Death Rattles Written by Harry McKenzie, copyright 2007; posted with full permissions.
Editor's Note: This story takes place during the War of the Four Winds, circa the 18th of Trivor, 1329 Avard.
Captain Seamus Stonehelm lowered his telescope and let out a low whistle, “That's got tae be the most Orcs I've ever seen in me life.” he muttered. He raised the telescope to his eye again and confirmed what his first look had told him, then he lowered it, collapsed it, and slid it into a pocket inside his cloak. The telescope merely confirmed what he already knew, Kashin was doomed. The sheer size of the Ogarian army assualting the city guaranteed that much. He knew that his mission was to evacuate as many townsfolk as his small fleet could carry, but he would make sure that he spilled some Ogarian blood first.
He had a fleet of some thirty river sloops that were already putting in at the city's docks, his flagship, the Rattler, had continued past and was now at a bend in the river that gave him a clear view of the Ogarians. It had been a difficult bit of seamanship to get his Galleon upriver this far, even with the deep channel the Dwarven merchants had dredged out, it had been tricky. Only the assistance of Visik and the other three Tomaths had they done it. And now he could see just what they faced. He did not like the sinking feeling in his stomach that the sight of the Ogarians assaulting Kashin gave him.
“I think you're right, Cousin.” Angus Stonehelm, his adoptive cousin agreed from beside him, breaking into his unhappy contemplations, “Question is…what do we do about them?” The Dwarf fingered his axe and his blood-red eyes seemed to shine a bit.
Seamus did not reply immediately. He pulled out his telescope, and again examined the Ogarian forces, this time he was looking for something specific, after a moment, he spotted it. He lowered his telescope and a grim smile appeared on his delicate Elven features,“ I expect we shoud give them a proper Stonehelm welcome.” he said grimly. He turned slightly to face his First Officer, Vladimir Kuchin, “Hoist the battle ensign, if you please…we wouldn't want them to be confused as to who we are.”
“Aye, Captain.” Vladimir replied with a grin. He shouted the order, and a minute later, a huge Rakoran Flag unfurled atop the mainmast.
Seamus handed his telescope to Vladimir and pointed at a grouping of tents, “That will be our primary target. I think it might be their headquarters…let's see if we can disrupt their command structure a bit if it is.”
“An excellent idea Cousin.” Angus agreed from beside them.
“Fire when we are within range.” Seamus ordered. Vladimir saluted and hurried off, shouting orders to the catapult and ballistae crews. A few moments later, the catapults began lobbing flaming barrels of pitch towards the target. It took three salvoes to get on, but once they found the range, they poured flaming devastation onto the target area with a vengeance. Not to be outdone, the ballistae crews fired enchanted javelins into the tents as well. Angus whooped with delight at the destruction, Seamus settled for a grim smile as he watched the Ogarian attack fall apart as their leadership was removed from the battle.
“Well done!” Seamus shouted to the crew, “That should give us time to begin the evacuation.” he peered through his telescope once more, “Continue to target any large groups of troops within range as we retire.” He ordered Vladimir. He then turned and crossed the quarterdeck to the helm, “Bring us about and make for the docks, if you please.” He said politely to his helmsman. The helm was put over and the Rattler came about and made her way to the dockyard.
It took about fifteen minutes to pull her alongside a quay and begin the process of making herself fast. As the deck crew worked the lines, Seamus and what he liked to think of as his command crew: Cleo, Angus and Maui, departed the ship and made their way down the quay toward the town itself. As they made their way through the organized choas of the dock area, Seamus allowed his mind to wander back to the events of the last several days.
Three days prior, at Lok Magius
Seamus made his way up the tower steps to mistriss Brin's office, as usual, Cleo was with him. “I don't see why we didin't just stay in Rilan and wait for the Ice Mage.” She was saying.
“Because Mistriss Brin just MIGHT know something we don't, Love.” He replied to her patiently. Sometimes Cleo was still very impetuous and he had to treat her with the utmost patience to get her to think before she acted. She merely 'harumphed' and continued to follow him.
