Aboard the Anchor's Bane

Burdens of a Captain

“Do’ye mind, maybe iffen I..?”

Kelley Essex says with a smile down inside the hold of the ship to a ship hand taking a long drag off a Hoogah cigar. The seasoned shiphand takes a brief pause before sighs and handing it over to his captain who smiles brightly. Before snatching up the stogie he smiles to his fellow pirate patting his shoulder and says “Tell Mr. Chaeffer you’ar to be entitled extra rum tonight Mr. Felroy under my order.” The old salt instantly smiles at that knowledge and looks to his table of recently reunited friends with a mischievous smile to his hooligan friends who return it with pleased nods. Not even bothering to ask for the cigar back the sea dog briskly walks away from The Hold toward the Quartermaster’s Office.

Rubbing the residue off the back tip of the cigar and taking a moment to savior the burning cinder scent Captain Essex smirks widely saying “Wyrm’s blood, I’ve missed that smell…” his tone was reflective and almost lustful as he sighs out enjoying this brief moment of quiet and mild luxury. Before the ember dies Kelley takes a slow, methodical and long drag off the stogie letting the smoke churn inside his mouth coating his tongue and tickling his throat and nose before gently blowing out smoke with a sudden shudder and smile. A wide smile cracks on his face as the familiar taste of the herb stained his teeth and made him instinctive thirst immediately for a shot of rum or even grog to compliment the taste. Using his right hand, his steel fingertips don’t feel the ember as they crush the heat out of the stogie to be saved for another time as Kelley quickly stashes the cigar underneath his duster Captain’s Jacket.

Essex scanned the Hold and is surprised to see Golrick Steadfast, Master of the Hold surrounded by the recently liberated men of the Anchor’s Bane. He hid the pain of his wounds well while he drunkenly regaled them with stories of mostly imagined grandeur. Essex marveled at the hardiness of the Dwarf recalling him being twice burnt, stabbed and having his throat slit for a Thamarite Ritual the fact he isn’t bunked up with Mr. Synir was a marvel to him of Dwarven constitution or just true grit. Either way Essex felt Golrick more than redeemed himself for the debacles while he was unable to perform as a captain.
“You know, you appear to be working up the will to do something responsible for these drunkards.” The tone was familiar but it was overly comfortable for Captain Essex’s liking no matter how true it might have been. Essex looked behind himself to kind a sly grin on the face of a recent pressganger, Mr. Atticus Sweet.

According to his quartermaster, Kelley heard that this man was instrumental at freeing the crew despite lacking the keys to the cages inside Pointe Vigil. All that Kelley had really noticed was a man who was already treating himself like one of the crew. The fleeting smile of Essex’ lips returned to aloof as he sized up Mr. Sweets. He looked like a capable sailor, and a man who might be good in a fight but he witnessed a strong display of self preservation in the man as he bolted like any gobber thief in Five Fingers when the going got tough. With pressed lips Essex shrugged and said “You may have something there, but then again don’t see how that is any concern to yours or an-“ Atticus smiled and interrupts Kelley “Because your ship did the impossible, you broke out almost every convict still alive in Pointe Vigil, I want to join up.”

Essex’s couldn’t help but sigh at Atticus’ forwardness, he was direct but maybe not the best judge of timing. But no sooner than the thought crossed his mind “Ugh, ya know I’m sorry about that. I could probably bring this up to First mate Morgan or Quartermaster Erdrick if you are busy. You probably don’t appreciate the distraction to your duties, aye sir?” Kelley blinked hearing Mr. Ulvari’s name from Atticus as he had only been on board a few hours. “Ho.. how do you Mr. Ulvari’s name already?” Atticus smiled and chuckled “Living under a man like Dwyer made me very eager not to return to a life precisely because of the alternatives your ship offers. You’ve got a good ship but your crew look like they need to be in check more I asked who I could see about being a chief of some crew, naturally I was given your First mate’s name."

Kelley blinked leaning against the wall of the hold as he resized Atticus. He was smart, cunning and above all else familiar with ranks and roles of the navy and his own insignificance to the crew at this time. The position of Chief was a naval one, meant as a liaison between officers and the crew to voice concerns ideally a pressganger would be an almost ideal candidate because the crew would know he wasn’t swore to the officers. In short, he couldn’t think of a single person every brought aboard the ship who has been so prepared to fill a role for their position, the fact it was deduced so quickly unnerved Essex just slightly as he wondered how premeditated this idea of his really was. Bluntly he just replies “A Chief of men will have to be know by the men, I don’t think many even know who are wet ear like you are yet.” Atticus smiles in defiance of the discouragement and pulls a fresh Hoogah Cigar from a metal tin pointing to the crew of men the old Sea Dog just returned to with his extra ration of rum. “I’m not too worried Captain, I tend to be leave an impression.” Atticus waves to the group who all smile waving back to him one even lifting a drink before gulping down the rum. He pushes it into Kelley’s undercoat with a smile and lifts a mug of grog with a smile chugging the citrusy drink before walking away “I’ll leave you to it then.” Essex shook his head with an impressed smile as he walked out of the Hold just catching glimpse of Matthias Crowley fretting over an exposed patch of the hull.

Heading toward the aft of his vessel he sees a small curtained off section of the hold always secured for Dr. Sinyr’s surgeon’s area. Abruptly a sigh from inside the curtained off area is heard, as a calm states “I know, I know how you feel about him and about this situation but I’m not leaving. I haves depending on me and more to still seek out on the ocean.“ Essex recognized Sinyr’s voice and approached up to the curtain quietly as a voice growled out. “He kidnapped you! He stole my brother from me and didn’t even ask! Then you defend him over me?! I feel confident Nysor himself could have gave me a warmer welcome at this rate.” The voice was unmistakably the dangerous knife wielding Iosan who took Chaeffer hostage, apparently she hadn’t been lying about her brother being Sinyr… he thought she looked familiar. As soon as he worked up the gall to disrupt the conversation a sudden sigh is heard from Dr. Sinyr “I’m glad you’re safe Alara, truly. I … I’m sorry I’m not more concerned just in the back of my mind I always thought you would have just gone home or gave up after a few weeks.” A slap is struck across Dr. Sinyr’s face cutting the silence as a quivering voice replies “Two years! Unlike you Felcyr, I don’t just give up on family especially know what these savages are capable of!” she sounded on the verge of tears which washed over Essex like a cresting wave of guilt as he lost all will to interfere and waited patiently for this squabble to conclude.

