This was a great entry!
This short story is an entry into the Dangers on the High Seas Lore Contest.
Coldbone's Crew - Preamble
While it is my intention for all parts I write to be submitted at once, it is my intention to have a few missing in the library or misplaced in other locals, so part of reading the whole section is finding them all.
Coldbone's Crew is a set of memoirs from a very real sailor, however the originals are relics long lost. What are normally found nowadays are recreations by scribes, so while many details are accurate, some embellishments may have been made between writings.
The 'Current Crew Count' which crops up would ideally be in a different pen as if someone else was taking notes, or could be that the original had those as notes and the scribe transcribed them as well. Notes in the corners would give it the right flair in my opinion.
This will be broken up into parts in game, however for submission purposes it has all been included as one (mostly) part. These 'Parts' would be separate journals/books for several reasons. First it gives the story a way to break up sections, much like a chapter. Second, by leaving missing sections we could encourage other writers to come up with their own stories (and as mentioned since they aren't originals its hard to say how much truth there is). Third, -omitted from submission-
Also I tried to use job titles or races as designators. If anyone would like the ability to add in names, especially family names, I would have no objections other then that they either modify the crew roster appropriately or fall in with those descriptors.
It should also be noted that, while this is included in the submission, it is not being counted for the word count. I am however including Part 0, effectively a crew glossary.
Coldbone's Crew - Part 0
As a scribe, putting these stories to pen, I found it enormously helpful to write down names and descriptors to follow major players in the story. These descriptions are from the author's perspective and so their basis may come through. While this list is not extensive, and should further documents arise I would suggest future scribes to keep a similar list as up to date as possible.
Cordic Coldbone – Male, Captain of this vessel, little description available. note unsure if the Coldbone name is a family, vessel, or nickname.
Dras – Female, seems to put stock in rituals and omens, though none are directly mentioned, but she has a sharp wit, likely seen as a solid advisor or confident
Helmsman – Male, Neran. Not much special from what I can tell, keeps to himself, does his job, and has had a few practice runs with the ship prior to going out to deep sea.
Pleszarn – Unsure of his assigned role but a reasonable skilled story teller. scribbled in margins: Quickly starts favoring fanciful tales
Navigator – Female Brudvir who actually favors guiding by the stars at night. Can't shake the feeling she prefers the stars purely over the cool night air.
Muscle Trio – Three Janoa men. Muscular, headstrong, and troublemakers. They stand a bit taller then myself, naturally tatoo'd for some reason. I'd rather they not be a part of the voyage but concern on physical dangers in new lands brought them along anyways.
Couple – A Brudvir married couple. Our resident fixers, the woman doesn't talk much and the two of them quickly get focused on a task blocking out all else. They have already had some practice patching up our smaller boats.
Scribbled in: Below are additions throughout the voyage, some lucky to be alive.
Kypiq – Male, Real rabble rouser but ended up fitting into the crew. Definitely a hot head, but now that i know he's not going to gut me with his fingernails, good to have watching my back. Seems to favor the other Kypiq, gave her small amounts of his rations but he pulled his weight so the crew never made an issue of it.
Kypiq – Female, Savage and yet haughty at the same time. Never got close to the crew, mostly she would be staying in the hold and eventually takes over some modest food production.
Welcome reader, sit for a spell and listen to this washed up ol' corsair's tale. Corsair you might ask? Aye, a scurvy sea dog, a man of the sea, and in this day and age, a right fool. Our ships are too small, our provisions too small, and yet the sea called to us all the same. We set sail for unknown lands, mind boggling treasure, and mythological creatures. I was a lowly private following orders of the then famed Cordic Coldbone. Back then the crown was enamored with what the riches the sea could hold and so they sent out their most loyal, disciplined soldier as the captain of the largest ship that anyone had seen built. Each of the three masts as large as a tree, the belly the size of a conservative noble's courtyard, and a contingent of thirty three able bodied men and woman.
Current Crew Count - 33
When our journey first started spirits were high. Most everyone thought we would all have riches to rival the crown all for little more then riding along. The Janoa muscle heads wanted to hunt new exotic monsters to prove themselves. The Brudvir couple wanted to challenge their skills of ship repair, and Cordic. Well Cordic was just doing as the crown told him, an embodiment of loyalty.
As we sailed, and time dragged on, our time started to lose all meaning. After the first month, we stopped counting days by the calendar, as our eyes focused more and more on the dwindling supplies below deck. Enough days were passing, morale was low, so Cordic changed how we looked at the days. See, we stopped caring about the sun and the moon, we had to work shifts anyways, so what mattered was dinner. And we saw multiple suns before each of them. We started calling them Dinner Days and the crew seemed a bit more accepting when out at sea for three dinner days, compared to what might have been over a week. Even so, it was a minor trick of the mind and it didn't help everyone.