A moment later, they reached the door to Mistris Brin's office and Cleo simply vanished. Seamus knew she was somewhere nearby, but she had decided to make herself a non-visible participant in the conversation about to unfold. He shook his head at her antics, they both knew Mistriss Brin probably knew exactly where Cleo was from the moment they had entered the tower, but she would have her practice at hiding her presence nonetheless. Seamus knocked and the door swung open on it's own. He stepped inside and found Mistriss brin standing in the center of the room facing him.
“Good day Captain Seamus.” she said to him as he crossed the threshold. There was a barely perceptible pause before she added, “And you as well lady Cleo.”
“And a good day to you as well Mistriss.” Seamus replied, unconsciously turning on the charm he displayed to anything female. There was a small curse from beside him as Cleo seemed to appear out of thin air.
“I wish it were a good day.” Mistriss Brin said softly, regret heavy in her voice, “But the Ogarians are pushing our forces hard. We are forced back almost everywhere we fight…although your family seems to be holding their own.”
“Aye.” Seamus replied. he didn't trust himself to say much more…he worried about his adoptive Dwarven Clan, no one had any news of them since the invasion had begun, but it was assumed that they were still holding out, since no Ogarian forces had yet breached their mountain range. He prayed to the Lady Habreem that they were well. After a moments silence, he spoke again, “We came seeking any news of the Frost Mage…Prat tasked me to meet him in Rilan, but he seems to have vanished…no one has heard a peep about him…I was hoping maybe someone here might have heard from him.”
“I'm sorry, but to the best of my knowledge, no one here has heard from him.” Mistris Brin said with a thoughtful expression.
Seamus allowed a sour look of dismay to cross his face as he spoke, “Bloody Hell! I cannae just sit here and wait for him to show up while the Ogarians overrun us! Surely there is someway to find him?”
Mistriss Brin did not immeadiately reply, instead, she moved over to a small table and chairs near the left wall. She sat down and indicated that Seamus should join her as well. The Elf sat as indicated and waited for her to speak. “These are trying times indeed, young Captain…” She seemed to be silently communicating with someone else as she spoke to him. She paused frequently and her expression was that of intense concentration. “I have an idea that you may be able to assist Rakore and possibly gain the information you seek.”
Seamus perked up at her words, “What would you have me do, Mistriss?”
“A small fleet of ships has been assembled in Rilan…they are to head upriver to evacuate Kashin…someone is needed to command this small fleet…” She said in that odd halting way, “Someone who can perhaps make an impression on the Ogarians as he has made on the Pirates of the Coasts…someone like you young Captain.”
“As you wish Mistriss…when do we sail?”
Seamus and his small band turned a corner and found themselves face to face with a Minotaur, a Gnoll, a Dwarf, and a pair humans of some sort. The only thing that stopped Angus and Seamus from charging in to attack was the presence of the Dwarf and the fact that the Minotaur wore a Firestorm tabard. That and the fact that Seamus had enough sense not to attack two creatures that bloody big without help…lots of help. “Good day.” Seamus greeted them warily.
“And good to day to you as well.” The Dwarf replied. He looked over at Angus and switched to the Dwarven tongue, “What clan good fellow?”
“We are of the Stonehelms…and yourself?” Seamus replied in Dwarven, earning him a slightly suprised look from the Dwarf.
“Bandylegs…you speak our tongue flawlesly Sir Elf…” Ahira chose his words carefully as he replied, “Though your grammar is off…you should have said 'he' instead of 'we'”
“No…my grammar was quite correct…” Seamus replied with a slight grin forming, “I am Seamus Stonehelm…Skald to our clan, and this is my cousin Angus.”
“At yer service.” Angus smiled cheekily in reply.