“Alara, why do you have to think the worst of th-“ Dr. Sinyr is unable to as Alara impatiently rebuttals “No, you don’t get to! You don’t get to tell me what they are like I know them better than you’d think!” She stormed out from past the curtain looking to Kelley who was stunned stiff having locked eyes with the Iosan he sees tears in her eyes as she looked ready to draw a knife. “… You take him from me again I don’t care how much he likes you. I. will. Kill. You. Understand?” Essex silently nods without another word pulling his hand away from “Cheat” as she stormed off . The curtain is pushed open with Dr. Sinyr’s exhausted looking face pleading without for his captain’s patience with Alara. Essex sighs motioning the Iosan back into his tent with a sigh.

“Quite the fuckin’ mouth on her, ye sure she’s kin?”

Dr. Sinyr chuckled at that checking his recent stitch work on one of the sea dogs he patched up from the boarding party recently. “Is your sister as foul-mouthed as you captain?” to which Essex only replied in kind with a chuckle himself managing a “Certainly hope she isn’t.” Dr. Sinyr sits down for a moment and takes off his glasses to clean them on a fresh cloth. “Captain, what can I do for you as you can see I have my work cut out for me.” Essex looked around the room with about 30 men resting in pain around him as he smiles sheeply not saying a word but shoots a hopeful glance around the area. With a rolling of his eyes Sinyr questioned why he even bothered asking and quietly says “Ah, Lo.” Essex nods “I aye, it’s high time I checked in on my favorite powder monkey.” Dr. Sinyr’s expression looks a little somber as he inquires “Have you not discussed her conditions with Az or Erdrick yet?” Kelley strokes his rugged chin already growing thick scruff before he states “It was suggested to me by quite a few times in-fact, which is why I want to defy that little procedure and see her now as is.”

Without another word, Sinyr can tell when the captain has already made up his mind and rises from his chair leading Kelley to Lo’s cot. “She has been in and out a lot today it’s similar to her previous condition.” Sitting right behind her is a lumbering elder Orgun Gorgul Turnok who eyes the Captain with a blank neutral stare but quickly looks to twist into a growl as he looks in Sinyr’s direction who stops dead in his tracks. As Kelley looked to Sinyr who just shrugged at his captain motioning him toward Lorita the Ogrun stands up showing his bulk off despite his age in an attempt to keep Lorita sleeping peacefully. Essex walked past the doctor frozen in terror as Gorgol holds at his hand in a stop motion and points at the doctor then to the captain again. He shakes his head ‘no’ and gestures with 2 fingers and a thumb a pushing thumb action which resembles pushing in a syringe. Essex studied the gesture and opens his duster showing him the two cigars and nothing closely resembling a needle. “Do you give the girl injections now Sinyr?” The ogrun stood back down and Essex pulled himself up a stool to talk Lorita if possible. The Iosan doctor pauses for a moment then answers “Per advisement of previous acting Captain Chaeffer, and the suggestion of Master Gunner Az ekka sir, Only when she started acting erratically, to help her sleep and stop spouting nonsense.”

“Spouting nonsense? Last I knew she had a broken rib due to some unholy menace back with the Black hounds. What changed?”

Sinyr shrugged which is an action Essex wasn’t accustomed to seeing from a person as educated as Felcyr Sinyr. He looked him over quizzically at that response to which the humble doctor only responded “I don’t feel her issues are physiological anymore sir, she is healthy just extreme sleep deprived and suicidal. Whenever our Gunnery Sergeant pays her a visit she sleeps more soundly, familiar faces I suppose.” Essex studied the girl slowly and carefully, she’d grown quite a bit since the first time he’d ever talked to her two years ago, she was starting to bud as a woman and it showed even the two months he slept she changed so much to his image of her. She may have grown but she didn’t look very healthy to Essex. Her eyes were sunken, her arms were covered in self inflicted scratches and chewed fingernails and knuckles. She twitches suddenly while he watches that looked more like a spasm as she tosses and turns in the sheets weakly whimpering. Gorgol, like a worried mother dabs a cold water soaked rag on Lorita’s forehead which causes her eyes to shoot open as she vicious bites his thumb not unlike a cat only the groan from the Ogrun signified she drew blood as he promptly jerks his hand away from her clenched jaws as she spits out the small amount of blood in a confused daze.

Kelley’s eyes locked with Lo’s who in a haze suddenly whimpers “Ca..ptain? where have you …been?” Essex stared silently at Lo and noticed her breathing was fast, she was trembling and her tone came of almost pleading. Essex leaned in closer but keeping his wits that if she would attack Gorgul she likely would do it to him. Calmly he asks “Ms. Ginory don’t you remember paying me a visit when I woke up?” Lo stroked her lips and examined the blood resting on her lips. A surprised look on her face intensified by Kelley’s question as she responds “Wait… you’re awake Captain? C-can ‘t believe… No, just like before. We both need to wake up, nothing …“ She looks right into Kelley’s eyes which couldn’t hide his depression to hear her right now. Without another word she tenses up and looks to the doctor and Gorgol who looks helplessly at her. “Nothing… n.. I’m fine. Of course I remember.” She tries to hide it but her nails are digging into her thighs enough to draw blood and break her own nails. Essex looks down to her hands and up to Lo again as he holds out both hands to her. “And I believe ye’ little miss, ain’t a tougher little lady on the Meredius other than may My Penny.”

Sinyr could see through the lie but Lorita maybe because she was so exhausted or maybe because Essex knew just what to say smiled holding both his hands laughing almost in disbelief. “So… no more shots then and I can return to work?” Lo couldn’t help but bite her lip anxiously hoping to hear him say something else she wanted. Essex’s face didn’t crack as she smiled stroking both of her captain’s hand one flesh and one steel she noted the sensations differing between the two as her head felt fuzzy and transfixed on the action. Kelley gently held her hands back but he dug deep mustering a tone in his voice like his old Uncle Byron.