Several of us started to complain of tiredness and aches but there was nothing to do, no healer would sign on to go out into unknown sicknesses where supplies may likely not exist. Those that were sluggish in their duties, showing obvious signs of sickness, or some would say, possible usurpers, were added to a list. Multiple people had to make complaints for your name to show up and we kept notes for those that were repeat offenders. Thankfully a Dras that signed on, knew enough to at least tend to the ills and insist we bring plenty of rum. She had been real popular with that suggestion, though most didn't realize or care why. She had been mentioning trying to fish for some time, but no one had any luck out here in the deep sea. It was stressed we needed to keep trying and persevere to get another source of food.
Dinner days came and went, but as we noticed our portions get smaller some tried to claim the capt was hording the food for himself, since he never seemed ill or fatigued. So the capt would always get his food and eat right on the deck for all to see. He was eating a third less then the rest of us. First the malcontents figured a hidden stash in his quarters, but when one was rash enough to barge in and toss the place, we found he had nothing. Capt had no patience for such an outburst, and so tossed him overboard. He said if we had a problem to talk it out, whether it was with him or anyone else, parley was first, either in private or public.
Our supplies were running low, and with no end in sight Cordic started making the hard calls. From the list we started by randomly drawing lots from those on the list. We executed six people that day. No one liked it, but everyone agreed it was as fair as we could afford to be.
Scribe's Note This entry seems very grounded and reasonable, if a bit lax in details. This series looks to be of promise to progressing our understanding of the unknown.
Current Crew Count – 26
Several of our people were starting to tell stories. Most didn't make sense, some had a ring of truth, but the scariest were the ones that were both. They were repeatedly told, expanded on, with personal additions that made things worse. A daemon who had risen from the depths, slayed a crew member and replaced them. The daemon didn't eat food, but fed on decay. His touch would start rotting food and even rum wasn't safe. This story horrified the crew, and started up around the time our food rot was getting worse. Dried foodstuffs last long compared to an army march, but even armies normally get supply lines. We were out far longer, and supply lines were never going to happen. But among all the extra rot and despair we had a moment of luck, we had meat again! Several fell overboard and sunk into the depths trying to hang from a rope and spear fish, but their sacrifice worked. The crew's spirits rose as we had two dinner days before a second moon rose.
Those that complained of tiredness and aches started to get worse. Fear of the list was still on everyone's minds but even without saying anything, we could see they were struggling, both to prevent being noticed, and to prevent being a burden. We had another haul of fish just when one succumbed, bleeding from their skin in a terrifying way. The meal filled our stomaches but our minds were too shaken to enjoy it.
Current Crew Count – 20
Scribe's Note Bleeding from malnutrition? I may not be in the field of medicine but I am learned enough that you don't spontaneous bleed because someone stole your sweet roll. I'm hesitantly hopeful that this starts citing more detail or useful information.
Our rum, one of the few things we had plenty of to start was running low. A few headstrong, at least comparatively at this point, thought sea water would suffice and had been drinking it instead. It was around this time that the Dras revealed to everyone the reason for the rum. Alcohol would make it a safe drink, sea water while non-toxic wasn't healthy in large amounts especially with lack of food, and normal, still water tends to go bad fairly quickly. A few got upset at this sudden revelation and were moaning about how could the Dras not say something sooner.
You know what she said? You all were on board with the rum so I thought you knew. The conversation just shut down after that. We all were thinking how different we all were, that nothing should be taken for granted and assumptions could, and did, cost lives.
Current Crew Count – 18
Scribe's Note Yes, finally it seems some logic is prevailing, I look forward to the next installment where we shall see more of this style of warnings and experiential documentation!
In desperation several crew members started turning to their different faiths for answers. And I don't mean in private as it was before. Some were doom sayers saying we were sinners who were being punished by one god or another. Others claimed this was a test for the worthy to pass and be recognized. One odd bloke claimed it was all some guys dreamed up delusion of what should pass as a ship born tale. Regardless, our ship had pulled multiple races and religions and we were seeing the downside of cooperation. With the chips down, people were ignoring the parley rule and going at each other's throats constantly. Several times the muscle headed Janoa were at the center of a fist fight.
Things died down on the first night there were casualties, three died immediately and as a result, we all agreed that the two responsible should be beaten as well. Afterwards they succumbed to the injuries we inflicted, but at least the fighting finally stopped. I think that's the only reason the capt never stepped in, he knew we had to sort it out ourselves or it'd just postpone the event.
