A Pirate's Life for Me!

01 Set Sail for Adventure!

Ya-harr, me new shipmates, ’tis a pleasure to be aboard your fine vessel! Truly that golden dragon has lead me to fine fortune indeed, for to find myself amongst such comforting company as your very selves leaves me pleased from my claws up to my bandana!

Ye’ll no doubt be wondering what brought me to such as yourselves, well I’ll tell you. ‘TIs a goodly few years now since that scabrous dog Captain FIshhand marooned me. He’d decided to throw his lot in with a despicable knave by the name of Falkirk – who I see from your expression you’re all familiar with, good – and the rest of the crew just bobbed their heads and agreed with him. I beseeched the captain to see reason and not fall in with such filth, and when he refused to listen I tried to scupper our ship, better to see her at the bottom of the ocean than sailing under the colours of that swine, but to no avail.

I was caught, and cornered aboard my own deck! With nothing but my halberd in hand I was backed into a tight spot, but the fools had only ever seen me at the ship’s wheel, never with a weapon in my hands, and I left a good number of those seadogs speared and gutted that day, so I did. My own shipmates, it wounded me to fight them, but with my own life at stake and seeing what they’d become I lost all moral thinking and simply lashed out, hacking them down one by one, my weapon a spinning typhoon of death for every comer! Finally they called up the ship’s mage, who cast a thunderous volley of death my way. Out of options, I leapt overboard and swam for my life, barely escaping as a fair wind carried my enemies away. I’ll never forget them, though, and should I ever come across that ship, the Fair Maiden, again, I swear I’ll free her from Falkirk’s fleet or else send her down to the depths!

After days at sea, I finally floated to a tiny island. Barely alive, my tongue swollen with thirst, my inners howling with hunger and my brain addled by the madness, I crawled ashore, and slept for three days straight. When I finally awoke, I found I’d made myself governor of a tiny spit of solid rock, a jutting precipice pointing towards the sky and covered in the nests of all manner of sea birds. Desperate for food, I climbed that jagged peak to steal eggs, and took my water from tiny pools where the rain caught among the rocks.

For five years I lived alone on that island but for the birds. Over time I learned rituals to communicate with them, and we struck a bargain. I would cease raiding their nests to sustain myself, and they would bring me fish from the sea to fill my belly instead, along with anything else they found that I could make use of. A fine bargain it was, and for a time I was happy, but I knew that I could not contain the rage seething inside of me, the injustice of knowing my beloved ship was flying false colours and filled with foul felons and feckless fools!

After much debate, the birds brought me a tiny dinghy, the very one I sailed up to your ship with, and with only my halberd for an oar I set out into the sea, determined to find a proper island, from there to find a ship, a fine crew, and set out to have my revenge. I rowed alone for three days and three nights, until finally I saw a great golden shape fly overheard, a dragon, a true winged dragon soaring high among the clouds. Invigourated by the sight of its splendour, I determined to follow it, rowing until my muscles felt they would burst and my lungs seared in agony, until finally I struck land at that tiny island where I met you all.

So that’s my story, shipmates. As for these feathers, you may ask, why they’re my lucky charms, every one bringing me good fortune and fair weather. ‘Twas luck to see the dragon above me, and fair providence that I should find you all just when your captain had been killed and you needed someone to man the wheel. ’Tis luck that’ll have me find the Fair Maiden yet, and luck that’ll help me free her from her fate.

So drink up and be hearty, shipmates, for tomorrow we sail to the horizon, to find forces and the strength to tear that blaggard Falkirk asunder, and may good fortune always sail with us! Ya-harr!

02 The Most Powerful Fish in the Sea

Ahoy there, maties, permission to come aboard your fine tavern. My shipmates and I have sailed long to reach this fair island – or is it islands? – and we be in dire need of fine drink to cool our weary bellies after a harsh voyage.

I see some of you looking at me a bit warily, and wise you are to be doing so, but I promise I mean you no harm. I’ve been a sailor all my life and would you believe I never took a scratch before I took up with the wild crew of the Hallowed Hand, the fair vessel that just pulled into port here. Fifteen years before the mast and another five marooned on an island and not a single mark to mar my glorious golden scales, but six weeks sailing with these coves and I’ve been half-drowned, drugged, shot with a fish and had half me scales blackened. Fear not, though, this is no Black Spot, I’m not doomed to die, though the forces at work in these seas may beg to differ!

But let me tell you some tales, of a pipe-addled merchant trading in stories and fine goods. ’Tis from him I gained this fine amulet around my neck, the truest lucky charm a man ever needed! My fellows each gained something valuable from his stores, except our quartermaster, Nyx, who could not be persuaded to part with anything she possessed for a trade. To bargain for this shield, he wove his magic upon us all to hurl us into a story and find its ending, a most unnerving experience of vicious barmaids armed to the teeth, absolutely everybody we met somehow having a crossbow hidden on their person somewhere, and my own father disowning me and then shot in the back to die in my arms. Only a story, to be true, but every moment felt real, and it hit home to when my actual father really did die in my arms, long ago afore I even went to sea…

But I’m getting distracted! We sailed onward, and found a tiny shack on poles held above the gently lapping waves. Venturing inside, I found a chest that threatened to eat through our ship, and was suddenly attacked by the most powerful fish you ever saw! A mighty beast, it leapt from the waves claiming it had come to help us, then flung itself at me with the force of a thousand charging sharks, piercing my chest and bursting out my back with such force it threw me clear through the back of the hut and into the sea! My shipmate Fernando dived straight into the water to reclaim me from the sea’s icy grip, but ‘twas a close shave, and I’ll long have this scar on my chest to remind me of it!