“Not sure yer fit for work on this ship Ms. Ginory…”

Lorita’s face looked hurt and fear entered her eyes as she heard her captain insult her like that. More than hurt pride he saw a terror on her face that didn’t befit the statement. “Are they hurting you here Ms. Ginory?” he said with an authority looking to Gorgol and then the Doctor. Lorita looked to them both and while she wasn’t particularly pleased with either she didn’t show signs of the same abuses that had become part of his ship. He wondered what terrible things a girl who coped with lecherous child abusers could still be frightened of on his ship. Lorita pulled her hands away defensively backing away from the Captain as her breath quivers like a frightened mouse. Essex tried to calm her again by presenting his hands which only caused her to back away even more gripped by sheer fright. Gorgol growled lowly at Essex who shot the Ogrun a look that demand he pocket that type of thinking which the Gunnery Sergeant reluctantly obeyed.

“Ms. Ginory, we captains are notorious cowards. So whatever can razzle my favorite powder monkey this much I’m sure would send me overboard in no time whatsoever. But I need something from you, something all me crew give no matter what aboard the Bane…” Lo looked at him nervously shaking as she mumbled ‘what’ into her own pillow. “I need my crew to remember I’ll keep them safe, When you stowed away onboard and Mr. Zilo and Cadaco started their abuses who kept you safe?” Lorita sobbed immediately speaking the truth with a sob “G..Gorgol did.” Doctor Sinyr laughed as Essex looked embarrassed at that response. Lorita turned to Gorgol and cried asking for his forgiveness for biting him as Essex cleared his throat and tried it again. “AFTER… Mr. Turnok stopped them from attacking you who made sure they were punished?” Lorita sniffled almost curious what Essex meant as she replied “Mr. Lugosh did…” Essex literally went slack jawed and slapped a hand to his face mumbling “You’ve gotta b-… Lugosh!? You give him Cre-“ Lorita was sheepishly pulling away from the Captain.

“When Gorgol couldn’t understand, and Mr. Lugosh didn’t care who listened, who held you and who told you he’d make sure you were safe aboard his ship?”

Lorita’s eyes watered as Essex smiled at her offering a hug. With a sudden fear well up in her she rushes at him and clings to him crying uncontrollably. With his flesh and blood hand he pats the back of her Lo’s head and for the first moment in a long time Kelley felt like he was talking to his younger sister as he whispers it will be okay. “C…Capta..in! I’m just so tired … but I can’t tell, I .. I can’t be sure. I’m never sure… no difference than too many… Need to work working means I .. I … I don’t work when I dream or Am I?” The poor thing made no sense at all to everyone in the whole area except to Captain Essex as she trembled in his arms. The Captain thought about his visions, his dreams, his lengthy torpid state and realized the eerie similarities between himself and her right now. Her inability to express what she was seeing and feeling much like when he would attempt to describe his own visions and ability to see and alter fate. It nearly drove him mad… he turned to booze and vices to numb his senses and gifts, he shivered thinking about someone else going through something like that at this young and he felt sick to his stomach.

“Felcyr… do what ye’ can for her, I’m coming to your side of thinking here. My little miss here isn’t sick or hurt … I fear it may be worse.”

Essex hugs her tightly and plants a kiss on the top of her sweat ridden head “These things aren’t all just dreams Ms. Ginory, but no matter how bad they get how much you fear what is the one thing you need to remember while you float on me boat huh?” He says as Lorita trembles looking up to Kelley wiping tears from her own eyes “That my Captain wants me safe.” Essex lets go “Aye we all do, just remember that little lady. I don’t accept quitters; the ‘ship that never lingers’ will never drop anchor, we’ll sail and sail until we find better tomorrow. ” Lorita shakes he head crying “But how? Isn’t it hard? What if it only gets worse?” Essex smiles and sits up patting her head with a defiant grin “Then you solider on and tell those nightmares who will come looking when you cry.” Essex holds out his mechanical fist awaiting Lorita to confirm by pressing her fist against his own.

Lorita looks meekly at the fist, blood still drying on her lips as she follows through with his request. She looks almost in disbelief at her captain and his fist and leans back down into the bed “You’re … real right? So I’m awake?” Essex shoots a look at Gorgol to take over and smiles back to Lorita “I hear I’m not the best judge of that stuff, I was hoping you could tell me.” Lorita laughs as her eyes flutter closed as her Ogrun surrogate parent tucks her into her sheets with a worried smile as she mutters in her fast approaching sleep. Essex turned to look at Dr. Sinyr who had silently studying the all details he could.

“You’ve been most accommodating to try, tend to her sleep, food and welfare I’ll be seeing to the rest of her from now on Doc.”

Essex looks to one of Sinyr’s painting as he recognizes the location of Carre Dova from the Docks looking out to the Bay of Stone. He smiles looking to it and then waiting for Sinyr to acknowledge. Kelley could tell the kind doctor wanted further explanations, no doubt due to the fact that Az had discovered the key to curing his own specialized poisoning. “It’s a beautiful painting Mr. Sinyr, much like your art and your surgery they both have a time and place and it just so happens that the time has come for me to be useful to my crew. I ignored a warning I shouldn’t have and she’s paying the price.” Sinyr raises an eyebrow at that comment and replies “So Lanin was right… this is because of Erdrick?” Essex plants his flesh and blood hand on Felcyr’s shoulder and leans in close whispering. “A time and place doctor, let me be the one to ease the burdens you all took up while I slept… agreed?” Doctor Sinyr reluctantly nodded and states “I suppose I should ask how you’re feeling actually. A duel, a jail break, battle at sea…and is that Hoogah I smell on you Captain?” with a grin on his face Essex struts away with a grin saying over his shoulder. “ Tomorrow, at dawn I’ll be making sure we deal with this.” The Iosan doctor just nods watching he walk back toward the drinkers and merriment inside the Hold of the vessel despite the damage suffered.

