“Twenty severed tongues! Where in the planes is the wind?! Jalana damn you, you said there was going to be fair weather for the entire crossing.” raged Captain Khazeem. “We’ve been sitting here for almost entire day, if this wind doesn’t pick up we’ve got a problem”.
Jalana looked down from the crows-nest at Khazeem, wondering if she would hurt him if she jumped and landed on his fat face. “Captain, I told you, this doesn’t feel right. The wind, it’s like some giant has breathed in and taken it all. I cannot simply summon a wind for you.” with that she grasped a guy-line rope and swung down to the deck. “Your men might have to keep rowing for some time, Captain.”
“Well, then, it looks like we may be here a while. I will be in my quarters should anything change. Let me know immediately of any changes. In the meantime, Grash, make sure these layabouts keep the ship in good order.” the captain flourished his hand and departed to his cabin.
“I’m not your bloody deck hand, you worm.” Grash whispered to the captains back. Then to the sailors about him, “You heard the man, lets get this ship moving! You, cut the rigs and water the slaves at the oars, they’ll need it. I want rotating shifts. We can’t afford injuries.”
He turned about and headed to the railing on the starboard side and noticed the navigator looking out to the horizon.
“You see anything out there?” he asked her.
“Nothing.” she replied.
There was silence between them for some time. Then Grash decided to break the silence, “So, what’s your story?”
“That’s not part of the job description, lizard-man.” she replied without taking her eyes off the horizon. “We’re here to deliver the cargo, let’s keep this professional, huh?”
Grash sighed and leaned his lower back and elbows on the railing. Turning to her he said “Well, aren’t you a regular little bundle of happiness” and flashed a toothy grin her way.
After some quiet contemplation Jalana decided to go and find something to eat and started to turn towards the galley, however something caught her eye on the horizon. “Huh, what’s that?” she said.
Grash turned to the direction she was facing, and stared out to the horizon. He could see something, about 40 leagues away. Possibly a ship, as they hadn’t passed any land for days. “Probably just another trader making the Boiler Run, nothing to worry about little lady” he said, and turned away.
Grash turned back to see Jalana fixated on the ship, she didn’t turn her gaze as she continued “Pirates” she whispered.
Grash immediately turned back to the railing, gripping it in both hands and focusing his gaze on the ship in the distance. After some time he could see the ship was most certainly headed in their direction, and he could make out no flags to determine where their intentions lay.
Grash turned about, “Men and women of The Jack Tar! To your stations, I want everyone that can hold a weapon on the deck and ready to repel boarders!”
The people closest stared at him for a moment, then looked at each other, then to where Jalana was looking and saw the incoming ship. After that there was barely constrained chaos. The Captain came charging out of his cabin, “What in the Nine Hells is going on? Boarders?”
“Captain Khazeem, there is a ship coming towards us showing no flags of allegiance. At this point it is merely a precautionary measure. However, I would suggest you arm yourself and prepare for battle.” explained Grash, in a very measured tone.
Khazeem stared at him incredulously, “No, noo no nooo. This can’t be right, how do they know where we are?” and with that the captain made his way to the bow and stood staring at the ship with no flags.
Grash and Jalana joined him at the front of the ship, which was raised above the regular deck. All three could see the ship, and all three knew that, this far out in the ocean there was no good reason for a ship to be coming towards them, and it almost certainly meant trouble.
As the ship came closer, and with the help of the captains looking glass, they could make out some individual details of the crew of the second ship. They seemed to be slow moving and not in a panic, like the crew of The Jack Tar. The second ship also had several members standing at the bow, and as they reached a distance of only 100 metres they turned about so the ships’ sides were facing each other.
“Captain, we cannot outrun them, nor can we hope to defeat them in battle” advised Jalana, “They want our cargo, maybe even our slaves, perhaps if we give what they want they will leave us alone.”
Khazeem looked at her for some time, and then replied “Girl, you know not what you speak of…” an his gaze went back to the man on the second ships bow, presumably their captain. “We won’t make it out of this alive…”
Grash looked at the captain, then at Jalana. He knew the captain of the other ship was watching them. Grash took out a parchment that was tucked into his leather armour and held it up in full view of all to see. “They’ll get nothing from us now..” and he lit it on fire with a flick of flint on tinder.
“The papers! You fool! They were the only proof we had!” raged the captain, as he went to snatch the still burning parchment from Grash’s hand. “Now we’ll never get our payment!”
“We will be lucky to see tomorrows sun, you stupid old fool” said Grash, as he grabbed the Captain by the shirt and threw him overboard.
“What have you done!” cried Jalana, as she watched the Captain tumbled overboard and was swallowed by the waters below. “What’s wrong with you, you madman!”
Grash grabbed her by the shoulders, “You need to trust me” he said over the shouts of the crew, “There’s more to this that there seems. You need to get below deck now. Don’t fight me on this one” he added as she began to protest. As she saw the sincerity in his eyes she realised that he spoke the truth and made her way past the panicked crew to the quarters below.
