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[ an Eldemore fanfiction
If anyone was ever curious about Sterling's and Moritz's backstory, here it is. If you don't know who Sterling and Moritz are: Sterling Roscoe is my bumbling Dire Wolf Warden character, who fails at everything he tries, usually in spectacular fashion; including being a Warden. He's a privileged ne're-do-well, and an itinerant bounder, and I love him. XP Moritz is his far more competent Dire wolf, who holds duty and honor in highest regard. One's a lieutenant in the Eldemorian Navy; the other is a Dire wolf with a skill for woodcraft. So of course, they're the perfect team... or not... This is the story of how the two met, and their first adventure together aboard the high Eldemorian seas.
Had way too much fun writing this up. X3 Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. If I find the motivation and time, I may go back and fix it up. The first two chapters especially come across as somewhat stiff in my opinion, so apologies for that. But the third has action! The pace is totally off in the third chapter, but hey! Action!
Keep in mind, this is only the first - second draft. I'm not sure when I'll be able to add more chapters. I'm just writing this for fun, so it's not going to be at the top of my priority list. But I hope this little flight of fancy entertains you, as much as it did me. ^^
Feel free to post now! Feedback is appreciated.
Last edited by Silverhart
on Tue May 19, 2015 10:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
- Posts: 3619
- Joined: Sat Jun 15, 2013 11:44 pm
Chapter One . . .
"I'm going to be perfectly honest with you, Midshipman. The Navy is full of young men and women ripe for promotion - each of them far better qualified then you."
Midshipman Sterling Roscoe stood at rigid attention across from the Commodore. The Commodore's office felt uncomfortably stuffy and oppressive with the shutters closed. Roscoe swallowed past a lump in his throat, and watched as the Commodore shuffled around the room. Despite the advanced years that had stuck him behind a desk, the man couldn't keep still for more then two seconds, and Roscoe's neck was getting a crick from watching him pace. Adding to his discomfiture, lying on the floor in front of the desk was a large and truly monstrous Celtic Dire wolf. The twisting patterns on it's skin and fur seemed to shift in the flickering electrics, as it fixed Sterling with it's one milky blue eye. It's eye hadn't left him since he'd entered.
"Unfortunately for all of them," the Commodore continued, breaking Roscoe's staring contest with the yellow wolf, "I don't owe any of their father's a favor." The old commander chuckled to himself, bobbing like a smug Rune Dragon. "You come from good stock, Roscoe. Your father is a very good man. Very good. And your brothers all - very good indeed. We need more like them."
Roscoe inclined his head in acknowledgment of his father's potency. If he'd learned anything growing up, it was that good breeding was as important as training - for men and Dire wolves alike - and his family had an excellent track record for pumping out both. His father had retired from service with more honors then he could ever be bothered to remember, and had went on to produce three upstanding Naval officers, as well as breeding some of the finest lineages of Dire wolves used in the Navy.
"Your father trained Galchobhar for me." The commander patted the yellow Dire's head. "Solid as a rock."Sterling glanced at the one-eyed Dire, who, true to the Commodore's statement, didn't blink an eye. The midshipman cocked an eyebrow at the Dire. Wonder what it'd take to get him to move?
Personally, Roscoe didn't care overmuch for the breed of wolf the Navy forged. The pups went in as happy-go-lucky young things, and came out sort of wild-eyed and predatory - so brainwashed by duty, and slaves to pack mentality they couldn't even remember how to behave in polite society - like staring Glachobhar there.
"Have I told you about the time we were caught in a firestorm off the coast of the Oriental Isles? Glachobhar and I -"
Plastering a fake grin on his face, Sterling gave a conversational nod. Ancients above and below! If I have to listen to one more 'back in my day' story, I think I'll shoot my brains out. He wasn't here to listen the Commodore reminisce on his glory days. Get on with it already! He'd been waiting for this promotion for nearly a year, and now, by the all the Ancients he had better get it, or so help him, he'd turn around and desert and live on the run for the rest of his life. It was a better prospect then wallowing another two years in the gun room and smiling pleasantly while those nose-wiping brats, ten years his junior got promoted left and right. He was bloody sick of taking orders from acne-riddled pollywogs.
As the Commodore droned on about cannons blazing, Sterling suppressed a groan of impatience. Ah well, a few more minutes wouldn't kill him... though he couldn't say the same for the Commodore...
The Dire was still staring at him. Roscoe stared right back, looking down his straight nose at the canine. What was the dumb beast thinking? Didn't he have something else to stare at? Maybe it was senile.
Animals had never much cared for Sterling, and the feeling was mutual. His father's Dire wolves had used to torment him as a boy, and he had harbored a dislike for the creatures ever since. The Commodore's battle-scarred old Dire wolf seemed to sense this undercurrent of hostility, and was eyeing him in a way that made the midshipman's skin crawl. What had brought him to this again?
A lull in the Commodore's story prompted Roscoe to look up. "Sir -" he interjected with all the politeness he could bring himself to muster. "Did you want to tell me something important?" Instead of dragging me here to hear boring old war stories that no one cares about any more.
"Oh! Yes, I did. Straight to the point, eh Mister Roscoe?"
"Brevity is the hallmark of a good commander, as my father always said."
The man seemed a bit miffed by the interruption of what was no doubt a glorious and completely unembellished tale of courage and bloodshed, but the reference to his father seemed to soften his expression. The Roscoes were very well known for their forwardness.
"Ah, yes. As I was saying: I'm pleased to tell you that you passed your examinations. Barely, mind you. It took some doing on my part to convince the board, but the records of your actions aboard the Remembrance served me well to convince them."
"Ah..." Sterling quickly silenced himself - caught between a feeling of elation and confusion. He'd never served aboard the Remembrance. The old man must have been confusing him for one of his brothers. That put a bit of a damper on his jubilation. Well, anyway... who was he to correct the Commodore of the fleet? He had passed his lieutenant's examination, hadn't he? That was good enough for him.
"Congratulations, Lieutenant!" The old man held out a rough hand and Roscoe shook it, feeling slightly giddy.
"Thank you, sir. And now... where do I go?"
"Yes, go. I expect I'll have orders... and... I have to pick out a Dire wolf for myself, don't I?" All new lieutenants upon passing their tests were issued a Dire wolf companion, if they were unbound. The Navy had special breeders to provide just such a service, including his father. Sterling would just as soon get the process over with as quickly as possible.
"Oh, right. Well, the board didn't exactly see fit to issue a puppy to a lieutenant with such little experience. You were a little late in joining, you see."
Roscoe blinked at him. That was true enough. Most officers went to sea when they were eight or nine â€“ fifteen was generally considered as being too late to teach someone all the ropes they needed to learn. Roscoe had joined the Navy when he was nearly twenty. It was only the fact that his elder brothers had taught him sailing as a young boy on the bay, that had kept him afloat. And his father's patronage helped a good deal where knowledge failed him.
"Very well. It isn't a problem." He could live without a Dire wolf. The slight caused him some consternation, but he was astonished by his remarkable stroke of luck. He wouldn't have to mess around with one of those big dumb Navy-bred brutes after all! He tried very hard to look disappointed, while inside he was grinning in relief.
"You didn't let me finish. The board decided to issue you another Dire wolf."
His heart dropped. "Another..?"
"Yes, you see - it's Warden was killed in action. Normally, the Navy retires those wolves who've lost their Wardens to the reserves, but this wolf doesn't belonged to the Navy. It was never issued to the man who was killed."
"A... wild wolf?"
The Commodore shrugged. "We have no idea where the wolf originally came from. Since it is not recorded in our books we have not the funds set aside to send it to one of the reserves, nor have we the authority. At the same time, we can't exactly let a bereaved Dire on the loose, now can we?"
"No..." Roscoe struggled to process what was being said. He wasn't entirely sure what the man was saying. He'd be getting a ... a second-hand Dire wolf? Great.
"A very charitable service you'll be doing for us Mister Roscoe! Very charitable! The wolf bonds with you, we can enter it in the books, and should anything happen to you, the pension you would have received will go to ensuring it has a good home afterward. A win-win, all round." The old man looked very pleased with himself, as if this stroke of genius were all of his own mind.
Sterling forced a crooked smile - though it felt more like a grimace. "That's fan-tastic." I'm certain they've already got the funeral all planned out. "Out of curiosity, what do I receive, should the wolf be killed in action?"
The Commodore looked a mite startled at this. "Why, nothing."
"I thought as much. It is so very kind of the Admiralty to provide for the beasts in such tragic circumstances."
The one-eyed Dire wolf twitched it's ears, curling a lip at the lieutenant's insincere words, but the Commodore seemed unfazed. Sterling allowed himself a satisfied smile at the wolf's reaction - he would take it as a small victory.
"Come! I'll show you the wolf in question." Stepping forward eagerly, the Commodore flung open the door to the office and exited. The Celtic Dire wolf rose stiffly to it's feet, and hobbled after it's master, with Roscoe trailing behind.
The warm afternoon sunlight flooded the hallway, feeling wondrously refreshing after the Commodore's stuffy office. Roscoe immediately felt as if a great weight were lifted off his shoulders. He was officially a fully fledged officer of the Eldemorian Navy, with all the perks and pay that position entitled him to. Well, at least he would be once he got this Dire situation out of the way.
