family was his uncle, and Tidewater was as far as he’d ever come to hawk the straw the family sold. Yet, here Torgin was, moving slowly through a small crowd on the broad, wooden walk that both kept the mud off the feet and acted as the tiny fishing village’s main boulevard. Torgin was making a beeline for the piers that jutted out over the brackish muck into the blue of the harbor beyond the end of the boardwalk.

Even with the crowd, Torgin could already see the tall masts and distinctive triangular foresails of Tidewater’s fishing fleet. As he finally pushed past the idlers and emerged on the wharf proper, he caught his first look at the ships themselves. A gift from the chancellor, these seven modified cutters were the seeds which planted this town of Tidewater. Each boat was rigged with a special hold that kept fish alive and awash in sea water without sinking the boat; it was an innovation they’d heard about even in his own town. The village had been founded by decree of the chancellor and, in exchange for direct tithe of one quarter of the fleet’s take every season, he had supplied its founders with the ships. Rumor had it he’d arranged for the land to be sold on the cheap too, Torgin remembered. That was sixteen years ago, before Torgin was born, but the ships seemed to glow in the midday sun, none the worse for wear.

Torgin adjusted the pack on his back once more and then stepped onto the pier where the ship was moored. Her captain was standing at the gangplank, discussing something with a member of his crew, another of the score of fishermann on the pier. On Torgin’s approach, the captain looked down at him dismissively, the hint of a growing sneer crawling behind his moustache.

“Den Nou tsinnendesk rajosh Ou ato?” The captain said through his thick, black coat of facial hair.

Torgin didn’t speak Croçais, but he recognized it. He tried answering back in Neran, “Beg your pardon?”

The captain rolled his eyes before switching back to his mother tongue, “I said have your parents lost you then, little boy?”

This brought a thin smile from the crewman, but to Torgin he didn’t seem amused.

“You could put it that way. Not that they mind.” Torgin answered. He glanced over his shoulder, as if expecting to see his uncle nodding back at him, “But that’s why I’m here. I’d like to sign on.”

This time the captain’s companion laughed out loud and said, “Von inne nmajeselle rewa sou tzarar.” The sailor nodded his head at Torgin as he spoke.

“No.” the captain said, finally.

“No?” Torgin asked.

“No,” The captain pointed down the wharf at the rest of the fleet and continued, “And for them, the same. No children on board.”

“I came of age this year! I can work!” Torgin cried, incredulous.

“Doesn’t mean a thing, boy. The answer is still no.”

The captain jerked his head at Torgin, signaling to his companion. The sailor stepped forward and turned Torgin around, pointing him back towards the boardwalk.

“Time to go, kid.”

At first, Torgin didn’t believe what he’d heard but, after hours of rejections from every single vessel in the harbor, he couldn’t deny it. He was not going fishing. Whatever fortune, whatever adventure awaited him on the deck of one of those broad-hulled cutters, it wouldn’t happen with Torgin a member of the crew. It took another hour for the full magnitude of what that really meant to strike him.

Torgin was perched on a stool in the quay-side tavern where Tidewater’s sailors spent their coin. He leaned on the edge of a bar that ran the length of the side wall of the tavern’s first floor. He was looking down at the intricate wooden floor. It was a series of sweeping arcs of multicolored woods, wedged tightly together with alternating lines of a black hardwood and a polished white wood that was almost glass-like in its luster. He knew the stilts that held the tavern above the water were just below the floor, but he couldn’t see any sign of them. Despite being made from literally thousands of thin strips and cuts, the floor was essentially seamless. Held together more tightly than the circumstances of his life, he thought. Everything had fallen apart. He ran away to find his fortune and failed before the first day’s light had faded.

He’d managed to convince the proprietor to serve him, and he was enjoying the local brew as he realized he had just spent his last copper oxthard. Well at least he still had his pack, he thought. The goods inside were meant to last him a trip out to sea and back. They might not secure him a future, but they’d pay for a room at an inn for a few days and he could figure out what he was going to do in the meantime. Maybe he could sign on with a trader.

He smiled at the thought and shrugged his shoulders, which caused the very same pack he had just considered to slide off his narrow frame. He leaned back and brought a hand up over his head to grab the top of the pack and lift it back onto his shoulders before it fell, but he never got there. Instead something solid blocked his hand. Something… furry?

Torgin leaned back to see what had blocked his hand and beheld the shaggy dark fur coat of a traveler’s hooded cloak, his blocked hand still resting weakly against it. The traveler was tall, and nearly as broad. From within his hood sprouted a veritable explosion of reddish brown hair, its ends loosely tied in place around a glass bead that drew it downward from his chin. The lanterns of the tavern caught the traveler’s eyes oddly, making them seem to shine, as if they threw back the light cast at them. Torgin quickly let go of the cloak and straightened up as he turned to the traveler.

“Oh! I didn’t see you there.” Torgin said, in Neran.

“Troughß raul” the traveler said. His displeasure, like his resonant voice, was dark. He looked at Torgin for a moment longer, then simply turned and weaved his way through the main floor towards a table in the corner. He joined a group already there, five more built like the traveler and three locals whose sharp, ridged teeth gave them away even from where Torgin sat.

The traveler was Brudvir. He had to be. But it made no sense to Torgin. They were a long way from home. His uncle had traded with the Brudvir once, when he was younger. He called them brutes and he refused to talk about how they ate, but he also returned with his prized possession: a wooden cudgel–its head carved into a wolf’s snarling face. His uncle spoke of returning at least once a year, though he never did.

The pelts they wore disgusted Torgin. He couldn’t imagine wearing them; the musty smell, the constant reminder that you were wearing the skin of another being. He found the whole idea morbid but, all the same, these six didn’t seem like wild things. They spoke quietly with the rest of their group in that thick, shifting language of theirs, their backs to the rest of the tavern. Each was a mountain of that black-brown fur. Bear, Torgin realized. He wondered if they hunted those bears or took the pelts from the fallen. He’d heard stories of their savagery, but all their furs would amount to quite a lot of killing!

As he watched, he couldn’t help wondering what they were doing here, again. How did they get here? A boat, certainly, but not one of the fleet.

Maybe it was the drink clouding a head not really meant for longer term planning in the first place. For all his bluster, Torgin had little experience with spirits. Or maybe it was simply his mind hoping to salvage something from the ruins of his day. Whatever crazy notion it was, something planted the seed in his mind. Something made Torgin speculate wildly. They were Brudvir. They were strangers. They were drinking and eating well. Clearly, he realized, they were raiders! Raiders with treasure!

