To Sail the Southern Seas: Prologue

On the night of a full moon, the seas glisten with a pale silvery light that catches on the crests of the waves. They seem to carry the moon’s reflection with them as they roll across calm waters. Some such liquid undulations now slid across the bay that served as the Company’s harbour on the island of Erryeth. However, another light caught those rolling swells as they neared the shore. Before the waves splashed against the hull of the lone surviving ship or the wrecked remnants of the less fortunate vessels, they caught the flicker of firelight. Small scattered fires burned in the town of Holborough, giving the shores their glow and crackling melodies alongside the slosh of the crashing crests.

Overshadowing the smouldering hamlet sat that surviving ship. From its tallest mast it flew a single flag, a golden griffon on a green field, the flag of the Gyleaon Desert Trading Company. With twin masts, two decks, trebuchets mounted on the front and rear decks, eight bolt throwers, a steel armoured prow, and a slim shape deigned for speed and violence. Along its bow, in jet black letters done in skilled calligraphy were set its name, Astrologer’s Albatross. The ship was as quiet as the town. Its crew were below decks, passing the night in their bunks. Only a single soul, its captain, remained above decks. He stood before the gangplank, watching as two figures slipped though the fires of the ghost town towards him.

Captain Nerova

The Captain’s human face bore scars and wrinkles, physical badges of his over fifty years life’s experiences. His long, greasy white hair was tied back. His beard was short and equally unkempt. He wore the uniform of a Company captain, a green overcoat with a badge of rank. He had a short blade on one hip and a hand axe on the other. His eyes were a piercing blue, and tightly focused on the two cloaked and hooded individuals striding aboard his vessel. One stood about five and a half feet tall with a thin wiry build, while the other, despite his muscular form, was a mere three feet in height. The Captain nodded as they reached the deck, and the elf and the halfling removed their hoods to return the gesture.

“Obran,” the Captain whispered in greeting. The Halfling’s gaze flashed upwards to meet the Captain’s, his demeanor challenging the master of the ship. A hand darted beneath his cloak. “Vosi,” the Captain quickly added, “Welcome aboard my ship, Obran Vosi.” The halfling withdrew his hand, holding a folded piece of parchment, which he handed to the Captain. Yet, their eyes remained locked together. A challenge had been issued there. The Captain dropped his gaze to examine the parchment.

“Our reports of you said you were a proud, unflinching man, Captain Nerova. I require that. Do not presume, however, that your value gives you authority here. This is a Vosi matter, given to our organization by both the Board of the Company and Imperial Lord of the Southern Seas. The Vosi, with me as their representative here, will assure that this matter is attended to, with the aid of you and your ship of course.

Nerova cleared his throat and addressed Obran, “So, it’s not over then. You’re not yet willing to let this go, even after all this?” He glanced out over the fire lit remnants of Holborough and the wrecked vessels that lay cast about the shore and protruding from the harbour’s waters.

“He will not be allowed to escape. He started a war, sir, a conflict which over its twenty one month existence ended the lives of some six thousand citizens of the Dominion of Tamherang and nearly three thousand of his own forces. Of those forces, many were citizens of Gyleaon and agents the Company, and a great many were innocent civilians, who called this isle their home. So yes, Captain,” Obran’s said, driving home his authority, “Jalastar Marsyn and the crew of the Soul of Erryeth will be brought to justice.”

The Captain, finished with the parchment, looked up from it with a raised eyebrow at Obran. “Some might say Jalastar of Erryeth was just a man defending his home. After all, it was sold out from under him to the Tamherang. Which,” he grunted, levelling two fingers at the elf, “is why he’s here I’d say.”

The elf remained standing back from the pair, and while he stared at the Captain, the elf made no sign desiring to respond. Obran did not even glance at his counterpart, expecting to response.

“You are correct. He is an agent out of Tamherang, assigned to see this through, just as I am. We suffered an embarrassment with this war. We made a deal with the Dominion of Tamherang, and his little war threatened to turn a simple deal into an international incident. Our comrades in Tamherang are quite firm on the point of overseeing the capture and trial of this man, and the inevitable result of that process. We have to make it very clear to them, and to our people, that this was not a man defending his home. That one might foolishly sympathize with. But the Vosi, and the powers that guide us, known Jalastar for what he is, a monster who would watch the world burn to fulfill his vengeance. All must come to see this as well”

Captain Nerova nodded. “He did horrible things in the war.” He looked out at the burning buildings and the graveyard the harbour had become. “I expect that’s why you chose to meet here. Wanted the crew to see exactly what he did to escape the war he started when it turned against him. I count five ships, all warlike vessels, crews numbering in the hundreds. Probably at least that and more in the village, ground forces from both nations and the civilian collateral damage. I assume his tame witch sunk the ships, but how did he destroy the landman?”

The Halfling smiled. “He did not fire a shot at them. You are right, the witch Kaudi Vraa drew a storm into the harbour, drove the ships together. Survivors tell us that it was something in the water, the half orc known as the Hullbane, who actually sunk them, one by one. The ground forces were caught in the storm as well, but they met their fates at the hands of that cleric of Descna. A few words from her blessed lips, and the entire town of innocents threw themselves upon armed soldiers. They fought to the last man. Only a handful of those soldiers survived.”

For a moment the Captain stared out over the destruction. He seemed lost to the world, his mind back to the harbour six days ago, watching the massacre before the Soul of Erryeth escaped the island it was named for. After several minutes he returned his attention to the Vosi. “I’ll be sure to tell that story to my men. They should know what kind of man we hunt.”

“Indeed, they should,” the Halfling agreed with a cruel grin. “Once you have, we should set out immediately. Of course, you’ll want to hire a more elite crew to face this menace. You may do so and the Vosi will cover the costs, however I must insist we do so on the trail. Central City will not do if we desire speed. Any ideas, Captain?”

Nerova nodded. “The Isle of Dis. You’ve no doubt heard of the story of how it came to be, only three years ago now. Its founders were mercenaries hired by the Company. They proved effective in dealing with Harvok Dis and the Orb of Storms, and the adventurers who now frequent that place all seek to live up to that legacy. Or at least, those who are drawn there can live up to it. We’ll find the kind we seek there.”

The elf exhaled sharply, and stepped forward. Obran extended his hand to the Captain, and as they shook, the elf observed closely. “Then let us set out with all haste, Captain Nerova of the Astrologer’s Albatross” the Vosi agent stated with an air of ceremony. “We set forth on a mission all of the Southern Seas will be watching.”

***

High above the meeting, perched atop the flag of the Company, an osprey watched the meeting, its eyes never leaving the exchange. As hands were shook, it darted off and upwards, before sweeping south west with purpose.

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