With a flourish Grash unsheathed his short sword and dagger, and gave orders to the men to form up on the side of the ship closest to the pirate ship. “If you want to make it our of this alive you’re all going to have to listen to me.” The crew made a paltry sight. There were little over a dozen crew, hardly of fighting quality, haphazardly standing about waiting for someone to tell them what to do. “Stand firm, we don’t know what it is they want, they might not even mean us any harm.” he assessed the hard looking men on the other ship.
“Unlikely though” he muttered to himself.
Just as he finished addressing the crew, the captain of the other ship looked to the giant dark skinned man to his left and nodded. The man raised his fist in the air and barked an order that Grash couldn’t understand, and he knew of no language that sounded as this one.
The men on-board the pirate ship started to cheer, and with their cheers came motions on the hull of the pirate ship, small windows started to open, and out of them appeared the cannons.
“Oh fuck” exclaimed Grash. “HIT THE DECK!” he bellowed at the crew. Almost too late the crew dropped as the cannons opened fire, the roar of the gunpowder, the victorious cheers of the pirates and the crack and thunder of the splintered wood crashed around them.
When the last of the bombardment ceased Grash realised that the pirates were aiming higher than the deck, they seemed to be aiming for the mast and rigging.
The pirates wanted them alive.
Grash got to his feet and took in his surroundings. Many were still cowering on the floor covering their heads, a few had been hit by shrapnel, and one was pinned to the deck with a piece of the mast through his stomach. Grash met the mans eyes and realised that they could not win this fight. As he turned back to the pirate ship he saw several men on their deck operating giant machines. Gleaming in the sunlight were giant harpoons, ready to launch.
“Oh come on…” he sighed as the harpoons fired and ripped into the belly of The Jack Tar. Once lodged in the men on the pirate ship started to pull their ships together.
Jalana watched as the slave sat at his oar bench, looking down at the harpoon that had ripped most of his lower body free. She didn’t know if the man was still alive or too shocked to move. Either way there was panic, the slaves were yelling and fighting one another to be free from the shackles. They all knew that their prison was sinking. “Please! Everyone calm down, it’s going to be okay!” yelled Jalana over the din, the fear almost as thick as the smell of blood in the air, some of which seemed to be dripping through he floorboards above their heads. Jalana witnessed the chaos of the scene in front of her, and she couldn’t bear to let these poor men and women drown like this. “Listen to me! We need your help, I need you all to arm yourselves and get to the deck to repel the boarders. I’m going to release your shackles.” as she said this some of the closer slaves nodded and looked at her with hope. She took the key from the wall near the stair and undid the main shackles. With that the slaves were able to release themselves individually, and as they did they grabbed oars and pieces of wood as shields and raced past Jalana and up the stairs. Oh good, we might actually have a chance now! thought Jalana to herself. as she made her way upstairs behind them.
As she made her way up the stairs she came onto a word of disorder, the slaves had run out of the galley to be confronted by the crew of The Jack Tar, who turned about to face them. The slaves, not knowing how long they would live, started to band together and huddled, oars facing the crew and their eyes darting between the pirates and their present captors.
Jalana could see Grash attempting to rally what was left of the crew to attempt some kind of last stand on the bow of the ship, as she was staring she saw him glance in her direction and shout something. She couldn’t hear what he said, but she saw him point to the pirate ship, which had come close enough for the enemy to start boarding.
As she watched, Grash grabbed an undamaged piece of rigging connected to the half destroyed mast, sheathed his dagger leaving his short sword free, and swung from the bow of the ship to where Jalana stood near the cabins. “Quick, get inside the captains cabin and get ready to block the door. We cannot hope to defeat them.” he said, as they both witnessed the pirate boarders start to make their way onto their ship and begin the inevitable massacre. Jalana obeyed, getting into the captains now unoccupied room, and closed the door behind her.
Grash surveyed the scene around him, and honestly had no idea what he was going to do. He saw the pirate captains right hand man, the giant beast of a thing, clambering aboard and smiling as he cut down the slaves and crew alike. Grash realised that it was an albino half-Orc. Grash felt his stomach drop at the site of the raw and terrible power of the barbarian, and realised they needed a better plan. Looking around him he saw a lantern, lit, and full of oil. He grabbed it and threw it to the ground in front of him, hoping beyond all hope that it might delay their attackers. He kept his eyes on the melee as he backed into the captains cabin and closed and barred the door behind him.
“What’s going on here, Grash?” asked Jalana behind him. She had Khazeem’s chest open, the one that supposedly contained the valuable cargo that they were bringing to Masalan. “It’s empty, where’s the cargo…”
“Girl, this is no time for such things, we have only minutes to leave at most, we need a plan.” he replied, even as he was moving another piece of furniture to block the entrance. “Look around, they’re going to use their axes to gain entry, and then they will kill us both. We need to block the door with something.”