If Torgin couldn’t find his fortune fishing, maybe he could find it another way. It would, no doubt, surprise his father to see him a scant few days later, a fortune in Brudvir loot in his pack. Without stopping to evaluate his plan, he hopped off the stool and made for the exit. The stars were finally out as cooling wind from off the harbor blew into the narrow, elevated boardwalks between structures. Most of Tidewater was raised well off the waterline. Slopped roofs, whose narrow profile presented to the harbor to cut through the wind, were nearly impossible to see from the bottom of the ramps that led down to the quay and the piers that made up Tidewater’s wharf. That meant that anyone looking down to the docks from the tavern would have a hard time seeing someone until they were out on one of those piers. This might work, he thought.

He made his way down the wharf until he found their boat, moored to the quay itself. It was obviously the Brudvir’s boat, really. It was half the size, maybe less, of one of the fleet cutters. It didn’t even have a deck. You just stood in the hull, like a rowboat. That’s what it was, Torgin decided, a giant rowboat. A giant rowboat with no oars.

He realized he wouldn’t find any treasure in a boat like this and was beginning to rethink his plan until he saw the locked sea chest lashed to the mast. Maybe they were brutes to think a simple lock was going to stop Torgin. He scurried aboard the ship and stood before the chest. He removed his pack and placed it between his feet, kneeling in the same motion to examine the chest’s lock. It was as simple iron mechanism, made from a bent bar that hinged into a riveted housing of iron plates. A keyhole adorned its surface.

Iron was a nice strong metal. Most folks think that strength immediately makes for strong locks but, they forget, a lock is only as strong as its weakest part. He reached into his pack and pulled out a silk bundle wrapped with a cord of matching green silk before working free the cord and unrolling the pouch on his knee, revealing a set of fish hooks, each with a different barb and hook shape. Torgin thoughtfully selected two and removed them, then inserted them into the lock. For a few tense seconds he manipulated the lock, then a quiet click broke the monotonous rumble of the water lapping against the hull. Finally, some luck! It had gone on the first try. He’d lost a hook the last time he tried this.

He removed his fish hooks from the lock, put them back in the pouch with the rest of his collection, then carefully retied the cord and stored it back in his pack. All that was standing between Torgin and his fortune was the act of opening the lid. He took one more look around the wharf; no one had noticed him, or no one cared. So, he took a deep breath and lifted the lid to behold… nothing.

The box was empty. A chest that large! Lashed to the mast. And, it had nothing. Torgin couldn’t believe it. Maybe he did have a foul spirit in him. As his defeat came crashing down on him he realized how stupid an idea it was in the first place. Those travelers probably weren’t even raiders. Stupid, naïve! Torgin thought, I’d come up with this whole story. They’d fought and come back to tell the tale, a chest full of treasure tied to their mast, braving the fiercest waters. How foolish.

“Jöra neighn erärtel tot stro dä achtschär stroughnea.” The traveler’s dark voice called from down the wharf. Torgin looked up with a start to realize the rest of the traveler’s crew were only a few dozen meters away, between him and any good means of escape. In a panic, he ducked down below the tall gunwales of the Brudvir’s vessel and began to cast around for some means of escape. He couldn’t swim but, maybe, he could float. Only, there was nothing in the damn boat he could use to float with. The thing really did have no oars. What good is a rowboat you can’t row?!

They were almost on him; seconds away from being able to see him cowering behind the mast. He looked at the empty chest in front of him. If he balled himself up, he could fit. Where else can I go? He’d just wait till they were asleep and sneak off before they left in the morning.

So, with nowhere left to go he crawled into the chest and closed the lid as he folded himself into place.

The chest was dark, but Torgin could hear the voices of the crew and feel the vessel list as they each stepped aboard the boat. He didn’t know their language, and most of it was muffled by the chest anyway, but it didn’t seem like they were settling in to sleep off their drink. If anything, they seemed very active. He heard a splash as something was pulled from the water. The anchor! The boat was pushing off!

Torgin was going to sea after all.

Torgin lost track of time, cramped up in that box as the crew maneuvered the ship. He began to wonder for the first time if he was going to survive. He could die out there, in this box, before anyone even knew he was there. He could die if they did discover him. Torgin was having a hard time of imagining a scenario where he lived, in fact. He dare not expose himself. He was like a rodent he had once seen, it had been rooted out by a foxcelot that had wandered onto the farm. The thing played dead, sitting stone still for twenty minutes, hoping that foxcelot would lose interest, but it never did. In the end, exhaustion took the rodent and it gave itself away. Torgin didn’t know if he was that rodent but he suddenly understood how it would have felt, all the same. And, like the rodent, exhaustion took him.

Torgin awoke as the chest was jostled by someone on the boat.

“Thyu erärgroughl tot schärroughte dä doughß Farvald!”

The chest rocked again.

“That troughent neighn raulegh. That ait earfllich.”

“Neighn tsiaea.”

The lid of the chest opened and Torgin found himself looking up into the amber eyes of the traveler he’d seen in the tavern, the Brudvir. Without the traveler’s fur cloak, Torgin could see the Brudvir’s face for the first time. He wore that explosion of a beard on his chin and his moustache was parted into braided locks that spilled off the edges of his lips into two small ropes, each capped by another glass bead. He snarled down at Torgin, reaching down to lift him from the chest with one colossal hand.

“Troughß rautr schütr strai oh dä troughßt.” The traveler held Torgin by the straps of his pack, easily holding them in one clenching fist that drew them taught against Torgin’s clothes, locking him in place.

“Thyu vire righl Cenric. Dä schentl vaut eriadd fremstr eloigh.” He hauled Torgin over to the port side of the boat and lifted him over the gunwale.

“Raihea brod gefa thyu tot dä teau.”

From Torgin’s right came the other voice, attached to a slightly smaller version of the traveler, this one with a short-cropped beard of rusty red, “Raihea brod al hyann!” he laughed, and his compatriots laughed and cheered his suggestion. Torgin didn’t know what was said but he knew he didn’t like their reaction to it.

“I don’t suppose you’ll give me a chance to explain?” Torgin raised his eyebrows as he asked. He didn’t even know if they understood Neran. From the look on the traveler’s face, he figured not. They really were a long way from home.

“Easy there friend,” he continued in a soothing tone, “Let’s be reasonable here.” Torgin motioned to the deck.

“Just put me back and let’s figure something out, yeh?”

The tall Brudvir’s eyes narrowed as he considered what to do with Torgin. Finally, he grunted as he lifted Torgin back inside the boat and dropped him to the deck.

“My gratitude, friend.” Torgin looked on, hopeful, “Does that mean we’re reconciled?” He turned to look back to what he expected to be the shore but found that there was no shore visible on the horizon, at all.

“Readauek hey brod jöra neighn al schaidtarrest.” Even as he spoke, the traveler was pulling his pack from Torgin’s back, “Nahr thyu heita fai vi thyovar fauttaute en veig ov achtoughdegh.”