The two men walked in silence down the hallway, the many window panes casting long net-like patterns across the worn wood. Outside in the distance, beneath the great lighthouse of Silverport, Roscoe could spy the forest of masts and spars rising above the houses; great trees which grew leaves of rope and canvas, and which, if the winds were right, would up and sail away to worlds no other tree could imagine. The indulgent feeling of pride welled up in his chest, to think he'd be commanding one of those ships someday. Though, it would likely be a long way off. In the meantime, he was looking forward to a long, and well deserved shore leave on an officer's half-pay. He would enjoy getting to know the city better - Silverport was a lively, intriguing town, to say the least.
The Commodore led him out a heavy oaken door into a courtyard where a small pack of Dire wolf puppies gamboled with a host of young midshipmen-and-women. As the trio entered their sights, the puppies all stopped in their playing to rush them, tripping over each others' big feet in their haste to be the first to greet the newcomers.
Roscoe was about to take a step back to avoid the torrent, when the Commodore's Dire wolf issued a short, sharp bark of authority. The pups stopped dead in their tracks. They sat down at attention, panting excitedly. All except one who came bounding over to Sterling undaunted, and attempted to jump up and plant a big, sloppy kiss on the new lieutenant's face.
The old Dire gave another command, sounding decidedly short-tempered. The young wolf hopped back to sit with the others, looking chastised.
"New recruit. Obviously."
"Obviously." Sterling grimaced, and wiped drool onto his pant leg.
"Your Dire is over there." The Commodore gestured to a large wooden cage in the corner of the courtyard. The slats blocked his getting a clear view of the creature inside. All he could make out was an indistinct dark shape pacing behind the wooden paling.
A stab of dread pricked at Sterling's stomach. "Is there a reason it's locked up like that?" The words of his father, oft forgotten, came rushing back to him in that instant - "The bond of a Dire wolf is a powerful thing. Their lives revolve around their bonds. Break the bond, and you break the wolf. Which is why I pray you never have to see one of those reserves they send the poor unhinged beasts to."
"For easier transport." The cage rattled in displeasure.
Sterling swallowed past a lump in his throat. When he had been very young, his father had occasionally journeyed to those reserves to find good breeding stock. However, most of the wolves there were uninterested in such things. His father had quickly stopped going, claiming it was too much for his nerves. Sterling had never known the great Admiral Roscoe to shirk from pain and suffering, but those Dires had managed to unnerve even the most stout-hearted war hero with their madness.
"Commodore, I appreciate the gesture. But should we really be putting the poor brute through this kind of torment? I think I shall do quite fine on my own -"
"Nonsense, lad! The Navy has always required Dire wolves and their Wardens! You know the old song:
Over the waves of desert dunes; twelve Wardens come along -
'Come away me boys, to the sea' they cry,
The desert holds no fortune for me - 'tis something more I crave,
So come away me boys, away to the sea, to join the ranks of the brave!"
"I know the song -" Sterling was cut off by the Commodore breaking out into the rousing chorus.
"To the sea with me! Away we'll go!
Stand together! Fight as one!
Where ever we roam, we'll always be home!
Across the sands or chasing the foam!"
The Dire wolf pups paused in their frolicking to lift their heads and add their twanging howls to the Commodore's off-key baritone. Sterling suppressed a groan, feeling the tell tale niggling ache of an oncoming headache.
Every son of a sailor grew up with that old sea song for a lullaby. It told the story of a band of Darak'i Dire wolf Wardens who left their home in the desert to go to sea and fight pirates. They went on to bring the newly formed fleet under one united banner - the Sea Wolves, the greatest fleet to ever sail the Eldemorian seas, - terror to all pirates and raiders. After many years the group of privateers fell out of favor when the government stepped in to establish a Navy. Drawing their officers from the ranks of old Sea Wolves, they created a long-standing tradition of filling out the ranks with Dire wolf Wardens. And there was no arguing with tradition - it was the backbone of Naval life.
Sterling had never seen much of a reason for bonding himself to a magical creature. The reserves of grief-ridden, half-crazed Dire wolves attested to his belief that the practice could only end in tragedy. And he had seen the reverse effect on humans. Hadn't his own mother been ravaged to a shadow by just such a severed bond? No. That wasn't what he wanted for himself. Die alone and happy, and without regret. Of course, that was before he had been pressured into joining the Navy. He had since been resigned to the fate of an inspiring officer to be saddled with a wolf. Oh, there were ways to get out of it, of course. Loopholes to exploit, and boards to appeal to - a long and arduous process, which Sterling could not be bothered to start. However in the last few months, he had decided the prospect might not be such a bad one after all. A good wolf could help an officer tremendously. Get a breed dedicated to war and command - a Sergeant Dire, or Quest Dire wolf, and a young officer could pretty much be assured of a long and prosperous career, as well as the respect of his peers. The whole point of the bond was so one's weaknesses were balanced out by the other's strengths.
The Commodore finished the second verse and Sterling hurried to stay the rest of the song - which if the Commodore chose to sing the long version could take another twenty minutes. "Commodore, may I see this Dire? It is getting rather late..." Perhaps the Dire would take one look at him, and reject the bond.
"Ah, the impatience of youth. Very well. Miss Sanders!" The Commodore nodded to a young woman in a middie's uniform who rushed to unlock the cage. She unlocked the padlock, slid back the bolt, and stood aside before swinging open the cage, and unleashing the wolf.
The great beast charged out. Sterling took a step back on instinct. The huge head swiveled this way and that, surveying it's surroundings. Upon catching the lieutenant in it's eye, it loped toward him at a hurried pace. The pups scrambled to get out of the way, recognizing something about the determination in the dark Dire's step that had them running. It's tongue was lolling in an air of desperation, and it's silver eyes seemed wild and inscrutable. There was something alien and cold in those eyes - not at all like the warm, friendly eyes of the puppies, or the blank, dignified stare of Glachobhar. It was feral. Predatory. Wild. He was seized with the instinctive need to flee, as if he were a sheep confronted with a Collie Dire. It was only his training kicking in that saved his honor. His legs locked, his thoughts left him, and he held his breath and straightened as he steadied himself for the oncoming attack. If the wolf ripped his throat out, at least they could say he died standing up.
It didn't come. The wolf stopped in front of him, sat, and looked up at him with those unreadable eyes. They stared at each other for a long while. Unblinking. Rigid. Like two Sea Serval toms meeting in an alley, neither dared to move, before the other. Then Sterling remembered that he needed to breathe.
The lieutenant glanced at the Commodore, unsure of what to do now. The man was watching him with mild interest, obviously waiting for something. Sterling cut his eyes back to the wolf. It's fur was a luxurious-looking dark, deep blue-black whose shade seemed to resemble wood grain. The two tails spread out behind it's back, like a pair of fallen banners. The sculpted ears were pricked forward with interest. It's gaze was intense, daring Sterling to get into a staring contest with it.
"What is it?" Sterling finally asked, unable to recognize the race.
"She's a Forest Dire," provided the midshipwoman, Sanders. "Her name is Moritz."
"Ah..." A Forest Dire? He felt the slightest of disappointments at this information. What was a Forest Dire for? What did they do?
"It was bonded to a ship's carpenter," the Commodore explained.
The lieutenant couldn't think of much to say at that, so he just said: "Oh." A carpenter? They were giving him a carpenter's Dire? The disappointment grew tenfold. Why were they giving him such an animal? Wouldn't it better serve the Navy being paired with a ship builder, or a caulker? At least it explained why the creature wasn't entered on the books - the Navy didn't breed Forest Dires for their commissioned officers - they were a wild variety. There was no telling where or when her old bonded had picked her up.
Sterling was at a loss. "Commodore, I'm afraid I don't understand. What am I to do with this Dire? Can it fight? Or lead? Does it know navigation?"
"I don't think so, but there's more to a good wolf then making war." Yes, but what use is that to an aspiring Naval officer? "Anyway, it's yours now."
"Just like that?"
"Aye. Just need your signature on some papers."
He frowned. Somehow he'd always thought the actual process of a lifelong bond being formed would be slightly more... dramatic. His brothers had always made it sound like this big grand experience going into a large room, with dozens of adolescent Dire wolves, all milling for attention. The Drake Dragoons had the fiery Drake Trials, the Liger Keepers had years of meditation and study. He had... paperwork. Yes, that sounded like the Navy alright.
He certainly didn't feel any different. How was bonding suppose to feel? He struggled to find a way to express this to the Commodore in a way that didn't make him sound like a complete simpleton.
"D...does it know?"
"I would hope so." The Commodore gave him an odd look, and Sterling swallowed any further questions.
"You should probably introduce yourself." Roscoe glanced at the middie who had spoken.
Clearing his throat, he asked her, "What did you say it's name was?"
"Steady on, Moritz. That's a good lad." He reached out to give the wolf an affable pat on the head, but upon receiving no acknowledgment from it, quickly brought his hand back up to tug at his collar.
"She is a female," Midshipwoman Sanders pointed out.
"Good lass, then." The Commodore, middies, and other Dire wolves were staring at him expectantly. He felt ridiculous as he went on, "Lieutenant Sterling Roscoe of the Eldemorain Navy, at your service." Roscoe lifted his hand to touch his brow respectfully.
Moritz yawned. Roscoe let a long sigh out of the corner of his mouth.
"Ah, now that that's out of the way, we can get down to brass tacks." The lieutenant turned to the commander with a blank eyed stare. "I have orders for you, my boy! You're to join the warship Elderwind. She's a beautiful little third-rate, and the Captain of her is in need of another lieutenant."