As they were looking for more things to block the door, Jalana took the cloth off of the barrel that the captain advised was his ‘vintage wine’ that was bound for the markets of Masalan. “What is this? This is no barrel of wine. No wine I know requires a wick. Grash! See this, you of all would know such guile.”
Grash, impatient with her relaxed demeanour, reluctantly stopped boarding the door and came over to see what she had found. “By the planes of fire,” Grash exclaimed. “This is strange. Jalana, this is gunpowder, an entire barrels worth. What would Khazeem, that simpering fool, be doing with this?” Grash ran his hands over the barrel, almost intimately.
Jalana watched as Grash’s eyes lit up, almost glowing red in the dark cabin. A heat seemed to radiate from him, a dark heat, like coals in the shadows.
“I have a plan” he said. “Help me with this, and be careful”. He began to move the barrel towards the door. With Jalanas help they moved the barrel to the door. With it secured in place he placed a hand on her shoudler, “G-..Jalana, I need to tell you something, and it’s very impor-”
A huge cracking came from outside and a shudder in the cabin told them that the pirates had started to break their way into their ephemeral sanctuary. “This will have to wait, now listen to me, get that chest out the window, follow it out and get into it and close the lid. I’m going to wait until they are gathered outside the door and then…then I’m going make them pay for this.”
Jalana looked at him, her eyes wide as dinner plate, she did not need to look up at him to meet his gaze. Just as he thought she was in shock and had lost her wits, she laughed. She laughed, slapped him on the shoulder and smiled. “Oh, you Red Dragun-Borne are so brave aren’t you? I heard the stories, you know. I never thought them true. Your deep seeded desires to be consumed by the flame, only to spite your old Dragon masters.” She looked at him, with something of pity, and a twist of respect. Grash, taken off guard said nothing. “You’ll do nothing of the kind, hero. The wick on this barrel is long enough for you to light it and escape, you’re not getting rid of me that easily.”
Grash looked at the wick, and saw that it just might be long enough to give him a moment to get out of the blast radius. He looked at her, then, as another blow hit the door and exposed a glimpse of the deck outside- “Fine, by the gods this will be a close one…what have I gotten myself into.” he said, “You get the chest out and I will light this and follow you out, it’ll be close so be ready and we don’t know how big this will be, I’ve never seen this much gunpowder in one place.”
Jalana went to the chest which was thankfully placed right under the main window at the very rear of the ship. She got it up onto the ledge, which was a feat in itself as it was big enough to hold a sow, then, with it teetering on the ledge- “Grash, be quick about it you oaf, they don’t sound like they’re taking a break any time soon” and with a wink and a smile she and the chest were out of sight and into the waters below.
“Damn that girl” he said, smiling as he set the wick and ensured it was in place. The axes were hacking at the door and through several pieces of furniture and a break in the door he saw the half-Orc standing a few feet back from the men hacking through the door. Grash met the barbarians eyes. It was very clear to Grash, even at this distance, that the half-Orc was very much looking forward to gaining entry into the room. The depth less hate in those eyes…the rage…the calm cold frozen enmity… Grash had seem barbarians in a rage before, however this…this was different, it was cloying, the anger was sapping at his spirit, draining his resolve, and the half-Orc but stood behind the men..watching..waiting….
Grash shook his head- “Well gentlemen!” he called to them as he lit the fuse.“I’ve had a blast, but now I think it’s your turn!” and with that he turned his back on the door and ran to the window. he jumped from the window and just as he hit the waves beneath he felt more than heard an enormous explosion behind him. He was buffeted by the underwater shock-waves and was hurled from the water on a wave pushed away from the explosion, breaching the surface he was thrown through the air and, in an incredible stroke of good luck, into the chest with Jalana. The lid of the chest snapped shut and they knew only darkness and the screams of the dying.
The eventually awoke on the beach, where they could see nothing around them as far as the eye could see. After making camp and resting they were surprised by some men on camels and horses and were beaten and taken prisoner. They eventually escaped by killing their fellow prisoners, Grash stealing a camel and Jalana turning into one. They made their way, following the trail that the men were taking, and eventually came across a caravan at an oasis.
They traded in a few spare possessions for a few silver and met the master of the merchant caravan. Jalana and the merchant got off on the wrong foot so Grash stepped in and smoothed things over. The man advised that he would be willing to give a lot of money to someone who would ‘take care of’ a guard in the city. Grash took the job and they made their way along the road into the city of Masalan.
The wandered through the lower common areas, leaving their camel in a street, alone by itself, and it was promptly confiscated by strangers. They had decided not to sell it to the merchant outside, as they did not want gold.
They ended up in the temple district, at The Skewered Goose and met Sven, the honest and dependable owner. They put up their feet and slept their first night on solid ground for some time.