He spilled the contents of Torgin’s pack to the deck: a coil of woven rope, a silk pouch that once held Torgin’s savings, the hooks, and a wheel of cheese. The sum-total of his possessions save for the clothes he wore. The silk was worth a few dozen oxthards and the cheese was pretty good, Torgin thought.

The traveler, the one he’d heard called Farvald, grunted in disappointment. He picked up Torgin’s bag of hooks, opened it expecting treasure and grunted once more when he saw the collection of metal wires, twisted for fishing.

“Raihea thyu vire wroughän Farvald. Derdä schete heita neighn fae brud aerlich eres.” This from a thin To’resk manning the tiller at the stern of the boat, wearing a tight scowl.

“I’m happy to share,” Torgin began offering a tentative smile as he motioned to the cheese wheel, “It’s from the family farm. Try it!” He moved as if to pick up the cheese and Farvald immediately grabbed him by the shoulder and pushed him back to the deck, leaving Torgin on his knees. “Alright, alright, keep it then. Consider it a gift!”

Farvald picked up the rope and advanced on Torgin. Before he could react, the mountain of Brudvir had him lashed to the mast next to that damned chest.

“Thyu strai de daildea en. Strai haieal en thyu mega daiae.” The last he said with narrowed eyes, pointing to his lips and pointing back at Torgin. Torgin got the message; Farvald wasn’t interested in talking. So, Torgin sat, his back against the mast, as the crew set to work sailing. Torgin had no idea where they were but, any time he tried to talk to ask, one of the Brudvir would shout or bark at him until he shut his own mouth. They weren’t interested in getting to know him.

Once Torgin had learned to keep his mouth shut, the boat had fallen into a quiet rhythm. They rode the wind, hauling on the sail whenever they maneuvered or the wind shifted. It went on this way for most of the day. When the coast finally crawled back onto the horizon, the sky was a deep violet. Even though it was still shot through with the light of a sinking sun, the sky was dark enough for Torgin to see lights from a settlement on the coast, twinkling in the shifting, shimmering air. He began to hope that he’d be back on dry land soon, but the To’resk at the tiller cursed, once again wearing a tight scowl as he pointed back off to port.

Torgin turned to look. there was a sail on the horizon, black and yellow with a splash of red at its center. At this distance Torgin couldn’t be sure, but he figured he was looking at the heraldry of the Baroness, the black field bearing the yellow shield with the emblem of a red bird. Torgin had never met the Baroness, but he’d heard of her. The chancellor had awarded her the title, not because of her noble heritage or even her record as a soldier, but because of her efficacy as a pirate in her youth. She was a scourge on the water before the chancellor had turned her to his side. Now, she ruled from her fortress atop a pile of the chancellor’s gold, the life’s ambition of any pirate: a letter of marque in one hand and the keys to the coffers in the other. She was as lethal as ever, but now she was the bane of any would-be pirate in the region. Behind her, on the horizon, dark clouds roiled and flashed purple-blue arcs of lightning.

Still cursing, the To’resk (Torgin had decided his name was Scowl) turned the boat, pivoting the little raiding ship away from the shore. Torgin looked back, curious to see if the Baroness would turn to follow. Almost immediately, the ship on the horizon trimmed sails and turned. It seemed to grow larger even as he watched. It was practically flying towards them, driven by the leading edge of the storm.

“Farvald?” Scowl asked, worriedly.

“Traurn that! Helmfrid deal ot derdä taid. Brod netr tot fae noghyr traistrachttse!” Farvald pointed to another of the Brudvir—Torgin had taken to calling this one Broombeard in his head before Farvald had called him Helmfrid —and motioned to the sail. Broombeard stepped past Torgin and unfurled more of the sail so that it caught the growing wind.

“That heita neighn vera estö Farvald. Thaulle heita oughaerlausea brud heaerör doughän!”

Torgin couldn’t follow the conversation but he understood tone. Broombeard was worried, like the To’resk. Farvald was angry, but Torgin thought he was probably hiding his fear, as well. They hadn’t expected the Baroness any more than they’d expected to find Torgin in their chest.

They spent more than an hour trying to elude the Baroness but, like the growing storm that drove her ship forward atop white-capped waves, there was no avoiding her. Before long, they were close enough that Torgin could see the silhouettes of figures on the deck. Several of them were standing at the prow. They leaned back and seemed to draw their arms across their chest—

“Arrows!” Torgin yelled, ducking down even as he realized what he had seen.

The crew didn’t react, leaving Torgin to wonder if he was going to die lashed to a boat filled with the arrow-riddled corpses of the crew but, as the arrows hissed into the water a few score yards behind the raider, he understood: They were out of range.

“Thaulle jöra neighn hefi brud licheal. Brod netr tot fae ot ve theurre tighl.” Farvald was looking back at the Baroness’ ship as he spoke. He had to raise his voice, the wind was fierce. The storm was catching up.

The To’resk called out, “Herdä strärr heita leß brud aufesl. Brod netr tot fae ougherer dä vaulegh!” Many of the others nodded at the To’resk’s words. Whatever he said, they were all in agreement. All, that is, save Farvald.

Farvald shook his head, “Brod heita neighn bregda that. Derdä schaif heita zauein brud erzti.” He looked back to the storm. It now filled the horizon. Both the raider and the Baroness’ ship were running parallel to the approaching stormfront, heading south along the coast, “Liern brud ante dä vadegh.”

Helmfrid, the one he’d called Broombeard, shouted a curse at whatever it was Farvald had said. He was shaking his head, signaling no as strongly as he could, but Farvald was quick to shout his reply over the wind, “Jor jöra that. Brod ach tratr indayn brod jöra achtlichdaum dentt.”

That got the entire crew shouting at each other, some pointing to shore, others to the storm. Torgin figured they were debating fighting or heading into land and maybe running from there. Torgin hoped they would decide on the shore. Surely, they’d leave him be in their hurry to get free of the Baroness and her soldiers. Instead, the debate settled down and the boat heaved into the wind, heading into the storm at the best possible speed it could muster. Incredibly, the Baroness turned to pursue. She had her prey now, and she was not letting it slip away.

The raider crossed the leading edge of the storm while rain, in warm stinging drops driven like arrows by the gale, washed across the deck. The ship was tiny against the wind-driven waves and it lurched up and over wave after wave as it drove into the depths of the storm. Torgin closed his eyes, bit back rising bile and, for the first time in his life, prayed. He prayed to the virtues. He prayed to the spirits. He even prayed that Oceanus would forgive them their trespass on his seas. No one answered.

The boat turned this way and that, using the waves, trying to lose its pursuer, but the Baroness was relentless. Even as they grabbed favorable wind and shot forward, her ship sat at the edge of their vision, the red and yellow of her sails visible in the growing gloom. As the last rays of the day’s light were lost to the storm and time, Torgin watched their pursuers and fought back the bile rising in his throat. He almost welcomed death. Anything would be better than these waves, this storm and, he looked back behind him, that damned boat – it was then that he realized, it was gone. The Baroness’ cutter was gone.