Essex wastes no time walking through the celebrations in The Hold. Golrick is still telling tales and starting toasts to those who didn’t make it off Pointe Vigil. At another table sat Atticus, Boomur, and Kerchak look to be engaged in a game of cards. Boomur glowers his competition almost half as much as he grumbles at the indistinguishable. Kerchak takes a long drag off his cigar and glances at Boomur and Atticus with a greed filled poker face. As Atticus eyes the captain he says to the crew “So what exactly are we wagering for this round gentlemen?” to which a sudden cauldron of grey slop with cyan bubbles claps down onto the table. Essex stops dead in his tracks with a wide grin seeing Mr. Blackheel preparing to break in the new recruit as Kerchak says bluntly “Our stomachs seems a good place to start.” Atticus looks mortified at the concoction before him as he looks up to the unseemly ship’s dwarven cook, Eckers Blackheel with bits of dandruff and gravy clings to his hair and beard. The Dwarf salutes the captain and bears an unseemly grin toward Atticus showing his missing and discolored teeth. Atticus’ eyes dart right to the deck of cards as he groans seeing Boomur’s whelp Pub slides the deck back toward Boomur and Kerchak. “Fair hand.” He states matter of factly as the Troolbloods shiphands grin back at poor Atticus confident of their hands now. Atticus looks pleadingly at the Captain as Essex deviously rubs his belly and licks his lips waving goodbye to Atticus and heading toward the Gundeck stairwell.

Trudging up the stairs the urge to resume smoking his cigar crosses his mind till the smell of sulfur and gunpowder quickly fills his nostrils. With a sigh he looks over the gundeck not intending for many more pleasantries but seeing no reason not to take an account how the deck is fairing. After a few quick moments Essex notes Mr. Uldara isn’t on duty because the crew look to be fairly relaxed at this point. Ms Cara Applewhite is currently sitting on a stool nursing a mug of mead gently stroking a brass cannon right next to her as she watches the cresting night waters saying to the captain “Was a great scrap sir.” To which Essex nods in her direction before trekking up the next set of stairs having crossing his twelve cannons on their rail tracks. The cool night air against the sea whafted across the main deck was refreshing from the rotten stench of the Hold. The sails, what were left of them buffeted in the wind as the sound of thunder could be heard echoing over the ocean. Essex looked to a saluting Bosun Gorgun who was sporting from fresh wounds but carried them like they were skinned knees. “You did right by the Crew sir.” Essex gave a fatigued sigh and nodded once more finding guilt in so much freely offered gratitude. Gorgun sensed whatever Essex was feeling and suddenly bowed at his captain quickly finding an order to scream out at a ship hand, to which Essex was grateful for.

Opening up the doors to the promenade of his ship Essex approached up to a brass series of tubes. Each one lead to a different compartment of the ship, he flipped open the lid to one of the tubes and drew close before speaking. “Miss Ironfist, ye did well today I’ll be in talks with the quartermaster about increasing yer shares tonight among other things. I’m optimistic about the outcome, that’s all.” Without waiting for a response from the Engine room. Essex strolls up to the door of his quarters and his eyes drift down to the door slightly ajar. Grabbing ‘Cheat’ from its scabbard Essex bursts into his room weapon draw eyes flaring orange with runes swirling around his free hand expecting to find a stowaway.

“Oh My Kel, you certainly know how to impress a girl with a showy entrance.”

Kelley rose an eyebrow to find Lidda McClay under his sheets with a wide grin, her hat already tossed onto his headboard he long brown hair and Midlunder qualities strongly coming through in the lantern light of his quarters. For the first time in years Essex saw spunky little Lidda without grease, gears or tool strapped to her, all he could see was the enticing form of a woman under his sheets as she helped herself to some of his rum resting on his nightstand. Stowwing away the blade and diffusing the runes Kelley sighed at her as he undid some straps of his armor.

“Lidda, I’m in no mood to entertain flirtation.”

To which came a disappointed glance from Lidda’s blue eyes. After a moment or two her freckled checks smiled again as she grabbed his bottle of rum pressing it against herself as she sat up showing she wasn’t in her normal jumpsuit. “You know Kell, you could be considerate enough to think about it from my perspective.” She said with a musing smirk to him. “Oh no, that is exactly why I am in no mood you seem to have made your life plenty complicated already to join up with me when your Brother holds the rank of Admiral in Ord.” Lidda sighs and pats the bed commandingly “Come here. I’ve got something to say, I need to make sure you get it through that thick head of yours.” Essex shakes his head ignoring the command still undoing his armor. To his surprise Lidda waits for a moment and giggles “Or don’t I don’t mind savoring the show” She says with a gently bit lip teasing at the fact Essex was undressing in front of her which Kelley glares at her flustered as he decides to sit down next to her still half undone.

“You know Kelley, just by being here I’m not likely to ever be mentioned in another inheritance or get to see my nieces or nephews. I knew that full well before getting on that gangplank and that was my decision.” Essex sighs deeply trying to mentally retreat from that guilt by digging into his pocket to retrieve one of the two cigars only to find Lidda already had her hand in his pocket. She fished them out and grinned at the half used one planting it firmly in her lips and stashing the over between her breasts looking defiantly at Kelley’s stupefied response. “All because of some dare to kiss my brother’s best friend out on the docks on a night that I never got over."

Essex stared to his cigars, her chest, his rum, her smile , his sheets, her figure and left speechless for the first time in ages. She grabbed the back of his hair and smiled pulling him so close he could feel the hot breath coming off her. “You promised me right after that kiss I could be part of your crew.” Essex dumbly replied "I was pretty drunk.” She grinned and pulled him in the rest of the way giving him a long, heated and passionate kiss before letting the two of the breath “Maybe, but you were charming.” She sits up and smiles stroking his Mechanikal Arm likely putting her engineer mind to work mentally disassembling and examining it before saying “Captain, I’ll understand if it’d never work out between us. But I’ll be damned if I’ll be a pariah without a reason and a left behind again. I want to see this world the way only you could show me. So I really was just Lucan’s little sister to y-“Essex leans against her and pushes her into his bed staring her dead in the eyes. “You talk too much… and you better be ready to share those with me.” He says with a grin as Lidda responds with a smile and with flush cheeks as Essex realized what it looked like when he pointed at her bosom.