"O-oh? But I was intending to go home to my family..." He'd intended no such thing, of course, but in his experience commanders responded better to pleas of time off for a family visit, then those seeking to celebrate their promotion in the local pub.
"Well, you'll have to put it off for a time," the Commodore huffed, jowls quiver. He was obviously displeased with Sterling's argument. "Orders are orders. The tides wait for no man. The Elderwind is patrolling off the coast of East Cape. Your transport leaves in three days. Now, where did I put those orders?"
Sterling stared in dismay at the Commodore while he patted his vest pockets. Any newly promoted lieutenant would jump at the chance of a commission so soon after advancement - there were more young and war hungry officers then the Admiralty knew what to do with, so couldn't they send one of them? He would gladly wallow on half-pay for as long as was needed. Send one of the more ambitious lieutenants - they were wasted on shore leave.
Alas, there was no arguing with orders - a lesson which had been sorely ingrained into him over the years. A lesson he sorely despised having learned.
The Celtic Dire Wolf whuffled at his Warden. "Oh yes! Thank you Gals." The Commodore reached around and pulled out a packet from his back pocket. He placed the sealed packet in Roscoe's hand. Glancing down at it he was surprised to see it stamped with both the Admiralty seal, and the royal seal of Alabaster City. This was somewhat puzzling. So too when the old man's cheerful tone dropped away, and he said: 'These orders are to be delivered to Captain Bernhardt of the Elderwind as soon as possible, Mister Roscoe. Do you understand?" The gravity of the man's tone was unmistakable.
"Aye-" Sterling caught himself slipping into common tongue. "Reiterate: Yes, sir." Ah, they were trusting him with an important mission, eh? It certainly wasn't entrusted with him because of his outstanding military record - otherwise they wouldn't have saddled him with a second-hand wolf. A test, perhaps. They wanted to see if he could play delivery boy. Very well. He knew how the game was played.
"Good, good. See the clerk on your way out. You're dismissed, Mr. Roscoe. And," here the man's expression softened, "May the winds favor you."
Sterling walked out of the courtyard quickly. He was mildly surprised to see Moritz trailing him obediently.
The sound of the barking pups was cut off suddenly as he reentered the building and closed the door behind him. Aside from him and Moritz, the hall was deserted save for the few last rays of orange sunlight streaming through the windows. He grimaced at the Dire wolf, slipping the packet into his jacket.
He knew that bonded creatures were suppose to be able to communicate with their masters, but he wasn't sure how that worked exactly. He cursed himself for never expressing an interest in the subject to his father, but then bonds and Naval life had been the last thing on his mind as a roving young man. He'd seen his father and brothers give commands that the wolves always followed. Surely Moritz understood him on some level, even if he wasn't convinced any bond was there at all.
He looked down at her. "Well, I'm going off to blow all my pay on wine, women, and song. I plan to lose half my baubles at cards, and get drunk out of my mind in some shoddy pub. Don't know if you'd care to come along."
The dark wolf looked up at him, pale eyes flashing, and gave such a disapproving sound, that Roscoe was certain every word had been clearly understood.
Last edited by Silverhart
on Tue May 19, 2015 11:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.
- Posts: 3619
- Joined: Sat Jun 15, 2013 11:44 pm
Chapter Two . . .
Roscoe was of the opinion that if a body was going to sea, and run the risk of never returning, it had best make the most of time ashore. Moritz did not share this opinion, but had made no protest as she dutifully followed her lieutenant across Silverport, and watched him sample every draught of recreation offered in the town. Her disapproval was evident from the occasional huffs and snorts from beneath the table, where she lay with head placed on paws, ears perked to the snippets of conversation that floated about the smoky rooms. It was behavior most unbecoming of a Naval officer. Should her new Warden be seen and recognized by one of his superiors...
"Oh, stop looking at me like that... 'Snot my fault they're sending me off tomorrow." Moritz cocked her head at him, silent and watchful. He stared back at her blearily, his head propped up rather unsteadily on his left hand. "Fer something who doesn't say much, ye can be very much judgmental." Moritz wrinkled her nose at him, and looked away, wondering how late it was. "Old fogy," he muttered. He pulled a card from the top of the deck in front of him, and placed it face up in front of her. "It's your play."
The wolf heaved a sigh. He'd been dealing random cards to her for nearly fifteen minutes, since the last player had left the table, oblivious to the fact that she didn't have either the interest or ability to play.
'You're going to feel like Oblivion in the morning,' said a voice.
Roscoe waved his hand at whoever it was who'd spoken. Some barmaid - his eyes were too heavy to focus on her. "I'm in the middle of a game." He pointed to Moritz. "Play."
The dark wolf placed one huge foot on the table, and pawed at the cards, spilling them onto the floor. She looked down at them with interest, as they twirled and flipped through the air like dead birds. She glanced back up at her Warden.
Sterling glowered at her. Grumbling to himself, he flicked one of his cards at her nose and missed.
Nearly all of his indulgences ended like this. When the night was over, the tap run dry, and everyone had gone home, he was left facing the stony Forest Dire. And when that point came, he realized it was time to go to bed, if only to avoid her blank-eyed stares.
Yes, he certainly made the most of his short shore-leave, and come the dawning of the third day nearly missed the transport ship.
It was much to Moritz consternation, that after grumbling and moaning the whole trek to the docks (having plead the case of his throbbing skull forsaking a carriage), the profligate stepped aboard the transport - a sweet little brig called the Blue Caper - and subsequently transformed into a redoubtable Naval officer, all spick-and-span and grand-looking in his new uniform.
Moritz looked as if she couldn't decide whether to be impressed or disgusted.
'I don't know why I'm surprised at your apparent experience in this subterfuge.'
"Hmm?" Sterling turned around to see who had spoken, but none of the sailors or dock workers were paying him any mind. He frowned, feeling certain the comment had been directed at him. Well, there was not a whole lot he could do about it. He straightened up, and ascended the quarterdeck with an air of entitled nobility, Moritz at his side.
The morning mist was rising off the sea, leaving trails of condensation on the lines, as it snaked it's way up to the great puffy clouds, that were gathered and sculpted by the high winds. It was pleasantly cool, for the sun was still snoozing under a quilt of heavy grey clouds on the horizon. Nothing else about the docks was still however. The sun was up, and the fishermen were setting off in their tiny skiffs, to catch the tide. Gulls and Runes swarmed overhead, cackling triumphantly each time they were able to grab a tidbit. Across the harbor, orders were already being relayed, as dock hands hurried to unload cargo, shipbuilders and carpenters set about repair and construction, and pursers bargained loudly with ship chandlers. The steady creaks of winches could be heard as great casks and crates of cargo were lifted with the cranes. Moritz wrinkled her nose as she was assaulted by the thick scent of hot tar, the riggers of several ships already busy dressing the lines with the gooey black liquid.
The piping of the bosun's whistle alerted Sterling to the Captain's boarding. He brushed off his lapel, and did his best to look respectable. He wouldn't be serving under the Blue Caper's captain of course, but a sense of formality was still expected. The Captain ascended the gang plank while her crew gave salutes, and hearty greetings. She nodded to them all, approaching the quarterdeck with a quick and decisive step.
She was an older woman, with a short, straight posture. Her dark face was as weathered and lined as an old sea chart, the soft wrinkles and crags tracing the course of her life around her eyes and mouth. Beside her a brown-coated Collie Dire walked in perfect step.
As she took to the quarterdeck Roscoe greeted her with a brisk salute. "Good morning, Captain. May I say it's an honor and a pleasure to -"
"Ah, yes, and who are you?" She cut him off briskly, eyeing him up and down. "And who gave you permission to walk my quarterdeck?" she asked in a conversational manner, as if inquiring as to the state of health of a distant aunt.
"Uh - I'm Lieutenant Sterling Roscoe. I'm being transported to the Elderwind. Ma'am."
"Well no one likes a suck-up, Mister Roscoe."
He blinked."I wasn't - "
"You would do well to stay out of the affairs of my officers, Mister Roscoe. It may be your right to walk the quarterdeck, but do not confuse that as permission to take other liberties. You are a guest on my ship."
Sterling was taken aback by her brusqueness. She'd see through his attempts to make a good first impression, and the old bat had called him out on it. He wasn't entirely sure yet if he liked that. There was a sound of light chuffing from next to him, and spared a glance down at Moritz, who seemed for all the world to be holding back a snicker. He felt his face grow hot as he sputtered out a quick "Yes, ma'am."
"A very nice wolf you have there lieutenant. Not one of ours, is she? I hope she is well behaved."
"Very, Captain." Best to keep his answers as short and direct as possible with this one.
"Good." Her eyes shot down to scan Moritz, then back up to him. "We haven't room on this bark to swing a serval. As you're the most junior lieutenant aboard I'll have to bunk you in the gun room with the older midshipmen."
He suppressed a groan at this. Just another two weeks squeezed into a gun room with a bunch of giggling prepubescent middies and their creatures - not to mention Moritz. He couldn't wait to gain a lieutenant's berth on the Elderwind. Why was every privilege in this blasted Navy reserved for every one but him? He couldn't even choose his own Dire Wolf, and now this.
"Does that disappoint you?"
Sterling grimaced. "Yes, frankly."
"Good. I'm glad to see you're not also a liar. I think I will take that compliment from before, and thank you." She studied him for a brief moment. "You're dismissed."