Current Crew Count – 15
Scribe's Note Desperation brings out faith, multiple faiths causing problems in close proximity, nothing really new here.
Land. That thing which we had started to regard as a myth or a dream finally appeared on the horizon. We immediately changed heading to reach it as fast as we could. While it was some distance out, maybe three dinner days, morale soared as we finally had hope to go with our most recent catch of fish. After two dinner days hope waned, it seemed just as far away. Some wondered if it was a mirage or trick of the mind, and yet everyone even Cordic confirmed they all saw it. Before the next dinner day, we were ready to gut our navigator and helmsman both. They turned away from it! But parley won the day this time and finally the oddity dawned on us at night. With the starry sky we could measure its relation to the sky. The island turned away. The next dinner day, we were close enough to find out how. We had found our unknown lands and mythological creature all in one. This island was the size of the capital from our lands covered in a dense forest canopy. Below the waves we saw a long white creature, periodically large geysers of water shot from six points on its side.
When we finally got close enough to board the creature, we found out the shoreline had worn away any dirt nearby and was in fact the creature's shell. Cordic created a three plantoons, one for the ship, one to inspect the geysers, and one to explore deeper. Eight of us advanced into the woods to see what resources we could find. Before we had taken even a dozen paces we heard them; creatures of the sea moaning and clicking in the trees. We glanced at one another, confused and afraid but resolute in our new opportunity. The truth, upon putting it to pen may sound silly or undaunting, but even so it is still the truth. Kypiqs. Water, Sea, Feral, whatever word you feel the need to add so as they are not confused with their comparatively undaunting cousins. They attacked, so quickly so ferociously, had we not been on the verge of desperation, I imagine every last one of us would have been killed. As it were our eight become three, but the capt made sure we kept em busy long enough to get some provisions loaded into the boat.
The team at the geysers, led by the Dras made an important discovery. The geysers somehow were expelling not only clean fresh water, but there were already tools in the area to collect it. They spent their time getting our empty barrels filled with the new water and stored on the ship.
Scribe's Note I scarcely can imagine this is the same writer. Or else he must have lost his mind. Kypiq warriors I can see, especially if taken by surprise. But moving islands? Clean water blow holes? This is getting further and further from grounded reality.
Current Crew Count – 10
Kypiqs, were not done with us yet. Frenzied at some perceived slight, they jumped us once more as we gathered the last of the supplies and the fighting began. Our steel sang and found its mark more then once. But the resilient monsters had speed and sharp claws that dug into our flesh, again and again. Capt made the call, stall the invaders and finish loading the cargo. We fought tooth and nail, and they fought back with tooth and nail. But their surprise was gone, we were defending in the open and our weapons gave us better reach then their claws. Everyone managed to get on board without any casualties and we set sail. Stubborn as they were vicious, at least a dozen tried to climb on board we knocked three off, killed another two and knocked two out. Question was what do we do with captives when, even with our new supplies, we were far from flush. Killing them just with how many of our boys that died. Letting them ride along as freeloaders seemed a waste of supplies but giving them any sort of freedom would be inviting at best a few claw marks. With no one agreeing to any one option we decided to throw them in a cargo hold, a glorified barrel room nowadays, until later.
Current Crew Count – 10 Stowaways - 2 Scribe's Note Kypiq warriors I can swallow, no that's not a 'eating a kypiq joke,' but ferious unarmed biting Kypiqs is where I would draw the line. And yet I keep copying this down, some how entranced. I think I may have gone insane instead. Perhaps its best if I keep my thoughts to myself, or pass off the task to another scribe instead.
With the renewed supplies the stories took more of a lighter tone. One such soul came up with the whole reason for why the capt was so quiet. Good ol' Pleszarn, would talk for days about the smallest detail and yet keep ya engaged all the while. We actually found a copy of the story he had written down, seems he practiced the wording a few times to make sure he was satisfied.
Cordic was a terrifying force for his enemies on the battlefield. Not just for his skill in battle, but in his leadership of troops. It is said that in the heat of battle, he would yell at his men to stand strong and bring victory for their cause. And even the dead would obey his call to arms. But this story is not one of war but of a fall from grace and rise of redemption.