He shouted in joy, bringing a harsh look from Farvald who once again pointed at his lips and then back at Torgin. Even so, Scowl nodded to him with a smile. They’d done it! They’d slipped the Baroness’ sight. Now they just needed to survive the storm and get free. Torgin might live after all.

Might.

The storm was proving itself as relentless a foe as the Baroness. From his position lashed to the mast, he could see no end to it. From horizon to horizon there was nothing but thick, dark clouds, sheets of rain, and flashes of lightning. The ocean was so loud he couldn’t even tell if there was thunder. It was disorienting and terrifying. He knew they couldn’t be that far from shore; they had not traveled that far in their race with the Baroness, but all he could see was the storm.

Farvald sat at the bow, his face a grim mask as he searched the seas for a sign of the storm’s edge. The rest of the crew sheltered against the gunwales. They had started to shiver and had replaced their cloaks. Water sheeted off the bear-fur. For a moment, as he shivered in the wet and rain, Torgin thought it wouldn’t be so bad to wear another creature’s skin. Whatever elation Torgin felt as they lost sight of the Baroness was replaced by misery. The storm might not be as certain a killer as the Baroness but, as the wind sapped what little warmth he had left, Torgin was less and less sure of that.

The waves were growing taller and the intervals of darkness shorter as more and more lightning filled the sky. The boat crested a wave and dipped nearly vertical as it rode down the back. A silver fork of lightning struck the crest of the next wave, filling the area with light. In that light, Torgin caught sight of something: a dark shape in the water. It was massive; a long, sinuous shadow outlined against the wave. A monster.

As the light faded, Torgin lost sight of the creature. The boat ploughed into the next wave, riding up to its crest. Lighting crashed again, striking the top of the mast with a loud report that had Torgin staring up at the sails in time to watch a widening crack drive its way down the mast towards him.

“The mast!” he yelled, but no one was listening. He tried again, “The mast!” This time, Scowl looked up at his wild motions and saw the crack as it drove through the span holding the sails aloft.

“Farvald! Dä taid!”

Farvald leapt towards the sail’s stays but it was too late. As the mast split apart, it tilted, tearing the stays free on one side and unfurling the last of the sail to flap wildly in the wind. The line lashed through the boat like a whip, taking Scowl at the neck with a sickening snap. He crumpled to the deck, his hand slack on the tiller. The boat began to spin in the trough between waves. Scowl was dead, Torgin realized, and he would soon follow.

He yelled at the traveler, Farvald, “You have to untie me!” Farvald turned to Torgin, his eyes full of irritation even as they widened in fear. Torgin craned his neck to see what Farvald saw and beheld a wall of water, easily 15 meters high. As lightning flashed, Torgin saw the shape in the wave again. It was the last thing he saw before the raider spun in the trough once more and the wave took them broadside. After that, all was water.

The boat tumbled and spun in the water, rolling in the motion of the wave even as the water consumed it and pulled it under. Through salt-stung eyes, Torgin watched as, one by one, the crew of the raider was swept from the boat’s deck into the depths. Lashed to the mast, Torgin had nowhere to go. He held his breath as long as he could, but there was nothing but water and darkness. He was alone, bound to the instrument of his death. As he struggled to keep his last gasp of air in his lungs, the boat turned in the water, upright even if submerged. He could see light above him.

Outlined in that light was the shape of the monster he had seen in the waves. It was a fish. It must be. He only saw it in silhouette and only for a moment before he lost consciousness, but it had broad, bony fins that seemed to jut from it at every angle. It was bigger than the raider. It was bigger than a cutter! His vision dimmed and he slipped into oblivion.

For the second time in two days, Torgin found himself coming awake on the deck of a boat. He blinked salt out of his eyes and struggled to come upright as a lilting voice called out to him.

“Yixaja chaj ererreraja lef.” The voice sounded To’resshian almost. The sounds weren’t quite right. Torgin didn’t know enough of the language to know for sure, but it didn’t sound like Croçais. Not exactly.

“Do you speak Neran?” He asked as he finally cleared his eyes and look around. The boat was gargantuan. A leviathan of neatly polished wood covered in a thick lacquer Torgin had never seen.

“Kessa eñe quoth yendteç?” the voice asked, before switching into something that sounded more like Croçais, the language of the To’resk, “Ve Ou zaçash na ajort llenttesk?” Torgin finally focused on the voice speaking to him. She was darker than your typical To’resk, her skin a color not unlike cream that has been poured into tea. She stood no taller than Torgin himself, making her an unremarkable To’resk in terms of build. No, what set her apart from the To’resk Torgin knew were two things: Her hair cascaded down her back in waves of deep red. It was an unusual color, especially for To’resk. Yet even this couldn’t hold a candle to the woman’s remarkable eyes.

They were round and wide like a Kypiq’s but, where one would expect to find blackness, there was instead scintillating emerald green, as if a gem had trapped the stars of the heaven within its depths. A tattoo in black ink seemed to leap from the corner of her eye. It was a pattern of little starbursts, connected by lines; a constellation of stars in the form of an escortfish, the fish that liked to leap and caper before a running boat, down to her jaw line.

She was like no To’resk he had ever seen, and he was keen to learn more about her, but he held his tongue as he eyed her clothes and the wicked, curved, broad blade she held in one hand.

“Oj yon lieref daj metaja ñe zendn, ererreraja lef .” She gestured out over the deck as she reverted to her own language, pointing to the now-still sea, “Oj yon eryexelle daj eçounfefe.” She pointed the blade at Torgin.

“Theaux troquiseç yon sxa çem eryexelle. Javin. Oj zeer peat mar.” She made a rising motion with her blade, the intent clear to Torgin, who quickly scrambled to his feet.

All around them, Torgin realized, other To’resk – all tanned and brown or red haired as she was – were busy on deck. Some climbed the three masts to unfurl sails, others were running the length of the deck pushing wet stones the size of a large book before them, scrubbing. At one end of the deck, stairs led up to the bow of the ship, where a large foremast projected over the water, held in place by the intertwining tentacles of an exquisite carving of many-armed sea creature that acted as figurehead for the boat, no – the ship.

The woman motioned for Torgin to walk to the stern of the ship, where a large structure, almost like a house, sat perched on the deck. As they approached the structure, she stopped him and opened one of the three doors built into its front, revealing a set of stairs leading down. Before he stepped into the stairwell, he turned to look back at the woman and caught sight of the ships sails for the first time.

They were reticulated into segments, each segment held in place by a beam of wood, like the bone of a fish’s fin. The image of that creature in the waves flashed into his mind and, suddenly, he understood. He was standing on the monster that had seemed to stalk them in the storm. It must have been reflected in the water by the storm’s lightning. Not a fish, but a ship so large that Torgin had been unable to comprehend the sight of it.