Thank the Ancient of Fate I'm not serving under her, Sterling thought as he hurried off the quarterdeck.
Upon stepping off of the officer's domain, he found himself ingrained in what was more or less a traveling circus. Dire wolf pups and sea servals chased each over under foot, nearly upsetting the lieutenant. The adult Dires watched the entertainment from where they sprawled across the fo'c's'le, or sitting at their bondeds sides. Rune dragons of all shapes, sizes and colors flew through the lines overhead like acrobats, joining the crew's work songs with their own unique voices, their hoots and whistles and chirps filling the air. 'Singing' Rune dragons - if it could be called singing - were said to bring good luck to a voyage, so the sailors always tried to induce a whole lot of them into twittering and chirping in the loudest cacophony possible while the they were getting underway. Competitions were often held between ship's companies to see who could create the loudest din.
It did not appear they had much to compete with today. Only a few last minute fishing boats rushing to catch the tide.
As he reflected on this, a loud squawking ascended on Roscoe. Spluttering in surprise, he stumbled back into the rail as a chicken rose up under his feet. Next to him, a man was trying to coax a half dozen hens into a coop, but his efforts were being thwarted by a rambunctious pygmy otterling.
Roscoe readjusted his collar and strode toward the center of the ship, where a small parade was being led up the gangway. Floating on soft, cloven hooves trod a beautiful Elkrin, led by her elfin rider. Following after came the heavy, many hooved clomping of four Sleipnir. The war horses tossed their heavy heads at the smell of salt and tar, but were led, with some difficulty into the hold.
As Sterling looked about him, he noticed the majority of the crew seemed to be of the human persuasion, but he was not at all surprised to see several Wolf-Kin among the ratings, their tails swishing over the deck as they went about their work.
The ship was alive and bustling, and even Sterling had to admit it was an inspiring sight to see. By far the best parts of sailing were leaving a port, and the entering a new one. It was always a grand hullabaloo, with promise of such adventure and freedom, and sights unseen - it filled one's blood with excitement to be a part of it. Every other part of sailing was bloody miserable in his opinion. Well, maybe not everything. The pay at least was decent.
It took a few moments for Sterling to register that the young blonde woman was speaking to him. Have to get used to that. "Eh?"
"My apologies. I'm just glad to see a face I recognize. I hope you won't think it presumptuous if I ask how Moritz and you are getting on?"
He blinked. "Hmm? Have we met?"
The young woman's cheeks went slightly pink. She was a pretty young thing, his junior by several years, and dressed in the manner of a midshipwoman with a simple blue frock coat. "I was there when you got Moritz, sir. Midshipwoman Sanders at you service."
The name sounded vaguely familiar, though Sterling couldn't quite place her face. Which wasn't at all surprising given how much of a blur the last few days were for him. He cleared his throat. "Ah-hmm. Miss Sanders. Yes. Well, Moritz and I getting along as well as expected." He gestured at the Forest Dire who was sniffing politely at an odd looking green creature sitting next to the young woman.
"I'm glad to hear it, sir."
"Was there something else you wanted, Miss Sanders?" It seemed a bit odd to him for the middie to be talking with him. He wasn't an officer of this ship, so he couldn't think of any reason she would need to talk to him. Perhaps she was just friendly.
"No sir. But I would like to say that I am looking forward to working with you. Fintan and I are being transported to the Elderwind as well."
"Ah, that your... Dire wolf is it?" Roscoe narrowed his eyes at the strange, bright green Dire next to her, who was respectfully returning Moritz's sniff.
"Yes." She grinned, stroking the smooth, shiny head. "He's a Gummy Dire," she said by way of explanation.
Roscoe resisted the urge to coo, How sweet! She probably heard that a lot. Instead he said: "Very good, Miss Sanders," relishing every ounce of authority in the words. "I look forward to working with you, and Fintan as well." He wasn't lying - she seemed a bright and eager lass, and her pretty face was sure to light up the dreary decks.
'She's a nice young woman - so I'd be much obliged if you'd leave her alone, and put a leash on your lurid imagination.'
"Excuse me?!" Sterling whirled around to confront who was speaking, but found only a very startled Rune Dragon sitting on a barrel. Roscoe bristled with rage - that voice again! He was an officer of the Navy, and would not stand for such crude insinuations on his character.
"Sir?" Sterling glanced around, but it seemed the only people looking at him were Sanders, Fintan, and Moritz. "Is something amiss, sir?" Sanders queried again.
"Hmm? Oh no, no. It seems someone has unwelcome comments they feel like voicing. I apologize." He shot a glare at the fluffy little Rune. It cowered, peeping accusingly. No, it couldn't have been the little Rune. Only Messenger Runes could speak, and this one more resembled a fuzzy little owl.
The middie tilted her head, confused. Roscoe cleared his throat. "My apologies."
He eyed the men and women around them with distrust, but none were paying him much mind. "You didn't happen to see who was speaking just then did you?"
"Um. No. Sir... Am I dismissed?"
"What? Oh, yes. Of course, of course."
Once she was leaving, the voice came back, sounding extremely snide. 'I make no apologies for my simple observation.'
"For your information," Sterling growled out to no one in particular, spinning on his heel to face the ocean, "I would never think any untoward thoughts about a fellow officer." Sterling didn't have much of a sense of honor, but that was one rule he did have in place. Work was work, and pleasure was pleasure, and never the twain shall meet. He'd already learned that lesson the hard way once. "And even if I did, it wouldn't be about Miss Sanders..." Sterling mumbled, glancing over his shoulder to make sure no one was eavesdropping.
'Yes, I've become very much acquainted with your type these past few days. Moreso then I had hoped to be. You've very colorful taste, I'll give you that.' The dark wolf by his side sat down with a snort, sweeping her tails around her. Sterling eyed her askew. He felt an angry red flush spread across his face.
"If I'd known you could talk, I would've locked you in my rooms," he muttered darkly out of the corner of his mouth.
'I can only talk this way to you - mores the pity.' She tapped out a small tattoo on the deck with her tails, obviously frustrated by this limited communication.
Sterling relaxed a little at this information, but he was still greatly perturbed. He tried thinking back through the past few days to recall if there was anything particularly mortifying he'd done, but he realized it would be useless now.
"And what prompted you to speak now?"
The wolf looked up at him - she might be talking, but her eyes were still as blank and feral as before. 'You've had your ears closed.' Sterling made a sound of disdain. 'After my old bond died I was sentenced to a life of silence without another.'
So what, was he suppose to feel sorry for the beast? She could have made her sentience known when they first met. For that matter, why had no one told him what this bond would entail?
This was what it was like to be bonded to a creature, eh? Sterling couldn't say he found it at all enjoyable. It was nothing at all like the powerful and magical connection the bards sang of. But then again when were the stories anywhere near the truth? Tellers spun glory out of massacres, and everlasting adoration from puppy love. Why should their stories of the magical creatures be any less exaggerated?
Though.. the stories about creatures communicating with their bondeds were evidently not exaggerated. Recalling the stories again, Sterling wondered where the unconditional loyalty and devotion a Direwolf owed to their master was?
"In any case, I don't appreciate your insinuations," he whispered at the wolf. "If you were a sailor I could have you court-martialed for saying such slander about an officer."
The Dire yawned widely, her pick tongue curling delicately. 'It is good that I am a carpenter wolf then.'
"You are an officer now - or at least, the wolf of one." And, Sterling added silently, your actions will reflect on me. Roscoe worked hard on his own appearance when it counted. The wolf had better at least learn to act like an upstanding Naval officer, since the two would share their duties.
'If my opinions are unwanted, perhaps I should keep them to myself.'
"Perhaps you should."
Moritz twitched an ear, struggling to contain herself. Sterling failed to notice her discomfort.
The sudden shrill bosun's whistle startled her. It was the signal of their departure. The last half of the piping could barely be heard over the discordant clangor of sailors and Runes singing their hearts out. The Dire wolf pups added their piping howls to the whistles, and the adults soon joined in with their deep and lilting voices. Moritz remained stodgily silent by Roscoe's side.
The master bellowed out orders, and on cue the topmen unfurled the great sails. The canvas dropped down with a loud fwwwooosh, and billowed out to greet the wind. The Rune dragons chased the gulls around the taut lines and snapping flags, as the men and women rushed to set the sails to catch the stiff breeze. The yards rattled overhead, and the ship came into it's own. It's sails strained forward like a team of great while Sleipnirs, pulling the ship out of the harbor and into the bucking sea foam.
Sterling felt his chest deflate. Try as he may to be happy going on a new venture, he could not bring himself to do it. It was his first voyage as lieutenant - he should be excited. Instead he just felt frustration. Frustration with the Admiralty, with the Commodore, with the Captain - but most of all with Moritz. He was a fool for ever even joining the Navy. At the time it had seemed the easiest path in the world - fight a few pirates, see the wide world, a new port every month, good pay, and no family to nag him. It felt as if the world had turned against him, and every promise he'd imagined for himself had proven a lie. The words of the old song floated across the waves to his ears: "And I bid a fond farewell, ye land I love, where the golden Elkrin run. For across the great, wide waves I must go, to take up sword and gun."
Last edited by Silverhart
on Tue May 19, 2015 11:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
- Posts: 3619
- Joined: Sat Jun 15, 2013 11:44 pm
Chapter Three . . .
“Lieutenant! Lieutenant, we are under fire! Do you hear me!?”