She tosses her bra at him to which Essex grabs with a smile and then snatches up the bottle of rum from her taking two big gulps before blowing out the lantern light. Lidda giggles anxiously as she raises above the sheets showing her twilight frame to him as she helps undoing the rest of his armor before kissing the back of his neck “Oh captain, my captain…” she whispers playfully pressing against his back before throwing him into the bed and pouncing into it with him. Kelley chuckles as he feels Lidda’s fingers trace along his chest as she caresss his neck with her forehead. Kelley weakly smiled informing her “I’ve a meetin with Mr. Chaeffer within the hour.”

Lidda rolls her eyes and laughs “Ha, no.” she states plainly to Kelley’s surprise. Before he can look down she smiles sheepishly. “I don’t care if you have your meeting, but for your sake i’ll just let you know now. I’ll be fucking you until i faint… for your own pride, you might want to lock that door right now because not even my brother could get me off you now” She says dripping with lust as she begins to back up her words with bold action. Essex laughs almost nervously starting to see the savage side of Ms. McClay as he realizes the futility of talking her down and bolts from the bed half naked locking the door. He bare is able to turn before Lidda pins him to the door.

“Looks like I caught me a pirate captain, a cute one too.”

She says with a smile before using her strong body to throw him back into bed like a rag doll. Essex twirled around in bed stunned to see little polite Lidda the girl he’d know for nearly 20 years acting so dominant. Strutting over to his bed Lidda smiles starts to forcefully fake a pirate accent “Now stand down Capin, and prepar ta’ be boarrrded hehe.”Kelley laughed, and for the first time in a long time Captain Kelley Essex didn’t feel the burdens of leadership, just bliss.

Crumbling Vigilance
Kelley Essex's point of view of the Battle at Pointe Vigil.

“Sails out, full sail on the double!”

Captain Kelley Essex Shouted from the bridge of the Anchor’s bane watching men scrambling into positions of rope lines upon the weather deck in response to their captain’s order. Wasting no Time Kelley with his Mechanikal right arm grabs a lever near the steering Collum and pulling it as hard to the right as far and fast as he could as it locks into place with a hefty crunch as Kelley forgot how strong his arm could be with a winch clearly on his face he abandoned the guilt before it could linger in him and daring to look over his shoulder at his hunters.

Awashed with blood and riddled with damage and flames was the archaic exploration frigate, the Ancestry. The vessel was clearly designed for battle almost a century ago though she seemed to have been well broken in. she had been properly savaged by Master Gunner Uldara’s Cannons, nearly bled dry by Quartermaster Chaeffer’s savage Boarding Parties, and their best officers had been brought to the sword by “The Red Beast” Master at Arms Mr. Teremey, and Master Engineer Orianna’s Mangler Warjack, “Grudge”. That was why despite all this damage Essex’s eyes widened seeing the engine wheels of the Ancestry kick up into a heavy stack of smoke. She was burning excessively hot, and her top deck chain guns were coming to bear and the remaining crew were hungry for revenge. The Ancestry may have been old, but Kelley couldn’t help but admire the ship that survived such hell he and his crew unleashed.

Before he returned to sailing his heart began to race as he realized just how much ground The Sheath had made seeing a massive column of smoke belching more smoke than some industrious villages. In that moment Kelley felt as though he were watching a train plowing through the ocean angrily toward him and Anchor’s bane.

“Miss Ironfist! Heart to starboard, before we have no heart left to turn with!”

No sooner than he bellowed the order Quartermaster Chaffer came running up the stairwell to the bridge having a bit of arcane fatigue showing. Chaeffer planted his feet at the aft most part of the ship and closed his eyes trying to clear his anxious mind. Essex could feel his Quartermaster channeling magic into runes around himself in new experimental ways. With a smile he remembered how little finesse Chaeffer had just a few short months ago with magic, it made him proud to see Lanin’s Legacy. But just as the name of Lanin popped into his head Essex’s eyes suddenly flared orange to his surprise. A quick wave of painful agony writhed inside Essex’s mind as he heard the future echoes of the dead and drowning all around him starting with…

“Jehremi!” Essex screamed as he pulled away from the wheel just in time to snatch the cloak of his back and throw him flat on his back. The Sheath had just dropped anchor and the moment it snagged on the shallow waters the crew shift to port lining up a broadside in a matter of moments. A thunderous roar of fifteen cannons at long range struck unerringly true into the aft of The Anchor’s Bane. The broadside included several heavy 32 pound royal weight shot, which glided through the aft of the ship rending out a bit of the exterior and splintering a mast which cam crashing down against starboard hull sending men to their watery graves and shunting off hull with it. The sudden peppering of the lighter deck cannons followed in as though proper calculated to cause the most death on board. They weren’t mistaken, a ship rending explosion sends many inside the gun deck to their graves. Like an avalanche of lumber, half of the bridge and most of the poop deck collapse and slide off the ship. The explosions stunned Essex long enough to realize he was no longer safe, with a nimble cartwheel he throws himself onto safety while reaching his arm to the cliff created by the devastation below to catch Chaeffer who already instinctively grabbed his mechanikal arm in mid plummet.

“It’s a damn shame we can’t hire their gunners huh?”

Kelley says trying to hide the pain of knowing the ship will be lucky to get away now at this point as he feared the engines must have been decimated. “You have no idea, sir.” Quatermaster Chaeffer stated as though the implosion of the bridge wasn’t even something of note. Essex pulled up Jehremi and glared to Ancestry letting loose it’s Sluggers on the aft. Luckily most the short seemed to plummet into sea short of the vessel. Essex grinned trying to decide if he should thank Scion Roth or Ascendant Doleth for the fair fortune of dumb luck. Bosun Gorgun came racing up the steps to check on the Captain and breathed out a sigh of relief seeing them both standing upon the deck.