The woman, Torgin had decided he’d call her Red for now, prodded him down the steep stairs with the flat of her blade. He held up his hands, palms out and nodded before stepping into the darkness of the broad mid-deck of the ship. The size of the ship was still incomprehensible. The mid-deck didn’t feel cramped in any way, even though a series of columns ran through the length of it at regular intervals, the spaces between were curtained off with richly woven cloth displaying more of the constellation patterns like Red’s tattoo.

She prodded him forward once more, leading him to the back of the ship where a hammock had been strung between columns. It hung over a slatted wooden panel though which Torgin could see black water lapping against rows of carefully placed stones. It was the bilge.

“Oj tseaesh ette. Zey araj son ñe a.” Red pointed with her blade at the hammock and waited for Torgin.

“Right. Right, I get you. Into the hammock I go.” Torgin climbed into the hammock and looked at Red expectantly, “Now what?”

The odd To’resk nodded once and walked back the way she had come, back on deck. As she reached the stairs she called out, “Jatrey tzoar. Mar. Theaux vaejeaja jadesi jatrey taj eçip.”

Torgin looked around the deck. There were no port holes, not that he had anywhere to go. There was nothing he could use as a weapon, just the stench of the bilge, and dozens of interested To’resk all watching him from where they worked or sat. All of them had eyes like Red’s, though in myriad colors. They caught the light oddly; where the Brudvir’s eyes had seem to throw the light back, these To’resk had eyes that somehow bent or turned the light, as if the light moved through two panes of glass or through a crystal. At times, one would catch him looking and would turn away quickly, the light of a lantern reflecting a rainbow explosion of colors within the dome of their eyes in the split second of the motion.

They seemed, perhaps… “humble” wasn’t the right word, but less ostentatious than most of the To’resk Torgin had seen in his short life. They enjoyed beauty, clearly, but it seemed less focused on enhancing their own appearance and instead seemed to celebrate the sea or the world around them. As one stood and approached, his vest fell open revealing a tattoo across his chest, a bird in flight, once more made up of starbursts connected by lines, like the tattoo he had first seen on Red’s face. Perhaps they had special meaning. Torgin pointed at it as the man approached.

“That’s beautiful. What is it? A gull?” The To’resk cocked his head to the side, as if attempting to see Torgin from every angle.

“Oj saym sxa noaxeç?” He pointed to the tattoo on his chest, “Jatenne Oj aympet sxa ereska zaj ñe zendelle?” He then pointed back at Torgin.

“Me? Tattoos? Oh no.” He shook his head, “My people we don’t exactly… It’s not really our way.”

“Da ney Oj sxa toui lenddorrajm.” Torgin couldn’t understand what the man said, but the tone was grave, serious. Not knowing what else to do, Torgin just nodded. That seemed to satisfy the To’resk (he’d decided to call this one Birdy) and, without saying anything else, Birdy returned to his space on the deck.

Torgin laid down in the hammock and considered his next move. They may not have lashed him to the mast the way the raiders had, but he was every bit as much a prisoner. Where could he go? What would they want of him?

As he considered his uncertain future, a reedy tune whistled out of the far side of the mid-deck, near the bow. The melody was sad, breathy, and skillfully played though some sort of wooden flute or recorder. As the tune played it was soon joined by the quiet, doleful voice of Birdy, from his place on the mid deck.

“Queaux yeskteç ça yifeeç xoamelle Jes aoey ,

Igoth dyeerleç son vixeraeç thieç,

Ej jadesi pajafem eroth eçiour son ñe fe,

Katte ñe lear son Deñe erelaja'eç erofe javo mar.

Queaux nopeçipeç ça nopziseç jachuye tsey Jes,

Ça xoamelle Jes daj ñe eriz mar son ñe othem,

Deñe eçee jadesi ieryeyeç zemt çaj Oj,

Yeeshop ñe eremteç Deñe erofe paeeç sar.”

It was beautiful and, somehow, Torgin knew it was sad. It seemed to speak to him of loss, of regret. A wistfulness for what has been left behind. He found himself thinking of home as he drifted off into sleep once more.

When he awoke, it was to a different sort of singing all together. A thunderous chant roared down the stairs from the top deck. The entire crew was singing or chanting in unison. As Torgin sat upright, he blinked salt rime from his eyes and realized he was alone on the mid-deck. It really was the entire crew up there. Deciding it wouldn’t hurt to look, he crept to the top of the stairs and opened the door.

It was a bright, clear, morning. The ship was riding a cold breeze, cutting through small white-capped wavelets across the blue-green water of the sea. Her sails were out—all of them—and Torgin was struck once again by the way the ship looked like it had a fish’s fins and how it leapt through the water. The crew was moving quickly across the deck, moving in cadence with the rhythm of their chant. Every few feet along the rails, teams of the strange To’resk were assembling something on the deck. Comically large crossbows, from the look of it. Based on their size, Torgin thought they could potentially tear through the hull of one of the Tidewater fleet, or even the Baroness’ cutter.

“Oj javin erixale tzat elleae, Ej jator.” At the sound of her voice from above him, Torgin turned to find Red staring down at him from a railing above him. She was standing on what would be the roof of the house-like structure that sat between the stairs on either side of the stern of the ship. She was pointing out along the keel of the ship to the prow. As the ship dipped into the water Torgin could see what she was referring to: Black sails, with a pattern of yellow and red. The Baroness.

“I have nothing to do with that.” He shook his head raising his hands to show his palms, “She’s not with me.” Red smiled at that.

“Ñe nemp heert eçeyeç Ell toa sxa jaçale daj jaxa paj!” She called out, playfully. This brought a laugh from many of the crew, including, Torgin realized, Birdy who was standing midway up the rear mast, on a hinged spar.

The To’resk called down, “Neysaja Ell ziapeç ñe gieu! Voje feet eshyer Ells daj jave!” The crew laughed again, and Red nodded, stepping around the railing to mount a staircase down to the main deck that was cleverly built into the railing to be almost invisible.

She walked up to him and grabbed his hand, pulling him down the deck, “Voje eçaier tzat ñe zendelle! Voje ajah aymp Theñe swith zaj Ell!” She called out, to the approval of the crew. As they approached the rear mast she released her grip and pointed up at Birdy.

“Ell eçeyeç Ell erexa Oj. Eço, Oj eñe La. Ell jadesi fae Oj Theaux moeraja.” She gestured that Torgin should climb the mast and join Birdy. Birdy just looked down and grinned, waiting.