Roscoe scratched his face and rolled over, blocking out the incessant buzzing in his left ear. Delicious dreams floated past his eyelids, occasionally interrupted by this persistent bell ringing. Someone really had to shut that bell ringer up.
“All hands to stations! Prepare to fire!”
Roscoe stirred in his sleep lightly, before quickly sinking back into his hammock. His dreams were strangely vibrant tonight, taking over his consciousness. Suddenly, the dream shifted. All at once he was running – tongue lolling, heart pounding, limbs stretching. The world around him was oddly skewed, the horizon line being much lower, the trees much taller. His peripheral vision all but vanished. This, it suddenly dawned on him was because he was running on all fours. No longer a man in his dream, he was a Dire Wolf, being chased by... something. What that was he couldn't tell, he felt only the pressing need to run, as fast and as far as he could. His paws drummed a steady beat on the wet earth, as he dodged the shadowy trees, which sprang up unbidden under his paws, never quite tripping him up, try as they might. Ha ha! A mixture of dull exhalation and terror coursed through his veins – foggy dream emotions that were not quite his own.
Suddenly a tree blew apart in front of him, a blossom of hot orange fire reaching out toward him. He sprang left, just missing the falling timber. He hit the earth and kept running.
“The main mast is hit!” “Get those men down from the rigging!”
The man grimaced in his dream, feeling it fade in and out. He couldn't concentrate – his vision evaporated, but he still felt as if he were running, sounds and sensations assaulting him on all sides.
'Roscoe! Wake up, damn you!' The voice cut through his mind like a knife, jarring him out of his dream – his body still gripped in paralyzing sleep, his senses – they had been so sharp – suddenly felt groggy.
The man was jerked from his hammock by a rocking explosion. He landed on the deck with a thud, jolting into sudden clarity. Darkness assaulted his eyes, as he sat up, staring hard and twisting to try and see what was going on.
Something beside him snarled. A sudden sharp pain pierced his arm. Roscoe yelped and fell over backwards, ripping his arm away. A dark shape rose where he had been sitting, growling and spitting in fury.
“Agh!” Sterling propped himself against the wall, cradling his arm, as he tried to determine what this threat was. “Moritz!” he cried. When the shadow perked up he cursed. “By the four eyes of Oblivion – what are you doing, you mad creature?!”
The Dire wolf snarled. Sterling could just make out her pale feral eyes flashing in the darkness like a nightmare's. The lieutenant scrambled back against the wall on instinct.
Sterling glanced around, as his eyes slowly adjusting to the situation. He could just make out the ghostly forms of the hammocks swinging wildly overhead. “Blazes, what time is it?”
'Three bells after mid.'
Sterling was startled by this answer, having not been expecting one. So it was after midnight then, and several more hours before he was suppose to get up.
'I've been trying to wake you! We're under attack!'
“What?!” The lieutenant jumped to his feet. He lunged for his jacket, only to be thrown off his feet as the ship took another hit and rolled crazily.
'You really can sleep through anything,' Moritz growled at him. 'The rest of the midshipmen are up on deck already.'
“Right!” Roscoe reached for his jacket again. The sound of cannon-fire had ceased, but he could hear the pounding and yelling of the crew beating to quarters. He hurried to get dressed, but the pitching of the ship hampered his efforts. He kept tripping over the hammocks and Moritz had to duck out of his way several times.
Roscoe bit his lip as he pulled on his britches. “What do you think I should wear now?” he muttered to himself, as he hopped about.
'What? Why should that matter?'
The lieutenant shot a scathing look at the wolf. “I just don't know if I should wear my new jacket, or my old one!”
The wolf bristled. 'The crew are up there – possibly being killed! Why are you dithering on about this?'
“I don't need you to remind me!” Sterling spat, short tempered. In all his time serving in the Navy, he had only participated in a small handful of battles. Only two of those battles had come to full boarding action. He recalled them as being a chaotic mess of limbs, and screams, and fear. He... couldn't remember much of what he'd done in those battles.
What the in the name of all creation am I suppose to do here? He was not a member of the Blue Caper's crew. He had no assignments to a battle station or gun crew. What was the protocol in this situation? He racked his brains, but for the life of him couldn't come up with an answer. I've been a lieutenant for less then 90 hours, for Oblivion's sake! I can't be expected to know these blasted things.
“I don't know if I should dress to show off the best to our enemies, or do I dress more practically? I just got this new jacket, and -”
'Hellhounds below! Just throw on any old thing!'
“Ah, dammit. I think I put my shirt on backwards.”
Moritz whined in frustration, scratching at the door wildly.
“Stop that! You'll scratch the wood!” Roscoe snapped, as he pulled his shirt back over his head.
'Your priorities in this situation are appalling!'
Sterling wrestled with his boots for an agonizing minute while the sounds of battle raged overhead.
'Don't forget your sword,' Moritz reminded him, as the lieutenant flung open the door.
“Aye...” Sterling whirled around to snatch his new sword from his sea chest. The two burst out of the gun room, Roscoe tripping over Moritz in his haste to buckle his jacket to his belt, and throw the sword on over his shoulders. This only succeeded in him flinging his sword behind him. He rushed back to pick it up, while Moritz snapped and snarled at him.
Finally more or less dressed, Sterling ran toward the hatch, Moritz at his heels. “Lieutenant!” The sudden voice made Roscoe skid to a halt, and Moritz ran into him, nearly taking him down.
“Yes? Yes! I'm here.” Roscoe straightened his jacket, as someone ran toward him. “What's the situation?”
“We've been attacked!”
“Yes. I understand that.” The man was hysterical, flailing his arms about. It was very distracting. “Who are you? Why aren't you on deck?”
“Recio. Joseph Recio, rated ordinary – at your service, suh.” He gave a sloppy salute. A Ferret Rune sat on his shoulder, peeping excitedly about something. “I'm cook's mate. Was puttin' out the gallery fires. Suh.”
“Well, forgive my bluntness, but what in blazes is going on here, Mister Recio?!”
“Forgiven, suh. Dunno, suh. Seems they snuck up on us.”
Roscoe huffed. Ships didn't just sneak up on each other in the wide open sea. “Where's the Captain, and the Master?”
“On deck, I s'pose.”
“Right then, come along. Do you have a weapon?”
“I've me knife, suh!” The man brandished the short dirk for the lieutenant's benefit.
“Ah.” That's mighty unfortunate.
With Recio in tow, Roscoe made his way to the hatchway, where a small crowd seemed to have gathered. “Here! What's going on!” Roscoe cried, trying to shove his way to the forefront in the cramped space. “This isn't some spectacle! Clear the deck!”
“The hatchway's blocked. None of us can get topside!” A woman yelled at him, elbowing him rudely. Sterling looked up to see the truth of her words. A large pile of debris – the remains of a large spar - had fallen onto the hatch lengthwise, effectively blocking their exit. Through the slots in the grating he could make out pounding feet and paws. Screams and the clash of metal could be heard, punctuated occasionally by the snapping of wolves. So it had come to boarding actions. Roscoe winced despite himself.
“Right!” Roscoe bellowed, startling the crowd of people and animals around him. His voice served to steady him a good deal more then it probably did them. “Pox and plague! I can't see anything,” he growled. “Alright. Moritz.”
'Ehhhh??' Came the wolf's startlement across their link.
“You're a wood wolf aren't you? Can't you magic the spar into oblivion?”
'That's not how it works.'
“A moment ago you were admonishing me for excuses. Order the other creatures to help you.”
Moritz hesitated. She looked around, noticing the two Dires, a Serval, and the Ferret Rune on Recio's shoulder.
Sterling heard some soft growling noises in the dark. Without warning a bolt of electricity shot up from the base of his spine making the hair on the back of his neck stand straight up. He could feel the humming of magic vibrating along his teeth. What was that damn wolf doing?
There was a loud snap, followed by a yelp, and the magic thrilling along his nerves cut off suddenly, leaving Sterling feeling shaken. He'd never felt magic being used through him before, and he didn't think he liked it.
A scuffle broke out between the Dires and the Serval – at least that's what Sterling assumed from the sounds of snarling, and hissing. The people around him burst into their own chaos, shoving and shouting, as the huge animals crashed into them.
“What are you bloody playing at, Moritz?!” Sterling swore. “Enough!” He aimed a kick at a furry hide hoping to break up the fight, but only succeeded in hurting his own foot. He spat and cursed. What was wrong with them? He'd be sure to have a talk with Moritz and the sailors who's creatures these were. Fine, let them work it out on their own. “You!” he snatched at a random sailor. “I saw Sleipnir and Elkrin being loaded onto this craft. Where are they kept?”
“That would be my Elkrin.” Sterling looked around for the woman who'd spoken, but in the darkness and disorder he didn't have the time nor patience to pick her out. “They're being kept in the fore-area – I forget what it's called.”
“Go and fetch all of them. We'll need every ounce of strength at our disposal.” Sterling was nearly bowled over by a wolf. “Recio! Fetch a pail of water and cool these damn wolves off!”
“The rest of you, gather up what rope and cloth you can find!” The sailors went to obey, happy to have some direction. Recio came back first, carrying a heavy pail. By now Moritz had pulled herself from the fight, and sat smoothing her fur back down. The other wolves had been calmed down by their humans but were still trading insults, while the serval had retreated to the top of the step, pressed up against the grating, and snarling. Sterling could only imagine the colorful insults they were trading to each other.