It was the middle of winter, snow was piling up in the lands and food was scarce. Scarce enough that bandits had just attacked and failed at stealing supplies from the small settlement. Failure to help themselves but success at harming everyone involved. Little injuries here and there on both sides, but a mother with child took a blow to the head and the settlement was too small for a healer to reside. Cordic took her in his arms and carried her to a hermit in the hills who was enough of an oddity to be thought some sort of healer. While agreeing to help and see what could be done, Cordic saw signs of several injured people already there, the bandits themselves had also come for help. The hermit, an old crone, wanted to keep things peaceful but weapons had already been drawn. An uninjured, if a bit tired, Cordic was out numbered by four wounded bandits. His error however was in not seeing the fourth who struck him from behind stabbing at his vitals, and finding their mark. Before falling, he managed to finish off two of the bandits but the other two sneered and said they'd make sure to finish the soon to be mother too. So Cordic did what he had to, something he'd never done before, and commanded himself to rise again. But the brute who rose had no mercy or honor. The first bandit found his skull crushed in an instant by bare fist, the second slammed into a wall cracking his spine. The mother walked in to see this sight and fainted from the gore on the walls and floor. Cordic could scarcely say a word, could barely reason, but remembered why he had stood up. She needed help. But how to help her? He could not remember, forgetting utterly the hermit who had curled up when the fighting began. Cordic uttered the word help as a bellow, as if a question to remind him of the process. The hermit shaking and sobbing, pleaded with him, saying she would help and he could leave. The noise, it was too much and he fled into the snowy wilderness. No one saw him for 18 days, but eventually the quite brute came back to the crown, ready again to serve, but never again to talk.
This ended with a polite smattering of applause and a few chuckles but Plezarn didn't seem too satisfied. With a sad smile he went off to his quarters, most of us having our own private section at this point. Perhaps he will have a new version someday that impresses the crew.
Current Crew Count – 11 Stowaways - 1
It seems our new kypiq crew have been busy, in a number of ways. Our honorary crew member has been giving sightings and rough water warnings to our navigator and helmsman based on their strange tortale journeys. Tortale is apparently the name they use for the large beast they have been living on for generations, not sure if the name will become common place once their existence is confirmed.
Our resident stowaway has been more successful and useful then most of the crew in a long time. Apparently one of the moss like plants we collected is some kind of super food. Not only does it give a lot of nutrients, its easy to grow even out at sea and the turn around time gives most of the crew a renewable food. Not everyone's completely favorable with the mostly green diet but compared to what we have been through criticizing isn't going to be voiced by anyone left. With this contribution, even the staunchest detractors all gladly accepted the former stowaway as one of the crew.
With full bellies, good stories, spirits are high, all until they soar at the sight of new land once more. This time, as we approach it becomes evident that its not an island, moving or not. This new land stretches out as far as the eye can see. As we approach the sand filled beach several of the crew point out the canopy behind seems sparse. And sure enough after a thin line, almost a barrier marking the beach, is more sand. Its something no one here has ever seen. Its clear that a foray into this unknown terrain would be a foolhardy task, and while the crew is in good spirits and would like to push on, everyone agrees its best to take things safe. After a full day to make sure no hostiles are going to ambush us, at which point a few crew members glance at our Kypiq friend, Cordic is going to take three volunteers to scout the beach and the sparse trees, while the rest take care of the new moss crop on ship and set up for some much needed ship repairs. The couple have been doing wonders for how long we've been at sea, but so many things need to be handled without currently setting sail. After some time passes, we see a bit of movement, but they seem to be small animals. Too small to warrant learning new dangers to gain a minor food source, or starting up a long winded discussion from the Kypiq beliefs on souls and the like. While possible they look at things differently, the last time it came up I had my ear talked off for two days. Yes, in the tavern, I passed out from drink, and when I came too the little bugger was still going on and on.
Current Crew Count – 12
Cordic came back with news of people, friendly ones even. They had the same build as a Waerd but their each had their own flourish of cloth and jewlery. They were confident in their abilities to survive in this desert land and in the protection it gave against outsiders. We were told of how their entire settlement would pick up and move to another location of water to ensure they never fully depleted any one location. Life was sparse and hunting wasn't easy but few animals were around to challenge survival directly. In exchange for information given, we too shared knowledge of our home. We told them of the different kinds of Mann in our land and they were shocked at the number, diversity is not something they normally see.
Most other Mann on this land seem very similar to one another. Apparently the Waerd do exist here, though it seems to be some sort of sore spot of conversation. Janoa live in the moister locals but little conflict is seen due to the extreme weather difference. And the Dras have small swamps where they are crowding in. They are the most likely to trade and venture out, thanks to teaching of how to shelter their sensitive skin to the sun, but still keep to the edges of the desert, for fear of not finding the mobile settlements in time to survive.