Ahira blinked in stunned silence for a moment, he had heard stories of the Stonehelms and their wicked sense of humor, perhaps this was one of their jokes? He took a closer look at the Elf and saw something he hadn't noticed at first, a holy symbol of Habrem on a chain around his neck. Surely a Cleric would not lie about such a thing? “You were adopted then?”
“Yes…much to my everlasting joy.” Seamus replied with a grin. His grin was copied by Angus, though in a more feral way, and Ahira found himself grinning as well…the Elf was indeed likable. “You have some interesting companions as well.” Seamus said switching to the common tongue.
“Well…we've only just met…they helped me out of a bit of a scrap with some Orc's a few minutes ago.” Ahira clarified with a chuckle.
“You didn't need much help, Sir Bandylegs.” the human female added, “You were doing quite well…these guys just live for a good fight. I am Cassandra, my companions are Bjarne, Hrothgar, and Tor.” she said indicating the other human, the Gnoll, and the Minotaur in turn.
“I am Captain Seamus Stonehelm of Firestorm, this is my cousin Angus, Maui, and….” He paused in his introductions as he realized that Cleo was nowhere to be seen, as usual, “Ah…and Cleo is around here somewhere as well…she's a slip of a girl but she tends to vanish at odd times…” the last was more a stray thought spoken aloud than anything, it earned him an odd look from Cassandra.
“What brings you to Kashin, Captain?” Ahira asked politely, Seamus' Firestorm ring not having gone unnoticed by the Dwarf. “A job from the front office perhaps?”
“No…Real has nothing to do with my presence here…I am here to help evacute the city at the request of His Majesty.” Seamus replied with a trace of unhappines in his voice, “Although it sticks in me craw to abandon the city to the Ogarians, we could sorely use the defenders elsewhere…perhaps someplace where their defence would not be futile.”
The small group considered the Elf's words and for the most part, reluctantly agreed. Even an unskilled tactician could see that Kashin was doomed due to the superior numbers of the enemy. The fresh victory was nothing more than a temporary reprieve at best. The group broke into conversation about how best to proceed, with Cassandra offering to take the good Captain to the town hall to speak with Count Grimshire about the evacuation. With that decided, the now larger group set off for the town center.
Lady Cleo the Shadow sat quietly next to the railing looking out at the riverbank as it glided past in the darkness. She was about as high strung as she could ever recall, and that was saying something. The crowded press of so many people on the Rattler had her nerves stretched to the breaking point. She had no place she could go to avoid people. the ship was so jammed packed with refugees. It was driving her mad. She was currently considering climbing the mainmast and taking up a spot on one of the spars, since it looked like possibly the only place no one else would be within a few feet of.
She had followed Seamus and the group to the town center and watched with mild amusement as Count Grimshire had grudgingly agreed to the evacuation. The locals were less than happy when Seamus told them that no one was going to be allowed to take more than the clothes on their backs with them. Seamus had worked out that they could carry about 6000 refugees…as long as they brought nothing with them. As it was they had managed to stuff nealy 6500 refugees into and onto the fleet. By the Gods they were packed in like sardines, but it had been done. If there were any sort of storm during the slightly more than a day long trip back to Rilan, they would all surely capsize and sink.
She sighed as she felt the presence of someone move up next to her. The newcomer, Cassandra sat down next to her. Neither of them spoke for a short while, finally Cleo shifted and looked over at her, “You want something?”
“No…I was just curious about something…” Cassandra replied hesitantly, “About you actually.”
Cleo didn't reply, instead she continued to sit, staring at Cassandra from under the hood of her cloak.
“It's just that you give off this vibe…” Cassandra continued, “It's hard to explain…I work with the dead…and well…you feel like one of the dead…”
“I'm not an undead.” Cleo said in a tight, angry voice. She held out her arm to the other woman, “Check my pulse…you'll find it to be there.”
“I know you aren't one of THOSE.” Cassandra said and then sighed in frustration, “It's hard for me to explain it…but I can feel the presence of the dead…always have been able to as long as I can remember…and I feel the presence of death on you…I've never felt that with a living breathing being before.”