He instructed Recio to empty his bucket over the three wolves, which the man promptly did. That certainly got all three's attention. Moritz's smoothed fur was mussed again, and she shot Sterling a glare that would peel paint. It was too dark for him to fully appreciate the piercingness of her gaze, however.
“Save your energy for the enemy, mangy mongrels. And you men, you should have better control over your beasts. Your captain will hear of this, you can be sure. Moritz! Come here.” The Serval snickered to itself, as Moritz approached her human master. She hesitated when she saw the rope he held in his hands.
'And what is that for?'
He looped the rope around her neck before she could protest. “If you can't lead, you'll have to follow.” She stared in confusion as Sterling threw two more loops around the other wolves, who snapped at him, and began making loud protests. She snorted at his foolishness. Dires had a strong independent streak, and they didn't take well to people taking command without first establishing dominance. If the man could hear what the Dires were calling him, he'd have turned a brighter red then he had when Moritz had girded him.
The deck under their feet resounded with the pounding of hooves, as four Sleipnir and an Elkrin came stomping down the way. With the five extra animals the space was fit to bursting, and men and women were pushed and stepped on. Sterling couldn't make himself heard over the clamor.
Growling in frustration, he threw loops of rope over the animals' necks. He tied the ends of rope together, and threw it up towards the hatch. He missed.
“What are you doing?! Elkrin aren't pack animals.”
Sterling ignored the protest and recollected his rope. The wolves and Sleipnir were already getting tangled as the proud equine tried to stomp on the wolves' tails. The lieutenant climbed up to the hatch and tossed his rope around the grating. He looped it around in an anchor hitch (suddenly grateful for all those boring nights on watch practicing his knotwork) and pulled it taut.
He dropped down to the deck and gave out a whoop to the team.
Sterling had expected – well, hoped – alright... prayed – that the animals would respond and start pulling instinctively. He didn't exactly have a Plan B if they didn't agree to pull out the grating.
The Elkrin balked, and panicked at the press of the bigger, rougher Sleipnir. She tried to bolt, but only ended up tangled in the ropes. The Sleipnir screamed in frustration as they jostled for more room, biting at each others necks, and kicking at the Dires, who were barking harshly. Moritz was staring at him.
“I asked you to help,” he spat her. “I'd be better off with a Pygmy wolf...”
He bellowed out to the sailors, voice laced with desperation. “Get your beasts in line! This grating needs to come off before those glitchin' blaggards decide to burn us to the waterline.” It was a struggle just to get someone to hear him, as it was – they paid him no heed.
This is impossible! The lieutenant was close to his breaking point. Was going back to bed an option at this point?
Probably not, though they could hardly court martial him for cowardice if he never technically ran away from a fight.
Grunting, Roscoe snatched at the only thing that seemed to give him any real authority in this situation – his sword. He didn't bother drawing it, not having the space - just snatched the whole scabbard and hoisted it in the air. “Hoy!” Look, I have a sword! Rally to me! This had zero effect on the situation except that he bruised his knuckles on the beams overhead. On second thought, he probably looked ridiculous doing this. But then sleep deprivation was rarely conducive to clear thinking. Neither was shouting, and barking, and braying.
Raising his scabbard, the lieutenant smacked the nearest Sleipnir rump. The high-pitched whinny this elicited was indulgently satisfying – the flying kick from three hooves was less so. One hoof landed on it's mark, glancing off his shoulder and sending the man slamming back into the bulkhead. Still, the slap had the desired effect. After kicking, the Sleipnir lunged forward, pulling the others after him. The four Sleipnir began to pull, dragging the Dires and Elkrin with them.
Sterling flinched at the sound of metal groaning. He looked up to see the grating buckling.
The Dires joined in the tugging, making a contest of it. Under normal circumstances a team of four Sleipnirs could have easily torn out the grating, but the angle conspired against them as much as their inability to pull as a team. They lunged against their lines randomly, limbs flying.
“Haul away! Heave away!” Recio's voice rang out above the chaos. The chattering of the Ferret Rune took up a lilting tune, and Recio called out to the animals in song. Snorting, the beasts strained against the ropes. As the shanty found it's rhythm the animals steps began to synchronize. “C'mon boys! Heave!” Two other sailors joined in the song, laying hands on the ropes and heaving along with the animals. The animals fell into rhythm, straining along the chords, falling back on the pauses. The stomping hooves fell into order: Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. The creaking increased tremendously, and Sterling bolted out of the way as a final “Away!” brought the hatch crashing down.
“Cut the animals loose! Attack!” The sailors jumped to obey, the bloodlust welling in their hearts now that the battle was at hand. They whipped out their dirks to saw through the rope rather then waste time untangling the animals.
Once freed, the wolves leaped up the hatchway without waiting for a signal, streaming out around the fallen spar. Roscoe was pushed forward by a wave of creatures and sailors. Like water spilling from a dam, they surged out across the deck, falling on their enemy with unbridled battle fury.
The bright lantern light produced dancing spots in the Lieutenant's eyes, while chaos roared in his ears. He tugged at his sword, fumbling half-blind to free the blade from it's sheath. A cry from above prompted him to look up, in time to see a dark black shape fly at him. He instinctively ducked, narrowing avoiding having his head sliced off.
He spun to face the brigand who'd tried playing at executioner – a nasty looking pirate with a scar that split his smile. Sterling lifted his sword to attack, and was set with a flurry of blows that made his teeth hurt. Every block sent jolts of pain up his arm to radiate across his shoulder. It was not a fight that would last long at this rate.
Muscles screaming in protest, the lieutenant raised an arm to catch the pirate's next attack, an was caught off guard by a sudden horn blast. He stumbled, and his adversary took another swing at him, but his arm went wide and missed. Sterling lifted his blade to ward off another attack, but none came. The pirate had disappeared. Roscoe gasped, not aware that he'd been holding his breath.
He looked about him in astonishment. The brigands were swarming over to their ship, leaving them. The pirates were retreating. But... why? He could hardly believe it. Had the introduction of his small party into the fray really caused such a change in tides?
And did the dirty bilge-suckers honestly think they wouldn't hunt them down and blast them out of the water with their guns? Unless...
He looked up and cursed. The main mast had been completely shot off. Or mostly. One of her spars was what had landed across the hatchway. The lower third of her was half gone, leaning heavily against the mizzen mast. The sound of screaming wood and snapping lines could be heard as the mizzen mast slowly buckled under the weight. The wind snatched at the unfurled main and top main sails, putting even more pressure on the timbers.
Glitch damn it!
Sterling rose to his feet just as the pirate ship was pulling away. They'd gotten away just in time it seemed, as there was no saving either mast, and both were likely to come toppling down on their heads at any moment. He watched in frozen horror as the splinted wood held together grimly, even as gravity slowly wrenched them apart, like a father prying his daughter from a lover's arms. He was ready to snap into action at the first order that came to him.
But none came. Only shouts, and growls, and the brays of panicked Sleipnir. Men and women ran forward with axes ready to chop themselves free of the masts, but the wind made the masts so unwieldy none dared get close enough. They huddled on the forecastle, milling around like Sheep Runes with no thought of what to do.
That was probably for the best, as it took only mere seconds – though it felt like hours – for the mizzen to finally snap and keel over. Wood and line rained from the main mast, as the two masts toppled over the stern and into the sea. As it struck the water, the ship jolted to a halt, throwing them all off their feet.
The crew stood in silent shock for a full minute. It was eerily quiet, as if the ship had just died. The night's chill still clung fervently to one's bones, even as the sun made it's way toward them, turning the rim of the world light blue. The air was so still, Sterling could still smell the gunpowder in the air. Then the ship gave a tiny groan – she was still alive. The sailors sprang forward with their axes to cut away the useless masts.
It would do no good, Sterling bitterly reflected looking out at where their enemy was making a retreat into the lightening horizon. They would never catch up to them, not could they escape. As he watched, the dread turning over in his belly, the pirate made no move to turn back to deal a merciful death blow. She had lost her stomach for fighting it seemed, and would leave them to whatever fate the winds had in store. He almost wished they would come back and finish them off. At least take them prisoner. That would be nice.
He was still shaking from the excitement, as he made his way to the quarter deck to report. The sailors were chopping away the mast as he ascended the steps. He winced at the sound of the axe heads striking the wood. “Mister Clay?” He addressed the helmsman, who was leaning over the wheel with a nasty head wound. Sterling was surprised to see him there, still standing. Or as close to standing as he could manage. The man had never left his post throughout the fighting, even as the masts came down on top of him. What a blazing idiot.
“Mister Clay!” He waved his hand in front of the man, and saw a flicker of the eyes. At least he was still conscious. “Where is the Captain? The first lieutenant? Why aren't they here?”
“Dunno...” He slumped against the wheel.
“Mister Roscoe! I can perhaps answer.” At the familiar voice, Sterling turned to see Midshipman Sanders limping towards them with her Gummy Dire, looking rather worse for wear. She had a cut under her eye, and a split lip, and her bonded looked as if something had been gnawing at it. “The Captain... I tried to save her, and Lieutenant Long too Sir, but...” she swayed, and her dire moved to steady her. “The pirates took 'em.” She collapsed, falling across her Dire's back.
Sterling stared at her for a full minute, reeling. Took them? Took them where? Were they killed?
He wasn't getting an answer from her. “Take her to the surgery,” Sterling told the green Dire wolf. When he looked up, Joseph Recio was there, carrying an axe.