“Hate to say it sir, but I think we may need to surrender. We tried the best we could but the Engine room isn’t responding I fear that explosion reached them…”

Gorgun said through gritted teeth. Essex bit his lip and looked to the Sheath and then the Ancestry wondering if they would accept a surrender at this point especially considering the crime. With a quick gesture on the steering column Essex clicks the right lever back into the center and pushes up a shift into the forward most position. He holds up a finger waiting for a response. After a brief pause both steam paddles die in the water and grow silent. The rustling sound of the wind and clanging bells from the Ancestry are all that are heard as the entire boat seemed to be holding it’s breath. In that brief moment, suddenly a heavy shaking and plume of smoke gives way from the aft and the steam paddles begin turning in harmony. Within a few moments of simply splashing the paddles continue to increase in speed as fast as they have ever spun letting out smoke from all opening inside the engine.

The Crew explodes with cheers and celebration as they see the Sheath’s Gambit anchored it to the waters as it grows more distant and the Ancestry quickly gives up the chase as well both turning back toward point Vigil. Essex smiles to Gorgun and pats him on the shoulder as Chaeffer begins to walk down toward the Maindeck ahead of him starting to speak of where to go next. It’s at that moment Essex looked to the rigging where his missing mast was that he caught Thaddeus Finley crawling around a rigging rope gently trying to persuade someone balanced on a crosspiece of one of the remaining two masts.

Essex’s face hid nothing, as Chaeffer looked to his captain and then to person. His heart sank when he saw Lo balanced upon mast arms outstretched eyes closed. Before his legs could move she tilted and her frail little body began plummeting the entire crew suddenly stopped their cheering and turned to gasps. Only man manages to react quickly enough diving into position and nearly collapsing to the ground as he catches the young girl. Chaeffer’s eyes narrow as he sees the violet bandanna of one of the Bucaneers of the Hand caught her. Specifically it was Telik, the one who ransomed his way onto the boat in the first place he and his men. It coiled knots in Chaeffer’s stomach to see the man save her but he was grateful she was at least saved.

“We are having a drink tonight…”

Essex said looking right to Chaeffer with the foreboding tone accompanying it. With a gentle nod Chaeffer agreed and walked up to Lo’s Savior with his captain right behind. Telik smiled examing the passed out girl as he smiled almost knowingly and handed her over to a grimacing Ogrun gunnery sergeant, Gorgul Turnok. “Odd little girl right there…. is she real?” he says rather bluntly to Chaeffer who is surprised to be asked out of the blue but Essex responds first

“You saved my crew, and to that I am obliged. However I seem to recall your crew also killed my crew and to that I take…exception.”

Telik’s smile vanishes and his eyes glare at both quartermaster and captain. “You promised us passage to Five Fingers, safe passage.” Essex Nods “Oh certainly, aye we gave our word you’ll be safe. But I am hoping you’d be willing to return the favor as I was planning to need repairs there as it were.” His tone sounded a bit fast which normally met Essex was up to something. Telik grimaces and shrugs “Not much I can do to help you there, Captain Dromere already know about what your boys did to one of her favorites…” Essex’s warm quick tone remains so as he looks to Chaeffer and smiles reminiscent with him about the last group that spied on them supernaturally. Chaeffer smiled with a smirk knowing it wasn’t honorable but damned if it wasn’t going to be enjoyed.

“Aye, I promised ye safe passage ta’ Five Fingers. But I don’t seem to recall any debate over the handling of your comforts. Boys, takes these scurvy fucks to the brig!”

A New Day

A New Day


The sun was rising as Jacapo faced it down like it were an enemy upon the rooftop of the warehouse he stood upon. His mechanika rapier “Flick” had been meticulously cleaned after it was used on the gangster Tommy. Jacapo had drawn it from it’s thin scabbard, holding it casually behind himself as his right hand was held by the left creating an almost regal posture. In the distance of his vigil he could barely make out a few Stevedores inside the gloomy darkness preparing their vessels for fishing expeditions or ferry services from one Island to the next. An amalgamation of rope conjunctions dangling over his own head in chaotic patterns in the form of crude traffic ways. Known as “the Riggings” of Chaser Isle, it resembled a impractical tumor in the skyline of the city. Bogrin and Gobbers began to flood out of their rudimentary hovels and tents scampering along the rope bridges and crawlspaces, or simply climbing down makeshift ladders and walkways to get to the ground below. Merchants began to open shops, and thieves and gangers slowly trickled out of their hideaways and hangouts to earn a living. As the blazing sun rose above the squalor that was The Port of Deceit the first thing Jacapo could hear over the occasional fog horn, waves or wind was the sound of a Morrowan Temple’s bells chiming out to declare the rise of a new and hopefully better day. Jacapo grimaced however knowing better, all he could see was a populace of the content, blind and poor. It was like they were at ease to live in such miserable fashions, not once questioning their lot in life. To Jacapo the rising of the sun only signified one less day til the delicate balancing acts this whole city relied upon would unravel into heedless death and anarchy.

While he glowered he didn’t let things like this truly impact him. He had spent decades in the courts of Lleal having charged for his deadly services as a duelist to represent and challenge petty offenders to his client’s honor. Twisting Flick in his hand he smiled delighting in the fact he had lost none of his edge while leading the Paulson Street Rovers this last year. In truth he envied every selfish cutthroat in Five Fingers living within the whims of his or her own greed and violence, because he knew those days were long since past for him. He looked back over his shoulder to the exit which would lead back inside the warehouse he stood upon. For only a brief moment did he consider his return to the work at hand. Instead he narrowed his eyes scanning the cityscape for an area that had begun to be known very well, an area once called Havershaw’s Folly. What had been the scene of a grizzly genocide and sabotage now only stoked his anger. A metallic sign suddenly lit up with phosphorous lights of neon pinks, garish blues and gentle greens to draw the eye while reading " Fantasia Faire". It was outfitted with stripped carousels, a massive farris wheel , sections filled with foreign art exhibits, bizarre fun houses and games of chance and a variety of other wild entertainments. It had been reconstructed well resembling the way it had been almost a year ago. To most in the city it was a testament to the indomitable spirit of progress and the resilience of It’s citizens. To Jacapo it only spit upon the dead and was wrought with intrigues. It was the talk of the city how Jacob Horley; a man wealthy enough in his late twenties to shame some Ordic Castellans’ purses. Be he had some something few even consider possible even in their wildest dreams of striking it rich on Bull Dicer’s Isle. That is to be wealthy enough to purchase land on Chaser Island… It didn’t add up and he know Horley had to have connections to the Havershaw Massacre. Jacapo sneered from his perch upon the roof simply know despite those bells, this still wasn’t over. Making a silent vow to himself, he swore he would learn the truth and put this all to rest once and for all.