Cleo was silent for a long moment, “That's because you've probably never met someone who was dead and brought back before.” She said quietly. She pulled her hood down, allowing Cassandra to get a good look at her face.
“You were dead…and brought back.” Cassandra said, more of a statement than a question, “That would explain the feeling than.”
“I was dead twice…but I got better.” Cleo said with a touch of bitterness. She turned her dark eyes to Cassandra and the other girl shivered involuntarily at the coldness she saw there, “But I also got worse.”
Cassandra wasn't sure how to respond, the young girl was deceptively small and almost childlike at first glance, but the well worn leather armor and the casually slung sword belied that impression, as did the cold depths of her eyes. In a flash Cassandra realized that while Seamus was apparently quite capable, this girl was probably far more dangerous than he was. Her very appearance would cause most to overlook her as a threat, a possibly fatal mistake. Cassandra wondered just how many had made that particular mistake already.
“I died while searching for…well…that's not important…” Cleo began to explain, her gaze shifting from Cassandra to the slowly passing shoreline, though she wasn't really seeing it, “ When they brought me back, I had a passenger…a demon…we didn't know about it until some time had passed and it used me to kill someone…I…I still don't really understand it all myself…but once we found out it was there, the only way to get rid of it was to kill it…which I did…by killing myself.”
She paused and took a deep breath before continuing, “When they brought me back afterwards…it had partially merged with me…at least physically…made me stronger, a bit faster and tougher…but there were a few other side effects that are a bit…distracting.” She turned to Cassandra and drew her lips back in a feral smile, allowing her enlarged canines to show. Cassandra peered at them with undisguised curiosity as Cleo continued.
“I don't really like daylight anymore…and I can smell blood from quite a distance.” She said as the smile vanished as though by magic, “So you can see why I'm not the most sociable of creatures anymore.”
Cassandra gazed at the younger girl for a long moment before speaking, “I think that you might be one of the strongest people I have ever heard of…most would have gone mad after what you've told me happened to you.”
Cleo gave a bitter laugh, “Not strong…just a survivor. Always have been.” Then she looked closely at Cassandra, “What about you? What's your story? I showed you mine.” She winked in what was possibly one of the most suggestive efforts Cassandra had ever seen. She found herself stammering and fighting down a blush.
“L-like I said, I've always felt the dead and it led me to Curiss and I became one of his followers.” Cassandra stammered, “I met Tor, Hrothgar, and Bjarne a while back and have been traveling with them…nothing much to tell.”
Cleo laughed, a surprisingly pleasant sound considering her earlier demeanor, “Oh you'll have plenty to tell if you stick with Seamus for any length of time…trust me.”
Cassandra wasn't sure how to respond to respond to that, “He attracts adventure, does he?”
“In spades sister.” Cleo half-laughed, “And like it or not, you're along for the ride, at least for a while anyway.”
Cassandra shifted a bit uncomfortably, “I'm not really the adventuring type, until lately, I got very little practice at healing, mostly it was preparing the dead for burial and performing the rites so they wouldn't rise again.”
“Let me guess: And then the Minotaur and his pals showed up and you got dragged off on some kind of adventure?” Cleo was grinning widely by now, “That's how it all starts…some simple little meeting ends up leading you away from home on some wild adventure.” She paused and frowned in concentration for a moment, “Remind me to tell you about our first Pirate hunt sometime…that started simple but got real complicated real fast.”
“Tell me about it then.” Cassandra asked. She crossed her legs and made herself comfortable.
Cleo hesitated for a moment, but then gave a mental shrug, ordinarily, she wouldn't tell the story, but something about Cassandra was comfortable to her. Something that she recognized as a potential friendship in the making here. Friendships were rare and treasured to Cleo, so after a tiny hesitation, she began to tell the story.