“Guess that makes you the only officer on the deck.” He delivered this rather grimly, and the straightforwardness of it caught Roscoe by surprise.
He hadn't thought of that. Without the Captain or the first Lieutenant that left him as the only commissioned officer on the Blue Caper. But... he wasn't even a member of this crew! He belonged on the Elderwind. As a third lieutenant, fresh out of training, not as a commander. He had no idea how to captain a ship of this size, least of all one severely damaged. He felt his mouth go dry, and the knot of anxiety was retying itself in his guts.
“But I just want to go back to sleep.”
Last edited by Silverhart
on Tue May 19, 2015 11:42 pm, edited 3 times in total.
- Posts: 3619
- Joined: Sat Jun 15, 2013 11:44 pm
Chapter Four . . .
Sunlight streamed in through the windows at the back of the Captain's cabin as Sterling entered. Dawn had finally broken, and with it a new day had arrived - not that anyone had the energy to appreciate it. Sterling had sent all but two of the watches to rest, leaving only enough sailors to maintain the sails and work the pumps while the lieutenant tried to figure out his next course of action.
At last out of sight, Sterling slumped against the bulkhead and let out a sigh of relief. His shoulders ached tremendously, and he doubted he would be able to so much as lift a sword again without pain. His uniform was wet with sweat, and cling to him uncomfortably – luckily, it was his shabbier undress uniform. He silently prayed himself for his excellent foresight in that regard, as he tore off the jacket and flung it to the ground. Moritz danced out the way, glancing up at him curiously.
Rubbing his hands through his hair, the lieutenant walked toward the desk at the center of the room, and began to study it. It felt odd – almost wrong, to be in the cabin, looking through the Captain's things. It was a small, but cozy set up, with a large desk, and a cabinet built into the bulkhead. A map was pinned on the wall showing the eastern coastline of Eldemore. Sterling chanced a peek into the after cabin, and whimpered at the sight of the bed... a real bed... It took all his will to return his attention to the desk.
It was a beautiful work of old craftsmanship; delicately carved with patterns of Dire wolves, Sea Servals and Otterlings entwined among vines and leaves, in the style of the Elvian artisans. It was too plain to have been crafted by Elvian hands themselves, but it was a fine replica. One that had probably set Captain Thompson back a pretty bauble or two. He ogled at the finery - and then began to rip it apart.
'What are you doing now?' Moritz demanded, as Sterling tore the drawers out of the desk and began rifling through the papers. 'That's the Captain's property.'
“Exactly. That's me.” The wolf growled.
Sterling glanced over some personal letters, when suddenly a dark paw slapped down on them, startling the lieutenant. He looked up to see Moritz had hopped up onto her hind legs, and was glaring at him from across the desk. Sterling felt a trickle of fear along the back of his neck as he looked into those predatory eyes. On her hind legs she was at least a head taller then he was.
“I'm looking for the Captain's orders. They need to be destroyed before they fall into the wrong hands – if the pirates didn't steal them already.”
The wolf's ears flattened, and she eyed him suspiciously out of the corner of her eye. 'Or you could carry them out.'
Roscoe actually laughed – it was a nervous laugh, but still a laugh. “I have my own orders. Those are my priority. That and preventing the enemy from getting a hold of any secret orders Captain Thompson might have been carrying. I doubt she was, but that's due diligence for you.”
Moritz grumbled, but she backed down in the face of this argument. It wasn't her place to command Sterling after all – he was more experienced in these matters then her. The lieutenant could tell his wolf's hackles were ruffled, however, and he went about his search with much less gusto.
Sterling quickly flipped through and read the heading of every scrap of paper. Some of the personal letters seemed to be filled with potentially juicy material – but he resisted the urge to read them through. Most of them appeared to be correspondence of a rather domestic matter. More then likely the Captain would not leave important letters out in the open for just anyone to glance at. He located the logbook in a secret compartment under the desk and flipped through that – but it was merely the ship's log, not the Captain's personal book which might have shed some light on what her plans had been.
Several of the drawers were locked, and a quick search revealed no sign of a key. With a grunt of admitted defeat, Sterling flopped back into the Captain's leather chair. The exhaustion from the fighting was catching up to him, and the chair was soft and inviting. 'Twas a most welcome relief from this thrice-cursed day this. He found himself sinking deeper and deeper into it's deliciously plush embrace.
He closed his eyes. “Oh Merciful Amalthea! This is the most comfortable chair I've ever had the pleasure of dropping anchor in.”
“I could fall asleep right here. It's like sinking into a pile of fluffy Sheep Runes – you know, the white poofy kinds that look like clouds.”
“Go glitch off, you old brushtail.”
“What do you think you're doing?!”
Sterling bolted upright, suddenly alert. He looked around, blinking dumbly at the Wolf-kin who stood in the doorway glaring at him. His dark brown hair was cropped close to his head, from which sprouted two furry ears, which were currently pinned back in anger. The man was growling and fidgeting like an angry Dire wolf, and the bright yellow gaze and bristling tail only added to this analogy. Sterling might well have been terrified – if the man's arm weren't currently in a sling.
“I – uh.” Sterling's tongue flailed to redeem itself, as he sat up very straight. “Uh... who are you? This is the Captain's cabin.”
“Who be I, human? I ask you that myself – who do you think you are, sittin' yer haunches in the Cap'n's chair? Eh? The Cap'n? I think not.” The man curled his lip back, showing teeth that looked just a little sharper then usual. “I be the Master of this 'ere vessel. Master Elias Budur.”
“Ah-ha.” Sterling cleared his throat, standing swiftly. He took a moment to brush himself off and display the resplendent uniform – well, the shirt at least. His jacket was still on the floor. Surely once the man realized who he was he'd back off.
The master did notice, and was unimpressed. He ran his eyes up and down the sweat-soaked shirt and it's rumpled lacing and snorted in contempt. “I gave you my name, human. Will you dare show me such disrespect by not offering your own in turn?”
Before the lieutenant could answer a sudden guttural growl sent shivers dancing up Sterling's spine. A long, sinuous shape moved out from behind Budur, fish-like tail snaking through the air. Roscoe nearly swallowed his own tongue at the sight of the massive dark brown Angler Dire that nearly took up the entire space between the door and the desk. It's soulless yellow eyes pierced into his heart, and it's long teeth gnashed against each other. It looked like some demon hybrid between Dire wolf and angler fish. Sterling couldn't help but ponder the idea of someone having taken the two animals and somehow merged them together into this creature – was that how the breed came about in the first place? Must have been a rather difficult predicament, getting a fish and a Direwolf to cooperate.
“Ah – yes. I mean, no. No, I won't show – hmm.” Curse his traitorous tongue. He took a breath to give it a moment to untangle itself. “I'm Lieutenant Roscoe.”
“I'm guessing ye think that makes ye commander, eh?”
“Negative! I be the Cap'n's second-in-command. Yer not even on the roster – ye've no cause to be in the Cap'n's cabin while she's not 'ere!”
The Angler Dire snarled at Moritz, showing off his insanely sharp teeth, and raising his tail over his back. The Forest Dire tried to look unaffected, but it was clear she was a little uncertain about being challenged. She backed up against the cabinet to give the bigger Dire more room.
Sterling bristled at the open attack on his authority. “You're merely a warrant officer – you can't possibly understand the complexities involved with this situation. The Captain is missing, and so are whatever orders she was carrying. I was merely looking for them - as my duty demands,” he added.
The Wolf-kin grimaced at this. “Officer ye may be, but not of my ship. Yer just fifth-rate polliwog, thinking of playing at command while the Cap'n's away. I'll -” He made as if he were about to raise his arm to deal a blow. Sterling flinched slightly, but he needn't have. Budur gripped his shoulder, and snarled in pain.
“You alright, mate?”
The trueborn shot him a look so loathing Sterling would not be surprised to learn the Wolf-kin thought he ate puppies.
“I'm fine,” he growled out. “A glitchin' pirate caught me off guard, but I made doubly sure he wouldn't be doing that again. It will not effect my ability, so I suggest ye get yer highborn bum out of the Cap'n's study!” Sterling resisted the urge to do exactly that. Budur's voice was forceful, and he did not doubt the man must have many years of leadership under his belt. However, the lieutenant knew he couldn't back down and risk losing face with an Admiralty that already thought so little of his abilities they had given him the wolf of a carpenter. As a midshipman he would've been expected to obey – as a lieutenant he was required to command.
“Good morning Mister Budur. Excuse me please.”
Sterling jumped out from behind his desk, about to confront the man for his brazen insolence, when Miss Sanders appeared behind the Master, with Sterling's sea chest on her shoulder.
“Sanders? What are you doing here?” Budur demanded.
“I'm helping Mister Roscoe move into the Captain's cabin.”
Sterling hid his face in his hands, as Budur turned a steely eye on him. A look of disgusted disbelief passed over the Wolf-kin's face.
“Oooh – Sanders – you.... you're so thoughtful, lass,” Sterling forced a smile on his face as he said this. “You didn't have to do that-”
“You told me to, lieutenant.”
“Ha ha! No need to be modest, Miss Sanders. Going to all that trouble, unasked, just to make me feel at home. Well, since you did go to all the trouble of bringing it up here -” Sterling took the heavy chest from her and set it down next to the desk.
“If ye think a'cause ye lay a mark to yer territory, that makes it belong to ye, I'm afraid yer sadly mistaken,” Elias growled – his voice was becoming more difficult to understand the angrier he became, spitting out the words as if each one were a curse on Sterling's family.