“So, just climb the tree to the grinning madman. Right.” Torgin nodded and approached the mast. Awkwardly at first, but with growing ease, he climbed up to Birdy’s position. It really was as simple as climbing a tree back home. Not nearly the trouble he had feared. They were hard to see from below, but a series of regular notches and well-placed dowels presented Torgin with handholds and footwells wherever he might need one. The ship really was a marvel.

Birdy hauled Torgin up when he was close enough, showing him where to place his feet on the spar, between two massive pulleys that acted as hinge points for the reticulated sails. Hanging from a hook in the spar was a metal pail filled with a yellow grease. Some sort of fat or congealed oil, Torgin guessed. Birdy gestured to the grease, then to the pulleys. Then he waited. Torgin didn’t get it.

With a sigh, Birdy reach into the pail and scooped up several finger’s worth of grime which he showed to Torgin. Then he jammed that grease into the space between the spindle and axle of the nearest pulley, taking his time to work the grease into every crevasse. He looked back at Torgin as if to say, “Get it now?” and Torgin nodded, reaching into the grease for his own handful and applying it to the other pulley. Birdy nodded, tapping Torgin to get his attention. When Torgin looked up, Birdy pointed further up the mast. There were two more spars, meaning four more pulleys. Torgin got the message. When he finished up with the remaining pulley, Birdy wiped his hand on his shirt and pointed at the next spar.

“Onward and upward, yeh?” Torgin asked. Birdy grabbed the pail from its hook and started up the mast, expecting Torgin to follow.

So, for Torgin’s first real day aboard the ship, he learned how to grease the mechanism that controlled the sails. It was quite ingenious; the system would allow just a few men to easily furl and unfurl sails that must weigh thousands of kilos, all thanks to the placement of the pulleys and the linkages of woven cord that ran through them. Properly greased, the weight of those sails would hardly be felt at all.

He stopped at the highest spar to admire the ship once more. She was a monster, but she was all about elegant curves and sharp edges, a combination that seemed to evoke a sense of motion even if she was becalmed. It was as if, where other boats had to cut through the water, the water flowed around her. He looked out at the Baroness’ cutter, only remembering their pursuit at that moment. That cutter was the fastest boat Torgin had known about until now, and could barely keep up the chase, let alone match this ship’s speed. So far, the Baroness had managed to stay in the chase only by cleverly using the shift of the wind to cut the corners when she could, closing the distance between the two vessels despite their speeds.

As it became clear to Torgin that the Baroness would probably give up before this chase was done, Torgin began to worry for his future. They hadn’t hurt him, yet. And he certainly wasn’t dead, but he didn’t understand these people, or what they wanted. Was he their slave? What were their plans for him?

“Oj eñe yoñuisale ñe eçinaja quale Ej in Ej jator.” Birdy said, pressing a hand on Torgin’s shoulder, “Oj yoñuisale kessa eeç sutche topaja pajazer. Xaj Oj. Xaj ñej feesh.” He pointed to the Baroness’ cutter, then shook his hand as if flinging something from it.

“Ej in queskxale ñe xieshraip paeeç sxa uquis ererreraja lef. Oj eñe e ujez zaj ñe rieraja.” He took his hand from Torgin’s shoulder and shrugged, his palms wide, “We Ej hoeshaja ñe rieraja xeaçe Oj. Ej jafree ñe lajaeryetaja daj e zendelle tisse.”

Torgin nodded, “Maybe you’ll throw me overboard, maybe not. Fantastic.”

Birdy turned and began to climb back down to the deck, not waiting for Torgin to follow. As they got closer to the deck, Torgin could smell something on a cook fire. It was a sharp odor, not offensive but astringent. Later, at mealtime, he would discover its source: Sea grass. They crew seemed to eat a thick broth made from several varieties of sea grass that Torgin had never seen before. The broth was surprisingly good, with a flavor that was at once reminiscent of the ocean and of warm hearth fires and baked bread at the same time.

As the crew settled down for the night, a skeleton crew remained on deck while the rest went below deck, including Torgin who was escorted back to his hammock. The songs begin just minutes later. Torgin couldn’t be certain but, over the course of the night, every song seemed different. Many were sad, reminding him again of loss or regret, but others were joyful, or playful, or powerful. Many were short—a single verse or two—but others were long, epic things. Torgin could sense the rhythm of a story in everyone, though he was no closer to dissecting their language now than he had been when he first woke aboard ship. These To’resk and their ship were mysteries. Mysteries that Torgin was certain he would never truly understand.

The second day of his life aboard the ship was like the first for most of it. Near the end of the day, however, Birdy took Torgin to the prow of the ship and, from a pocket, drew Torgin’s silk bag of hooks.

“My hooks!” he said excitedly, pointing at the bag.

“H-hooks?” Birdy said, as he opened the bag and revealed the hooks within.

Torgin nodded, mimicking casting a line into the water, “For fishing!”

Birdy picked up one of the hooks and looked at it closely. It was one of the more complex hooks in Torgin’s collection, a long-gnarled shape with a single barb at the end. It was meant for catching river-mouth, they would thread the hook through their gills when they thrashed on the line, setting the hook further and making escape impossible.

“Hooks?” he said again pointing at the hook.

“That’s a single hook. Hook.” Torgin said pointing at it.

Birdy nodded, “Hook,” he said, before turning the hook in his hand and raising it to his ear, pushing the barb through a hole that had already been pierced into the lobe. He spent a moment threading the hook through the hole so that it was set, hanging from the U-bend. He pointed at it with a grin.

“Quemx Oj tzat ñe delr, vuouiñu.” Birdy closed the bag of hooks and handed it back to Torgin, then reached into his vest and pulled a single item from a concealed pocket. He opened his hand to reveal the object: a lustrous black pearl, its surface nearly opalescent in the afternoon light. It was held in a setting against a post of gold, bent into a U just like a fish hook.

“Hook,” Birdy said, indicating Torgin’s ear. Before Torgin could reply Birdy leaned forward, the pearl in his hand, and grabbed at Torgin’s ear. With a strong press, he pierced the flesh of Torgin’s earlobe and ran the pearl through so that, like Torgin’s hook in Birdy’s ear, the pearl now sat dangling in his earlobe from its U-bend.

“Ow!” Torgin cried, pressing a hand against his ear. “What was that for?!”

Birdy just laughed. “Hook!” he said.

It had stopped bleeding by meal time, and it even stopped hurting by the next day. Life at sea was starting to grow on Torgin. He didn’t see these people as captors, exactly. It was frustrating that they couldn’t communicate, but he was beginning to think he understood them. They were, in some way, a family. Everyone on the ship engaged in the common purpose of keeping her running. Red seemed to be the captain. Or, at least, she seemed to steer the course since decisions appeared to be made collaboratively. Every night, over the last meal, they seemed to discuss plans. Maybe that was why they didn’t seem to fear the Baroness who, even now, was still a persistent dot on the horizon.