Seamus sat in his chair on the quarterdeck watching the shoreline pass, it was a half-day since they had departed Kashin, and he was begining to relax incrementally as they put the doomed city farther behind them. He was still worried that any sort of storm on the river could create a complete disaster among the overloaded vessels of his fleet. Some of the smaller ships decks were almost awash, they were so heavily overloaded. He would have never tried so dangerous a tactic had they been anywhere but a river, on the open ocean it would have been suicidal.
He was in the midst of standing up to stretch when a loud CRACK sounded from somewhere below and aft, if he was any judge. The Rattler abruptly felt different to him, he couldn't say exactly how, but she did. He spun on his heel as the helmsman shouted, “Cap'n! I've lost steering!”
Seamus crossed to the ships bell and began to ring it furiously. Instantly, the off duty watch belowdecks began to race for the main deck in response to the emergency signal, “DROP ANCHOR! PORT AND STARBOARD! REEF SAIL NOW!” Seamus shouted at the top of his lungs. The crew scrambled to get the sails down and drop both anchors. Seamus knew it wouldn't be in time, the rattler had too much momentum and the river bottom had very little for the anchors to grab. He braced himself for what was inevitable as his ship began to veer out of the midriver channel.
She grounded hard, heeling hard over to starboard as the river bottom halted her where the crews efforts had failed. For a moment that felt like an eternity, Seamus though she might capsize, but she rolled back upright a bit and settled at about a fifteen degree list. Crew and passengers were thrown about a bit, and two men were actually flung into the river from their perches in the rigging. Seamus managed to keep his footing and he began moving and shouting orders as soon as he was sure the Rattler wasn't going to capsize.
“DAMAGE REPORT VLADMIR!” He half ran to the railing and pointed over the side, “VISIK! GET THOSE MEN BACK ABOARD!”
Visik was already leaping over thee railing as he shouted the last order. Below decks, the sound of frightened shouting told of mounting panic among their passengers, he would have to quell that quickly, if they paniced and stampeeded, their sheer weight could capsize his ship where her grounding hadn't. “ANGUS! BELOW DECK WITH ME!” His cousin came trotting across the deck at his summons, “We have to calm them below, otherwise they could panic and stampede.”
“Aye Cousin.” Angus replied with a serious nod, “Leave it ta me and my marines.”
“Done.” Seamus replied already turning to face Vladmir. Angus trotted off shouting for his marines, and Seamus put that problem on hold for the moment. “What's the damage then Vladmir, and what bloody caused our loss of steering?”
“We are taking some water in the lower forward hold, nothing serious yet.” Vladmir replied, “We lost steering because one of the rudder cables snapped, I can have it repaired in a mark or so…but I am not so sure how we will get her ungrounded.”
“One problem at a time Vladmir, get the cable repaired and stop the leaks for now, we'll worry about getting her off once we get her put back to rights.” Seamus replied, giving the Vridaran officer a reassuring grin and a wink.
“As you order Captain.” Vladmir replied with a bit of an amused grin of his own. Seamus blinked as his First Officer headed below to organize the repairs, he had never seen the serious Vridaran crack a smile in the whole time he had known him. he shrugged and moved back to the quarterdeck. He could hear the shouting belowdecks change in tone as Angus and his marines waded in and restored order, if not calm. Seamus allowed himself a smile, his adoptive cousin had a way of “persuading” people all his own. While not exactly diplomatic, it was highly effective.
Being careful of his footing, Seamus made his way to the starboard railing and scanned the shoreline, it would be very bad business if an Ogarian patrol were to happen upon them while his ship was grounded and unable to manuever. he spotted nothing out of the ordinary, so he relaxed a bit and turned his attention to the rest of his fleet. In quick order he ordered flag messages sent to the nearest vessel to have the fleet continue on without the Rattler, and then a reassurance that they were undamaged and would rejoin as soon as possible.