“Well, you'd know all about marking your territory, wouldn't you mate?” Sterling laughed – and then immediately regretted it as he saw Budur's brown ears prick forward, eyes bright with hatred – he recognized the expression from dealing with his brother's Dire wolves – it was a sign he was about to attack.
“That was a joke,” Sterling said weakly. Wasn't his fault the master didn't have a sense of humor - he'd simply been attempting to lighten the mood a little.
With a snarl the master charged him, and Sterling stumbled backward over the sea chest in alarm. Before he could tear out the lieutenant's throat, Miss Sanders stepped in. “Mister Budur, you're injured! Master Holbech didn't discharge you in that state did he?”
Elias paused, clutching his shoulder, a grimace of pain twisting his features. He hissed through his teeth as he glared down at Sterling. “No...”
“I think you had best get back to the sick bay,” Sanders insisted. “If you injure yourself the ship will be short another good officer.” I must remember to commend Miss Sanders later, Sterling thought, as he rubbed his neck to make sure it was still intact. She just saved both the Master and himself from a potentially nasty court martial.
He straightened up, tugging his shirt back into order. “I believe I must agree with Miss Sanders -” The Wolf-kin shot Sterling a look that made it very clear how very much he'd like to curse him out at that moment, and how frustrated he was that he couldn't because of Sterling's commissioned rank. “Until you are fit for service again, Mister Budur, I think it best I retain command.”
“I am perfectly fit!” He made an attempt to swing his arm out of the sling, and winced in pain. Sterling might have almost felt pity for him – if he hadn't just tried to attack him.
Roscoe shook his head. “I have my own orders that need attending – and I'd say I'm a good deal more qualified then you in the handling of them.”
“What orders?” Budur growled.
Sterling went red with indignation. “Admiralty orders. I was to join with the Elderwind – and that is precisely what I plan to do.”
“You'll never reach the rendezvous point in time with a single mast.”
“Yes – I had thought of that,” Sterling explained, barely able to contain his growing annoyance. Did the man think he was an idiot? “I've already made plans. We'll put in at the nearest harbor for repairs.”
“That'll take weeks!” Budur spluttered in rage. “We need to mount a jury rig -”
“It won't, not if we're willing to pay up. It's far too dangerous to sail with a ship so badly damaged in these parts. There's a deep harbor about fifteen miles hence. We'll take on repairs there. ” A more confident or reckless commander might be willing to run the risk of sailing up to the rendezvous with some jury rigged masts – reckless he may be at times, Sterling wasn't quite that confident. The surprise attack had taken quite the luff out of his sail, and he didn't fancy risking any more. Should they happen to run into any more fights along the way, they would be extremely disadvantaged with only one decent mast. Nay! They'd be sitting ducks! No one in their right mind would ask that of a newly commissioned lieutenant.
“What harbor? I know of no harbor.”
“It's - ah...” Sterling paused. What was the name of that port again? He leaned back over the desk, glancing at the map of Eldemore. “It's Hellhound's Bay.”
Sterling waited for protest, and looked back in surprise when none came. The color had drained out of Elias' face, and even his Dire wolf seemed to be cowed by this announcement. Miss Sanders was staring at him as if he'd grown two heads.
“Sir,” Sanders started, “that's -”
“Suicide!” Elias words had suddenly returned to him. “Hellhound's Bay is a rat's warren of pirates and cutthroats. They'd kill us all 'afore we even dropped anchor.”
“Oh, come off.” Sterling chuckled at the man's sudden cowardice. “Maybe twenty years ago, but it isn't Seeker-owned any longer. It's Northern Kingdom territory nowadays. It may be a bit rough around the edges, but I'd hardly call it a pirate's nest any longer. Once the Harbor Master understands we're willing to pay, they'll be more then happy to accommodate us.”
Sterling drew himself up, feeling his cheeks flush with anger. “What's imbecilic is sailing a mastless ship in waters where we've just been attacked by pirates. I have my orders, and I don't fancy I can carry them out if I'm dead, Mister Budur! So the place has a little... 'character' to it.”
“A cutthroat character...”
“Are you saying you're frightened by the prospect Mister Budur? Have you any other misgivings, or is it simply...” Sterling glanced him up and down, “ - a condition of the liver?”
Elias went sharp at this insult to his courage. He glowered at the lieutenant, snorting through his nose like an angry Sleipnir about to charge.
“We're going to pay the people who just shot off our masts to fix them?” Sanders asked meekly, once again diffusing the tension.
Sterling grimaced, heaving a world-weary sigh. “Such is the way of the world at times, Miss Sanders. We can't hold grudges like little children -” he glanced at the Wolf-kin as he said this. “In any case, it is my decision as Captain.”
Elias' hackles rose up when Sterling said 'Captain', but the lieutenant pointedly ignored him. Roscoe held his hands behind his back and bounced up on his toes in a gesture he hoped made him seem much more official and authoritative then he felt. “Now – if you would please escort Mister Burns back to the sick bay, Miss Sanders, I can go about charting a course.”
The Wolf-kin didn't want to go quietly, but there was little he could do after being so clearly dismissed. He turned, grumbling under his breath. It was then Sterling noticed the man's brown Dire Wolf still growling at Moritz who had pinned herself against the cabinet, and was looking very put out.
“Tertius!” Budur shouted for the wolf. One brown ear turned, and then, reluctantly, the rest of the head followed. The big brown male padded after his master, tail held high and swinging. Sterling gritted his teeth and glared down at Moritz, wedged against the cabinet with as much dignity she could still muster. Once more he wished fervently he could have picked one of the other puppies – a Norsland Dire or a Husky Dire would've jumped on the offensive and asserted their dominance as soon as that fish-puppy so much as looked at them sideways. That would've shut Budur up quickly enough. The fact was, his wolf was a reflection on him, and so far that reflection was one of submission. Even Sander's Gummy Dire was more suited to a commander then Moritz.
Moritz looked up and sensed the disappointment of her bond-mate. She pinned back her ears, and looked away, trying to appear aloof.
The lieutenant rubbed his temples, walking behind the desk to slump once more into that luxurious chair. From midshipman to captain in less then two weeks. It must have been a record. He should feel elated at this chance – any junior officer would be. If he pulled this off successfully it could mean a quick promotion and much prestige. On the other hand, if he failed completely it would mean total ruin, and he may as well run off and become a pirate for all the love the Navy would have for him then. No – he stood by his decision. He would not sail these waters with one single mast if he could help it – Hellhound's Bay or no. Budur had simply been trying to undermine his decision. Moritz came and sat down next to him, tilting her head to get a look at his face. He eyed her. If he didn't know better he would think she was trying to look cute. It wasn't working.
'Shall we resume searching for the orders, or would you prefer to become one with the chair?'
“No -” He realized this didn't answer her question, and he didn't care. He sat up, pushing aside the papers he'd been looking through onto the floor. He snatched up a chart of the area – thank Fate the pirates hadn't taken that. As soon as he thought this he paused. Why had they attacked? What had they wanted? To take the captain for ransom? But why? He shook his head to clear it, and focused his attention on the charts.
Navigation had never been one of Sterling's strong points. The complexity of it all confounded him again and again, but his teachers had pounded it into his skull with so much force and for so long, that he ran through the entire motions of charting the course – before he realized he'd forgotten to check the log for yesterday's reading of the longitude. He cursed his sluggish brain, and redid the measurements. Then double-checked.
Once complete, he left the comfort of that friendly old chair, and made his way to the quarterdeck. The ship was in a shambles, but he could be thankful that she was at least afloat, and that the midmorning air was cool and crisp.
Clay stood at the helm once again, a bandage wrapped around his head. Sterling couldn't be sure, he appeared for all the world to not have left his post at all. The man's brown Rune dragon stood on the binnacle, feathers fluffed out as it chirupped about something. Clay was patiently nodding his head at the Rune, as he might to a fussy child.
“Change in course, Mister Clay. We shall be heading west-by-northwest.”
“Aye, sir. And where would we be heading to, sir?”
The man ruminated on that for a second. “They certainly do, sir. But what be our destination?” Lieutenant Roscoe's lip twitched, but when he looked at Clay, he saw the old sailor's face was split with a grin. Sterling couldn't help but roll his eyes – he was too exhausted for puns.
He glanced at the sails. They were an awful mess. If he sailed into any port like that he'd probably be flogged on a matter of principle. Just think of that nice comfortable bed, old boy. That nice bed in the Captain's cabin with your name on it. Mmmm. Yes. Do it for the bed.
“Mister Darzi! Get your topmen on those sails! I want every scrap of canvas we can rig on that mast!”
There was a resounding “Aye!” Sterling leaned back on his heels, pleased with himself beyond measure. How gratifying it was to see the sailors hop to work at his command. He'd be lying if he said he had expected such absolute obedience so quickly. He'd never even held a command before – not even a prize party, and here they were jumping before he could even announce how high. Perhaps this would not be such a bad turn of events after all...
Last edited by Silverhart
on Sun Aug 23, 2015 1:51 am, edited 2 times in total.
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- Posts: 3619
- Joined: Sat Jun 15, 2013 11:44 pm
*Reserved for Future Chapters*
- Posts: 3619
- Joined: Sat Jun 15, 2013 11:44 pm
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- Posts: 3619
- Joined: Sat Jun 15, 2013 11:44 pm
*Reserved for Future Chapters*
- Posts: 3619
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