Next, we sailed to a remote island, where a bearded man in superb physical condition wailed and waved for help. Having been marooned myself, I knew we had to save him, but as our ship drew closer Nyx suddenly spotted something, and with a cry of “It’s a trap!!”, she fired a trio of fiery bolts and the entire island was gone, consumed in an almighty explosion! Turned out what she’d thought had been an ambush was actually a reserve of booze, all exploded by her magic and the poor bearded fellow along with it!

Finally, we sailed to an island on which was simply a dark and foreboding pillar, ornately carved all in black and towering into the sky. The others took it for a mere curiosity, but I saw something they missed, and crept closer, finding a secret hatch that opened the entire pillar, sending it crashing into the sea, and when the waves had settled again there floated a sword before me, black as life’s blood. Transfixed, I reached out to take it, and it engulfed my arm, resulting in the blackness you see here across my scales. ‘Tis no curse, though, for it allows me to summon any sword I require and bring it to my aid at a moment’s notice.

But I see I’ve talked too long, and I’ve also finished my pint. It’s been good to share these tales of the sea with you all, good tavern folk, but I must be on my way now. Fare thee well, every one of you!

03 Dreams Of Sludge

Good day to you, giant eagle, and a pleasure it is to be made so welcome here in your nest. My warmest greetings to you, too, Mad Hatter, and your March Hare, and, why, my Uncle Forrester, what a delight to see you here! Incidentally, I’m not sure which of you invited my old school headmaster but perhaps not the wisest move, he always was a dreadful old swine. Still, a delight, absolutely a delight, to be at such a wonderful gathering. Pray allow me to express my gratitude by treating you all to my latest adventures!

We finally reached the island of Riverwing, having sailed many weeks and through many fine adventures to find it. My arm still tingled with the magical energy now coursing through it, and my now-beloved feather amulet sparkled on my chest with every glint of the morning sun. As we made port, we swiftly found the man to whom we had been directed, a grizzled veteran convinced he’d been given such a remote post as punishment, perhaps for his involvement in the death of the last Emperor, so some fearful business had been happening, to be sure!

The man told us first how he had been expecting our gallant captain, a man by name of Adders the Wanker, and was aghast to learn of the late captain’s demise shortly before I’d joined the crew. I kept an open ear to this talk, having been intrigued by tales of the former captain from the rest of the crew, who’d said he was by turns a brave warrior leading the charge into combat, a willing distraction happy to gain the attention of onlookers or monstrous beasts to grant his allies an advantage, but also a completely heartless bastard happy to presume others were doomed and simply condemn them to their fate without giving them a chance of saving themselves. Our new contact asked which of us was the new captain in Adders’ absence, and this posed an interesting question. Apparently the man had simply appointed himself captain by leave of being the only one able to pilot the ship and the others had simply gone along with it for convenience. In the silence, Fernando stepped forward and declared himself captain with a litany of bizarre titles, and the others simply shrugged as if this was just the way things were done in this crew. Truly, I had found myself an odd crew to serve with, but I’d taken something of a liking to them, and Fernando had recently dived into the sea to fish me out without a moment’s thought, I’m told, so I had no objection.

We learned that a local family had simply vanished along with all of their possessions in the night, with our contact convinced they hadn’t simply taken ship as he had seen none and there were no signs of carrying items to the docks and absolutely nothing left behind in the hurry to leave. We searched the house in detail, finding no clue save that part of the wall could be removed with ease. While the others deliberated, I opted to use my ritual, the same as I had used to commune with your feathered subjects, Lord Eagle, in the manner you taught me, Uncle. Communing with the pigs grazing next to the house, I learned that the people involved had simply been carried away in the night, struggling as though lifted by some invisible force, and carried off towards the nearby Glass Mountains, a ring of shining spires some fifteen miles hence.

Leaping to action, we hurried aboard our ship and sailed for the island pool enclosed without those glimmering peaks, swiftly blasting our way through a horde of giant mosquitoes, until we ourselves were suddenly beset by invisible forces grasping for us. First Nyx was carried aloft while I fended off my own attacker, but she broke herself free with a cacophonous spell that seemed to blast her captor away from her, sending her plummeting into the pool. As she emerged I was finally snagged, lifted up into the air. In vain I summoned my black blade and hacked at the force time and again, but all to no avail, and as I was carried higher and higher I found myself carried towards the waterfall plunging from one peak into the pool below. I felt a spell begin to settle on me, and my eyes closed even as I desperately fought off the sleeping spell. My last sight as my vision faded was of Varis, sprinting at terrific speed round the pool to try and aid me, followed by Fernando, with the others seeming to dither for an age before finally shrugging and joining their companions in racing to my aid.

And that is where my story leaves off, I fear, for from there I suddenly found myself at this merry gathering, not that I am at all sad to be here, of course, but I do wonder if this is not simply a dream? Oh, thank you, Mad Hatter, of course I would love a cup of your finest blend, most welcome. As I say, I wonder if this is not all merely some kind of… Sorry, Mad Hatter, but are you sure this is your best tea? Only it does leave a fearful taste in the mouth, thick and viscous, like, well almost like slime… Now don’t take offence at that comment, see, it is green and gloopy! You tell me what kind of tea is so disgusting?! What?! How dare you, sir! Why I’ll tear yer gizzards from your belly, ye sea-swoggling scum!! I’ll blind your eyes and tear your arms away!! What? What’s going on? I feel like I’m being dragged away, like the current in fast water, like being pulled towards a waterfall… Let me back, I need to smash Mad Hatter’s face in!! No! I’m not ready to wake up yet! And – ow! Why does my leg hurt?! Right, first person I see when I wake up is getting torn limb from limb…!!

A Pirate's Life for Me!

Aquilluis Dawns RuIndeed