He had just finished with that task when Vladmir reappeared with more information, it seemed that the cable that had parted had appeared to have parted due to being overstressed. Seamus was taken a bit aback by that news, he knew that the Rattler's enchantments placed more stress on the ship than her her designers had originally planned for, but he hadn't considered it to be too much more. Now he would have to rethink that. Obviously componants were going to be more prone to failure due to the added strain they were under when the enchantments were active.
He sighed and rubbed his temples with his fingers as Vladmir left to check on the status of shoring up the leaks, he was going to have to sit down with a shipwright and work out how he was going to reinforce his ship to avoid future disasters. Something he was sure he didn't really have the time to do with his homeland at war. Damned if he did, damned if he didn't summed it up quite nicely in his mind. He moved to his chair, but found that he couldn't sit in it due to the ships list, so he settled for leaning against it. He began working on the problem of getting his ship ungrounded as he stood there, mentally working through several ideas before deciding on one that might actually work.
He was about to go below to discuss it with Vladmir, when a lookout shouted, “ORCS ON THE STARBOARD SHORE!”
Seamus' head snapped around, his spyglass in hand and already raising to his eye. He scanned and saw at least a dozen Orcs, and they were pursuing something. A moments inspection revealed what looked like a child, running ahead of them.
“ANGUS!!! BOARDING PARTY!!! NOW!!!” Seamus bellowed. He began to move himself, “ARCHERS TO THE FIGHTING TOPS!!! PIN THEM DOWN!!!”
Angus and his boarders were scrambling to the starboard side as Seamus joined them, a boat was made ready and lowered quickly, just as they were ready to slip and make for the shore, Tor, Bjarne, Hrothgar, and Cassandra appeared at the rail, “Can we assist Captain?” Cassandra asked.
“By all means, get aboard then.” Seamus replied with a grim smile. The foursome quickly scrambled down to the boat, Hrothgar, opting to swim to shore. There was a moment of concern as Tor settled his massive frame into the small boat, it settled almost to the gunwales, but stayed afloat. Once they were set, they rowed madly for the shore.
As they grounded and splashed ashore, arrows from the score of archers on the Rattler began to strike the Ogarian war party. Most of them ignored the arrows and continued their pursuit. Seamus thought that quite odd. “After them!” He growled. The group set out at a fast run after the enemy.
It took them a few minutes to get close enough to attack, Cassandra opened up with her crossbow, hitting an Orc, who turned and charged her. Hrothgar slammed into the beast from it's left, tearing into it with his claws. Angus shouted with glee and raced up to bury his axe between it's eyes.
Bjarne trailed Tor as the big Minotaur charged into the next group of three Orcs, bowling them over like tenpins, Bjarne dispatched one before it could recover it's wits, and Tor simply stomped a second one into the ground. The third Orc found itself skewered on Cleo's blade as it attempted to flee.
Maui and several of the other marines formed a loose perimeter around Seamus, much to his dismay, and kept another four orcs at bay as the Elf cast a simple spell to improve everyones luck.
The remaining four Orcs halted their pursuit and came back to aid their fellows, a mistake that cost them their lives, as Tor, Angus, Bjarne, and Hrothgar tore into them with a veangeance. Mere seconds found all four Orcs dead on the ground as the unusual foursome paused to catch their breath.
There wasn't anything else for them to do, as Seamus and the marines had already dipatched the four at their position as well. The only thing left to do was to locate the child they had been pursuing.
Not an easy task, as there was now no sign of her.
“Where'd she go?” Angus asked with a frown as he wiped gore off his axeblade with a scrap of cloth.
“I have no idea.” Seamus replied, he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, “It's safe now, you can come out!”
There was no reply for a moment or two, then a rustling in the undergrowth revealed what all of them had at first taken for a small child. Well…it was female, that much they were right about, but the face that stared up at them through a thin layer of grime was no child's face. It was an adult's face, though on a child sized body. “Those smelly pig-things are gone?” She asked in a rather high pitched voice.