Turning away from the view he stares at the rusted metal door leading back downstairs. Long ago it likely was a reinforced door to prevent cat burglars from running off with scrap or parts. Now, it was barely holding itself together on it’s hinges and moving was an outright chore for anyone trying to move the door. All the same he re-sheathed “Flick” and walked down into the dark staircase hearing hush tones carrying in the vacant warehouse. About midway down the stairs a sudden screech of agony dispels the hushed atmosphere, echoing like a cavern inside the metallic dimensions of this place. Jacapo smirked realizing Tommy must be awake after his long nap inside the sack, at last it was time to get down to the bottom of this.

Coming to ground floor, Jacapo looked too Tommy sprawled against an old set of conveyor gears used in the warehouse. They were impossibly large and were abandoned when the warehouse was foreclosed. No longer able to work due to a lack of power and neglect they still proved an immeasurably potent tool for interrogation when you applied two or three men with strong backs to manually turn the gears. Sure enough the Rovers must have already been growing tired of him because Jacapo could see about half of the man’s left arm was crushed into mince within the cogs. He was pale and shivering still with an exposed cheek from the slash of Flick against his face, he was beginning to look like a thing that would be described at the start of a campfire story. The thing that Jacapo didn’t like is Tommy was clearly in drastic pain but wasn’t saying anything other than whimpering as sobbing. He looked to his men and groaned realizing the idiots hadn’t even asked him any pertinent questions when he caught a glimpse of confusion cross the Ganger’s face. Tommy squinted his eyes coughing up some blood and spit from his disfigured face like he was trying to place who Jacapo was.

With perhaps a bit too much sadistic glee Jacapo as though reading his thoughts pantomimed out his earlier “Shhh” gesture to him which stirred anger in the man. Jacapo immediately seized the conversation by nodding to his men who pulled on the shafts needed to cause the cog to rotate about one more inch as a bit more blood oozed out. In his agony, Tommy kicked and punched the device with tears in his eyes shouting at them “The fuck do you want from me!? … Say something… Say something ya sick fuckers! Tell me what you want!” His tone was furious with a bit of anxious pleading as he stopped fighting as he couldn’t feel his arm at all anymore.

Walking up casually Jacapo replied “Jacob Horley… how often has he visited your establishment?” He drew “Flick” from it’s sheath examining it waiting for a response. Tommy was sweating and much paler than he normally was, his eyes looked dilated and suddenly he wretched up his meal before the theater. Jacapo sighed tapping his foot and started thinking about where to slice or cut the disgusting vermin when suddenly a weak response of “He.. doesn’t, I don’t see him there.”

Raising and eyebrow Jacapo counters with “But you are the Sons of Bolis aren’t you?” Tommy shivers feeling cold wash over him as he just nods in agreement. “So you aren’t backing the Fantasia Faire? Seems unlikely this much money at place has to come from you and your people.” Tommy twists the remnants of his arm only to feel a quick burst of pain shoot through his arm telling him he was alive. “Who the fuck are you all?”

With a sudden and firm gesture Jacapo backhands Tommy into a brief moment of shock as his eyes are stern like he had just lost a game. “You have … how many minutes left to live and this is what you do with it? Ask me questions you know I’ll lie about?” Tommy didn’t like hearing about his impending doom no matter how obvious it seemed. “..b.. But I do know a bit about what is going on with Mr. Horley’s assets!” He blurts out “But you’ll need to save me. Otherwise I’m taking it to the grave with me.” Jacapo rolled his eyes at the intimidation technique as he quickly thumb the power stud to his blade and hacked off the useless limb in a fresh slice as two men rushed over to stop the bleeding and bandage him. “As if I’d let you off that easy.”he replied with a smirk “No Rapists and murderers like you do not get release from me.. I just take everything of use from them and let their sins do them in… it’s quite cathartic really.”

Tommy’s eyes widened in pure terror at Jacapo as he tried to fight off the Rovers which was distinctly impossible with the lack of his arm. Jacapo walked up and smiled “However, I’d be willing to cease your punishment in exchange for your complete cooperation.” The hiss of his blade burned away the last bits of his crushed and bruised flesh clinging to the blade. “Do we have a deal, or are you dead set on losing more than your looks and an arm?” Tommy knew what betraying the trust of his Cept would mean but he couldn’t bare the idea of being picked apart by his lessers. He grimaced with a nod and laid down letting the men work on his stump.

“This is much larger than you think it is…It goes above even the cepts. Mr. Horley has some high friends inde-” before he could finish his sentence a sudden series of gunshots cracked off outside the warehouse window, though dusty and impossible to see through the shots flooded through like rain as Tommy was given a brutal but swift release from life. What sounded like three of four dozen shots ripped through the window in less than a few seconds. While instantly killed Tommy other Rovers were hit or killed as well. The dozen or so Rovers that remained at the attack were prone on the ground or hugging aged metal as cover pulling out there own pistols. Jacapo winced feeling a sharp pain in his hip as he realizd he was hit, he thumbed the back of his body and felt no blood, he was lucky the bullet didn’t go through fully through.