Apparently the 'unmarked' still show up as an ill omen for the Janoa and they are banished to the swamps to join the other 'unmarked' as the Dras. Long ago, during a long serious of ill omens, so many Dras were born that a large boat, perhaps not as ill equipped as ours, was sent out with a great number of Dras prisoners to prevent a revolt. Expecting a one way trip, a small honor guard of Janoa, sacrificed themselves for duty. They made sure everyone stayed in line, quite literally lining up the bodies of the Dras. These Dras were given little food and water, so little that several died from only that. Some grew sickly from lack of exercise and died from that. Still, this chance at survival was better then the guarantee of being put to the sword in their home lands, the Janoa out numbering them in large numbers. It seems they only survived on account of being immune to the diseases that would have otherwise spread.
While much of these tales fit in with our own homelands understanding of Janoa and Dras, we have not seen a Janoa born 'unmarked' in recent generations of memory. If this is a well kept secret of the Janoa is another question all together. Though from the sounds of things if true, our Janoa may have a deeper reason to despise the unmarked. They lost their paradise thanks to them.
The two remaining Janoa muscle heads in the crew would not sit still after over hearing the story. They made an obvious seen about how their ancestors were punished over the frailty and cowardice of the Dras. Our hosts, in a hurry to see them go, gave them directions on how to get to the Janoa lands. They stomped of after calling our Dras a muck reveler, among other obscenities, and we never heard from them again.
Current Crew Count – 10
The skills they had developed were too foreign for us to copy. Even when they came to our ship for trade, only the simplest of things could the couple understand and use. Somehow they were able to, in small quantities, purify sea water to be drinkable. Our Dras surmised that it required a semi rare component, perhaps a mineral, or they would likely become more of a sea faring coastal town.
Their, wagons I guess you could call them, were also marvels. So many moving parts, each interlocking and turning to move into place to either pack up for travel, or interweaving to form a connected wall. Then the surface would expand out so that the roof was nearly double the area it was before. This wall was climbable in spots with relative ease which allowed the entire population to live on top of their caravan like stones peeking out of a river.
We knew we would need more resources to head back. We traded our skills and expertise, which we would teach to five volunteers that would in turn help process water for us. With the moss food and water purification we would be able to slowly form excess to trade with in anticipation of gaining a larger amount later to leave with. Apparently their purification prevented, or at least slowed, water being contaminated.
Current Crew Count – 15
scribe's note this part of the journal was damaged and only part of which was legibile is as follows. It stands to reason that more information exists, but is not listed.
Two crew members went insane today. Though each did so for the same reason, they both took things to the opposite extreme. You see one embraced what happened and tried to partake and kill everyone on board. And the other was reviled and decided that we all should be cleansed in fire and tried to light the boat on fire. The Dras argued by pointing out the fire would cause the boat to capsize before we burned, so instead we would remain corrupted while floating in the ocean. This confused him long enough that we managed to put him down and start fighting the fire. The one who embraced the act we didn't realize until after his first kill. Crouched over the kill, blood all over his front with him grinning madly. Cordic claimed he would take responsibility and fight him alone. It didn't take long but Cordic skewered him and threw the body over board.
With such a skeleton crew, manning the ship was a hard task. Thankfully a few of the little tricks the couple had mastered from our desert friends were making two or three man jobs possible for a single person. That said, we needed to get home quickly or the makeshift changes would not hold for long.
Current Crew Count – 7
Coldbone's Crew - Part Unknown
The sweet sands of our home, far from a port, and far from a hero's welcome but we were back, what few of us remain. Haunted, but alive. A few of the original crew sought recompense from the crown. What happened to them, I can't say for certain but I imagine it was the same thing that happens to any who make demands of those in power. The Dras packed up her things and silently head towards a swamp. To report to her own clan? Become some wandering witch? I've lived through enough to stop bothering with asking the questions. And that my dear reader, is the conclusion of my time as a dread corsair. Fine kettle of fish eh?
A modest teller of tales
Scribe's Note Coping this piece was incredibly difficult given the poor shape of the source material and several lines of text were damaged beyond reading. Even to the point of the numbering of the journal was unintelligible. Something was mentioned about Kypiqs but it is hard to tell if one came off the boat or if it was in regard to meeting them on the seas. I lean towards the later since there was no record of Kypiq crewman in the ship logs. Much of the tale seems disputable especially with no other supporting material. I mean magical food moss? I think not, so I would hardly base a new expedition on any but the broadest concepts. Lack of supplies causing problems perhaps, but there is no such thing as a ferocious Kypiq.
This was a great entry!