“Galgarin's beard! A halfling!” Seamus muttered under his breath before replying, “Yes they are…I'm Seamus…who might you be young lady?”
“I'm Seraphina!” She replied brightly as she came a bit closer to him. She cast a wary eye at Tor and Hrothgar, “What are they?” She pointed at the two individuals in question.
“That would be Tor and Hrothgar, two of my crewmen.” Seamus replied as he knelt slightly to be more at eye level with her, we saw the Orcs chasing you and came to help. We were on my ship out there in the river.” He pointed back at the Rattler a glow of pride crossing his face.
She turned at looked at the ship and her eyes grew wide, “That's a big boat!”
Seamus laughed, “Indeed it is…though it is a bit crowded at the moment.”
“Why?” She asked simply.
“Well…we're evacuating a lot of the people from Kashin.” Seamus explained, “And there's lots of people and not many ships.”
“Oh.” She said, “Is that why those pig-things were after me?”
“Probably.” Seamus replied, “They want to keep as many people from getting away as they can.”
“Why would they want that?” Seraphina asked.
“The more they keep from getting away…the more they can eat later.” Seamus replied with a note of disgust in his voice.
Seraphina shuddered and closed her eyes, “Would you take me away with you? I don't want some smelly pig-thing to eat me.”
“Certainly.” Seamus told her. His friends formed a loose circle as he took Seraphina's hand and led her back to the long boat. He pondered the odds of his finding another supposedly nearly extinct race and decided that somewhere, some God or Goddess was likely having a laugh at his expense.
Several hours later on board the Rattler
Seamus stood watching as nearly two hundred men strained at the cable running from the Rattler's port bow to the shore. Every able bodied man aboard was helping to pull the cable taught around several huge trees. Once it was looped and made fast, he dropped his arm as a signal and the group gathered at the capstain began to push.
This group included Tor, Hrothgar, Bjarne, Angus, Maui, and another twenty strong men. There was a groan of stressed timbers as the cable tightened. Slowly, the cable pulled tighter and tighter as the men strained at the capstains spokes. There was another loud and prolonged groan from the Rattler as she began to slowly right herself from her listing position.
“It's working lads! Keep it up!” Seamus exhulted. The ship began to right herself faster as she came unstuck from the river mud. There was a final shudder and groan as she came fully free and a cheer went up from the men on shore.
Seamus began issuing orders at a furious pace as she came free, first, the port anchors were set, to stop her drifting back out of the channel, then the port capstain was locked down. Finally, the massive cable was unfastened from the stand of trees, and then hauled back aboard. The last taking nearly two more marks to complete. Once it was done and everyone was back aboard, the Rattler raised anchor and got underway once again.
Nightfall on the Rattler
Seamus was dozing in his chair when a hand on his shoulder shook him awake. He opened one eye and saw Xavian, the young human mage standing before him looking a bit nervous. “What is it Xavian?” he asked politely.
“Well, Captain…ah…it would seem that the Halfling, Seraphina..well…she's a mage…of sorts.” He replied rather hesitantly.
“Go on.” Seamus told him as he sat up.
“Well sir…it seems that she found Trixie…and the two of them…well…I'm not sure exactly what they did…but there was a lot of light and sparkling dust involved.” Xavian explained.
“I see.” Seamus replied as he stroked his moustache, “I trust no one was injured and the Rattler is undamaged?”
“Yes sir…no injuries or damage.” Xavian confirmed.
“Very good…just keep an eye on them…and don't interfer unless they look like they're going to hurt someone or damage the ship.” Seamus sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, “I'll have a word with them in the morning. Was there anything else?”
“No sir.” Just thought you might want to know what was going on.” Xavian replied.
“Allright then, thank you for letting me know.” Seamus setled back into his chair as the young mage moved away. He shook his head in wonderment, this trip was turning out to be one surprise after another. He yawned and closed his eyes, returning to the nap that he desperately needed.