The Baroness would follow them for three more days before the crew of the ship decided to do anything. That morning Red took Torgin aside, bringing him up to the highest deck of the ship, above the house at the stern (which he had come to learn were Red’s quarters), where he could clearly see the Baroness’ cutter on the horizon. She was now joined by two other ships, also bearing her sails.

“Haje eñe Theaux doum,” she began, waving off any attempt for him to protest, “Ej xempor erajat Jo daj Deñe honaja ererreraja lef. Eço, kessa in Ej daj javo?”

She looked at him expectantly, but he didn’t know what she was asking.

“Voje jator Voje eñe peatale daj jabe Oj daj Jo. Oj jadesi sxa jaxa yeñeeer Voje javo.” She looked troubled as she gazed at their pursuers.

“Ej hit hoeshet ñe zendelle jade xeaesh Oj xaj yeeç, Ej yemret daj eraymp ne son Theaux eshajaoswaja, we Theaux eshiqu rounpeç aoey thaj Theñe.”

There was a wistful note in her voice. It was sad, like one of their songs. She flicked the pearl hanging from his ear.

“Voje jadesi majarounp Oj.” With that she motioned for Birdy, who joined Torgin and took him below to his hammock indicating he should gather his things.

“What’s going on?” Torgin asked Birdy.

Birdy shook his head and a motion with his hand as if letting go or dropping something. Torgin wasn’t sure he liked that. He liked it even less when he heard the shouted chants of the deck crew change and felt the ship’s deck lean beneath his feat as it turned in the wind. They were coming about. Heading for the Baroness instead of away.

The ship came about quickly for her size, facing off against the small fleet of the Baroness in a head-to-head dash. When Birdy was certain that Torgin had his things, he led him back up to the deck and put him to work. Together they worked the lines of the rear mast, putting the pulleys they had greased to work every time Red called out an order to the crew. The strange sails collapsed and expanded quickly, allowing the team to position against the wind far more quickly than Torgin would expect. This meant agility, and that agility was confusing the three cutters and confounding their ability to predict where she’d be in the water. As they closed the distance, they had twice managed to steal the wind from the sails of the Baroness by manipulating her other ships into place behind her. When they came into range, the three ships were in a tight ball that meant that only the archers of the Baroness’ own boat could fire. Meanwhile, four ballistae had been peened to the starboard side of deck in the time Torgin had spent aboard and they had a clear unobstructed line of sight to all three ships.

“Ain tzat ñe eçaiereç!” Red called out, raising her arm above her head. The crew at each ballista leveled their weapons and sighted into the ships of the Baroness. They released the trigger locks and waited.

“Laaja ñe sae ereska!” At her command, each of the ballista gave a mighty thwack as the released bowstring hurled two-meter long javelins across the space between vessels. Torgin thought they had missed, aiming too high, when all four ripped into the black sails of the cutters. The broad heads of the missiles tore long rents in the sails as they passed through, cutting the wind right out of each boat.

“Eshendssetaja majatelle! Rounp!” Birdy pushed at Torgin with his shoulder, hauling on his line and indicating Torgin should follow suit. They hauled hard on the lines, shifting the sails and standing vertical against the rope even as the ship hauled over to port, digging into the water as the ship came about to bring her portside ballista to bear. Torgin grunted and strained, trying his best to hold the sail in place as the wind and the forces of their movement conspired to rip the line from his hands.

Red shouted, “Tsix eçaiereç! Laaja!” and Birdy eased his grip from the line, letting it go slack. Torgin followed suit, releasing his grip slowly as the force of the wind in the sail abated. The ballista twanged in chorus on the portside, aiming high again and devastating what remained of the sails of the cutter fleet. But, they had closed the distance now and the cutters let fly; the space between the ships darkened with arrows as they hissed amidst the vessels. The arrows rained down on the deck, forcing the crew to shelter against the rails or huddle against the mast to avoid being struck. Even so, more than one scream punctuated the ship, marking where someone was unable to find the shelter they required.

The crew immediately raced back into position, taking up line, reloading weapons, and, where necessary, dragging the injured from the deck. At least no one had died, Torgin noted. Birdy looked up at Red, who gave a single nod, before shouting to the crew.

“Rette eçaier daj ñe yeskt!” She looked down at Torgin once more and made a motion with her hand, balling it into a fist as she brought it to her chest.

“Ney Oj leskt Theaux swith zaj ñe zendelle heert son nemp.”

Birdy spun Torgin around and grabbed him at the shoulder with one hand while shoving something into Torgin’s hand, “Hooks” he said.

Torgin looked down and realized it was his bag of hooks. It jangled metal on metal as he turned it in his hand. Distracted by the bag, he was unprepared when Birdy picked him up and threw him over the rail into the water below.

Torgin couldn’t swim. He had never learned how. Even as he learned to fish from his uncle he had never taken the time for swimming. As he thrashed in the water, he cursed his laziness now. He came sputtering to the surface, catching a quick glimpse of the strange ship he spent his last few days aboard as it picked up speed, all its sails open to the wind. They couldn’t turn around for him if they wanted to which, Torgin thought, seemed unlikely given his current circumstances.

He kicked and struggled as he went under again, surfacing once more, then again, each time the ship growing smaller in his view. As fatigue overtook him, he knew he was losing his fight with the sea. Third time’s the charm, he thought. His vision dimmed and narrowed as he struck for the surface one last, desperate time.

He nearly struck his head as he broke the surface next to the hull of the Baroness’ cutter. His explosive emergence from the water drew the attention of the archers on deck who called out. He managed to keep himself on the surface as they lowered a line to him and dragged him aboard. He coughed water onto the deck, noting how simple and homespun it now seemed in comparison to the ship he had last been aboard. Around him, several of the crew had thrown back gray cloaks and drawn short broad-bladed swords from scabbards hanging from simple leather belts. They made no move to advance, and instead watched him carefully, swords at the ready.

“Easy now,” he said, “I’m on your side!” He raised his hands, palms exposed, and stood, “I’m a citizen, out of Tidewater!”

One of the crew, who wore a cloak with a red stripe sewn into the shoulder, stepped forward and grabbed him by the wrist, locking it behind his back before grabbing the other and securing the two with rope and a complicated knot, its ends imperceptible to his Torgin’s bound fingers.

“That remains to be seen,” she said, “but, for now, the Baroness would like a word.” She pushed him toward the aft of the cutter’s tiny deck (tiny, for it was barely a third the size of the fin-sailed ship) and down into the hold. There the hold had been converted into two spaces, a walled-off office at the stern and open space along the bow that acted as a barracks and armory for the compliment of archers. Torgin was ushered inside the office.