The following afternoon, Loc Magus
Seamus paused outside the door the Mistriss Brin's chamber, he took a deep breath and then knocked. A voice called “Enter, Captain Seamus.” and the door swung open on it's own. Seamus stepped inside and halted in the middle of the circular room. Mistriss Brin was sitting in a chair next to a small desk, a gowing orb in the center of the desk.
As Seamus watched, the orb quickly lost it's glow and faded to a dull milky white color. “It is good of you to come so promptly, Captain…I didn't expect you for at least another half-mark.” She said to him.
“Well…unloading the refugees isn't something I'm really needed for, Mistriss…and I thought perhaps you might have word of the person I seek.” Seamus replied with a shrug. It was true…the unloading was going well and his presence was not required. The only incident needing his attention thus far today on the ship had been the odd disappearance of a large number of left boots. The boots had subsequently been found in a corner off the cargo hold, but no one seemed to be really sure how they got there.
Brin gave him one of her enigmatic smiles, “Though I have not heard any news of the man you seek, I have been instructed to send you to to Terras. You will be met there by another representative of Firestorm…it would seem that they have a job for you…more than that, I do not know.”
Seamus was silent for a moment as he pondered this development, with the Ogarians rolling over everything in their path, it was no real surprise that he would be called upon for a mission to aid in the war effort. He allowed himself a grim smile, it was high time he was allowed to do his part against those who would despoil his homeland. “As you command, Mistriss…I shall depart at first light tomorrow.”
Brin stood and moved over to stand before Seamus, “I would ask that you be careful, young Captain.” She told him gently, “Your eagerness to do battle is troubling…it could blind you to the greater needs of our world…but it is also good that you so willingly put your duty to our homeland first…balancing the urge to do battle and the need to be where you are needed will be a difficult task, young Captain…I wish you success…in all you shall be called upon to do.” She reached out and placed her hand on his chest, “You have a good heart…don't let what is to come armor it too well.”
Seamus was a bit surprised by her actions and words, so for a long few seconds he was rendered speechless. As she removed her hand and stepped away he quietly replied, “I will do my best…” It wasn't much of a reply, but it was the best he could manage. He gave her a small bow and turned to leave. Few people could unnerve him, and Mistriss Brin had just added her name to that list.
Once he was outside, he took a deep breath and paused, that had been the first time the Half-Elven mage had touched him, let alone come near him. He wondered why she was suddenly treating him with more familiarity than usual. Her normal aloof manner had become so routine that her latest behavior had him wondering what was going on. He finally shrugged and tossed the dilema to a corner of his mind and began making his way back down the mountain.
He laughed aloud, Angus, Maui, Xavian and Cleo had been a bit cross with him when he announced that he was “Going up the mountain for a bit…by myself.” He had silenced the srguments by pointing out that he was quite capable of taking a short walk by himself, had been doing it for years, as a point of fact. Still, he was fairly sure Cleo was shadowing him somewhere, the others had given in far too easily for her not to be.
As he walked, he began singing softly to himself, a old tune he recalled from the happy days of his childhood. As he sang memories of growing up in the Hearth of the Sonehelms and the faces of family and friends rolled through his mind. He found himself suddenly more at peace than he had been in quite some time. He stopped and looked out across the town of Rilan, easily spotting the Rattler lying at anchor in the river.
Cassandra, Tor, Hrothgar, Bjarne, Trixie and Seraphina had all elected to remain with his crew for the moment, and he had added another fifty or so volunteers to his crew from the refugees. He finally had a fully manned and ready ship, and from the sounds of it, he would soon have a mission as well. He found contentment in this fact. It was time. He was ready. The crew was ready. The ship was as ready as they could make her.
It was time to stop retreating. It was time to take the fight to their enemies. Seamus squared his shoulders and began walking again. He had a few ideas as to where to strike. Once he met with his superior in Terras, he would get a clearer picture, and he would finalize his plans. Then, then the Ogarions and their Nabrolian allies would learn a lesson about fighting a Stonehelm.