It was clearly the space of a noble, or of someone’s impression of what a noble’s space must be. In truth, it was so opulently appointed it was approaching gaudy. The space was cramped; most of it occupied by a table with two ornately carved chairs, one on either side. Along the starboard wall was a series of cabinets including a thin armoire that, from the looks of it, folded down to form a cot or bed of some sort. Two oil lanterns illuminated the room, one hanging from a beam in the ceiling, the other sitting on the table.

Torgin was pressed to sit in the chair before him even as the woman sitting across from him in the other chair stood up, smirking. His legs dangled from the seat.

“Looks like we caught ourselves a pirate after all.” She smiled, but it was a cold thing. A dead thing. Her eyes glinted with malice.

Torgin grunted as his escort lashed him to the chair, preventing any chance at escape.

“You’ve been shadowing the ducal coastline for days now, no doubt deciding where you were going to attack in that ship of yours.” She practically growled as she spoke. She scared Torgin more than the Brudvir had.

“They threw you overboard. I saw it myself. It must hurt to be cast off like that.” She sat down. “Why don’t you tell me where I can find your To’resk friends, I’ll help you get your revenge…” The Baroness leaned back as she waited for his answer.

“Well,” Torgin began slowly, “I don’t think ‘friends’ is the right word, and I don’t rightly know they were To’resk, not for sure. They were a little odd. Something in the eyes, maybe?”

Discuss

Log in to post
zimmah - 2 weeks ago

Really surprising that kypiq fish

Klaatuu - 2 weeks ago

Bah!! I've been using the name Torgin for dwarves for years. Now I'll look like a copy cat! 8(

Glosterian - 3 weeks ago

Excellent scene-setting and a very engaging read indeed. I'm also hooked. Awaiting the TV series that [in maybe a decade?*] will eventually be released due to huge demand . . .

[*But ideally quicker - I'm already old IRL!]

Lethality - 3 weeks ago

Finally had a chance to finish it all... great work Snipe! It painted such a visual in my mind's eye... and I can't help but think there are some gameplay hints laced throughout :)

Can't wait for Part 2!

Noslim - 3 weeks ago

Wouldn't expect anything less.

Varhukan - 3 weeks ago

Very good read

hlenzen - 3 weeks ago

Hook! :)

Jedzea - 3 weeks ago

Wonderful story! It HOOKED me! And people ask me why I want to play this game?! BAH! It is just for tales like this and what "destiny" might happen along our travels!

Nightfinger - 3 weeks ago

I was sure Birdy was going to launch Torgin. Great story

“As lightening flashed, Torgin saw the shape in the wave again.” Typohunter

👍

Sharielane - 3 weeks ago

Ah. So Torgin's uncle is like Bilbo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings. An unconventional Kypiq perceived to be a bad influence on the youth by most of the rest of the curmudgeony "shire".

Snipehunter - 3 weeks ago

Torgin's a bit of a rebel. Though he still has many of the same opinions about things as his family, he's Faithless like his uncle. It's an aspect of his father's disappointment in him.

Most Kypiq don't fish. They're far more likely to use "hooks" the way Torgin did on the raider's sea chest.

Hope that helps! :)

Axalion - 3 weeks ago

This was awesome! I want to play Mydarri even more now!

MusaKn - 3 weeks ago

Two things on this.

"Den Nou tsinnendesk rajosh Ou ato?"

Translates from Crocias to

"Have your parents lost you then, little boy?"

And

Coin currency confimed then? Torgin mentions copper oxthards. So coin money confirmed now im assuming the specifics and terms for maybe kingdom specific but generally gold is gold anywhere you go hopefully. Im glad cuz the barter system only works in small regional trade not kingdom wide or continent wide trade.

Axalion - 3 weeks ago
@MusaKn:

Wasn't it cooper?

MusaKn - 3 weeks ago

I ship Torgin and Birdy. Hook for life!<3

Poldano - 3 weeks ago

Good story, plus some surprising lore reveals, it seems.

Most surprisingly, Kypiqs fish.

Kypiqs also farm, which is not surprising, but the details of how they farm is not clear.

At least one Mydarri ship frequents the coastal waters of the starting continent. Is it from another continent, or is it from a colony on an island of the starting continent? The vessel's superior technology and possibly ocean-going size hints that it is an exploratory vessel from another continent. This in turn hints that the Mydarri are going to discover us, and not the other way around. There are other interpretations, but the size and technology are evidence against its origin in a lost colony.

Sharielane - 3 weeks ago
@Poldano:

Posted By MusaKn at 12:26 PM - Thu Jun 21 2018

Two things on this.

"Den Nou tsinnendesk rajosh Ou ato?"

Translates from Crocias to

"Have your parents lost you then, little boy?"

Oh, good catch.

Coin currency confimed then? Torgin mentions copper oxthards. So coin money confirmed now im assuming the specifics and terms for maybe kingdom specific but generally gold is gold anywhere you go hopefully. Im glad cuz the barter system only works in small regional trade not kingdom wide or continent wide trade.

Not confirmed. In a game where the currency is to be set up by the players it makes sense for them to use a de facto currency simply for use in their own stories such as this. Think of it as an alternate server/timeline.

Posted By Poldano at 11:53 AM - Thu Jun 21 2018

At least one Mydarri ship frequents the coastal waters of the starting continent. Is it from another continent, or is it from a colony on an island of the starting continent? The vessel's superior technology and possibly ocean-going size hints that it is an exploratory vessel from another continent. This in turn hints that the Mydarri are going to discover us, and not the other way around. There are other interpretations, but the size and technology are evidence against its origin in a lost colony.

It has already been hinted that the Myrdarri may well beat us in developing the technology that enable cross oceanic travel and find us before we find them. This story is obviously part of a version of Elyria where indeed that did take place. That's not to say that they'll definitely will though, it is just one possibility.

I would not read into the story thinking it implies that there is already Myrdarri somewhere just off the coast at Expo and/or Launch. Rather this is but an example of what could take place as the story unfolds depending on the direction it's players take it on a given server. As I mentioned in regards to currency above. It's an alternate history.

Most surprisingly, Kypiqs fish.

Yeah. I found that the most surprising of all. I wonder if they handle fish protein differently to mammalian or even reptilian protein.

Protey - 3 weeks ago

You can't fool me, that pic of water is from here: Oceanus and Terra

Just giving you a hard time Snipe! =P

Loved the story.

CaptainSeli - 3 weeks ago

This story made my month. So good! I loved it!

Idioticmaddog - 3 weeks ago

Hmmm... the Mydarri. Hopefully we'll get to them shortly after launch.

SirApetus - 3 weeks ago

Very good read!

Taradyn - 3 weeks ago

This is amazeballs. Moar please!

Drednir - 3 weeks ago

Impressive writing...

Starfire - 3 weeks ago

Awesome, more to read! :D

West - 3 weeks ago

Wow

JohnnyViscerate - 3 weeks ago

YYYARRR!