With a hiss of pain he shouted to his men to group up on the flanks and to scatter. He pulled “Final Word” from it’s holster powering it on with a mighty thrum of magic coursing through the ancient looking hand cannon. With a powerful shout “Mori?… Mori! any casters?!” he said hoping his only Arcanist was still breathing somewhere in the chaos. After a few more popping shots of gunfire careened through he building a panicked response of “N..No sir. I don’t think so. Just gunmen” Jacapo caught sight of a shadow in the streets and aimed true. with a Heavy Thump and a small plume of yellow smoke a dinner plate sized hole was in the figure who fell dead in the street. As Jacapo winched from the recoil of the ancient looking gun as he felt the pressure of his gunshot wound drip with blood. Pulling the slide out breach open the remnants of the cartridge shell were aglow with heat and fading rune inscriptions. He quickly turned the weapon sideways dumping the hot shell and loaded another. As he looked up from his weapon he heard a 3 series of thuds hit the stone floors of the building. His eyes focused in on grenades and in a panic he promptly turned tail and ran to new cover.

Two of the devices brought forth powerful explosives while the other poured out a violet smoke as men started coughing and choking. Before he could tell them to run a Trollkin kicked open the door holding a Scatter gun in heavy infantry armor and leveled it inside the cloud Firing off as gore splattered the side of the warehouse wall with buckshot plastered into the wall. The trollkin grunted with pleasure as as he promptly responded to a charging ganger cracking the stock of his rifle against the mans face caving it in with one gory thrust killing him instantly as well. Jacapo cursed under his breath before suddenly a burst of runic light exploded inside the warehouse as a bolt of cerulean blue enemy crashed into the back of the monstrous Trollkin who cam crashing down to his knees as the energy cut a hole all the way through him and both sides of the armor. The brute touched his wound in confusion no willing to accept death as Jacapo swiftly ended it’s march with a shot from “Final Word” In the throat taking the head off with the damage.

Jacapo smiled to Mori as she came limping out of the smoke “We need to get out of here, now I think we might be all that’s left!” Jacapo heard the sound of gunfire outside that wasn’t coming from their attackers, Daring a glance around the cover he saw a sorely welcome sight, Men in armored great coats toting dual quad iron pistols rushed the enemy position outside baring a familiar symbol on their back of High Captain Killbride. Jacapo rushed over to Tommy’s body checking for a pulse. Mori tilted her head to the side wondering if Jacapo heard her and baffled why he’d leave cover. No sooner than she doubted a few stray shots whizzed Past Jacapo’s head as he dove for cover again.

“He’s dead, no doubt about it.” He said trying to convince himself. Mori shouts back “Well of course he’s fuckin dead Boss! he took a firing squad work of bullets! Are we gonna leave or not?!” Jacapo laughed pulling out a knife from his belt and sat motionlessly behind cover digging the blade into his gunwound. “We hold ground. Killbride’s men are right out there covering us, I assume they want a word about the actions we took at the theater.” Mori looked away repulsed by Jacapo’s urge to dig out a bullet on his own and looked away. “That, or the fact we are having a shoot out with Riordan’s men…” Jacapo stopped moving as she said that and looked right at Mori as though in awe. “You know them?” Mori nodded and whipped around cover firing off her pistol before urging another bolt of magic forward as well.

“Bolis’ Balls! Of course, That’s what the vermin meant! Now stay down, that’s an order lets make sure Killbride pays the toll for the visit not anymore of us.”

An Accounting
Veronica's last moments aboard the Anchor's Bane

Inside a dark and still room Veronica DuBray laid back into the sheets of a small bed she had been sharing with Captain Jehremi Chaeffer for months now. In silences she stared out through the small port hole to watch the constellations above in obvious reflection. For the first time in a long time she felt dread aboard this ship, uncertainty gnawed at her like a hungry beast. She placed her palms inside one another to prevent her hands from shaking anymore feeling conscious that somehow people could see her in the silhouette of the window. Tears welled up in her eyes as she put her hands together in prayer to fight this feeling welling up inside her.

“Please… Don’t take this from me too…” She whispered surprised by the desperation in her own voice as she looked out to sky finding it impossible to not naively hope against reality. This small quarters was tight barely able to comfortably fit a single man let alone a woman in his chambers together. But she smiled thinking about how comfortable she felt in his arms, how every details as more vivid in this room; heat, sound, touch smell. With that thought she instinctively took a deep breath feeling a pair of tears cascade down her cheeks. The room smelled of him, and she despaired quietly knowing it might be the last time she would ever be entitled to such sensations.

Veronica wiped the tears from her face hating that she had grown so attached to this dark handsome man. She tried to control her breathing to calm herself but her body refused any control she tried to enforce over it. Because she saw into his eyes, she heard a the same voice he spoke of whenever he talked about "Lo ". She heard his guilt, his pain her bore to be kind to her. She was certain he must have known what happened after the Red Revenge, why the Captain had grown so ill. And because of it, she would lose another man she loved. She dug her own nails into her knees in a silent frenzy as thought about it. She couldn’t contain her own anger at the fact with Kelley surviving he would see her miserable yet again.

Suddenly the door to the small quarters flung open, Jehremi stumbled in absolutely reeking of Rum, whiskey and cigar smoke. His stench stung the air reminding her of the countless times Kelley had walked in the exact same way. She realized her eyes were still glistening n the darkness as quickly wiped the tears away from her eyes in the dark. Chaeffer stared silently at her for a moment as i appeared standing became a new challenge to him. An unsure voice blurted out “Tha.. t you Dub..ray?” He stepped closer as she cleared her thought murmuring a yes finding her words slowly in the night as he began to try and speak but his bloodshot eyes and broad smile made it easy to convince him nothing was wrong. She hated seeing the similarities to Kelley that Chaeffer was showing right now, but it was likely going to be the last night she would be permitted close to him. She pulled the sheets open and patted his side snuggling close to him and she how flush he was.

Chaeffer’s eyelids grew heavy as Veronica smiled teasing his hair gently in the briefest of moments they locked eyes and Veronica gave him a soft kiss. She was insecure and modest before whispering “I love you Jehremi…” He only blinked slowly before guilt washed over his stunted mind and she clung to him tight pretending to not show notice. Stroking the back of his head Chaeffer drifted to sleep in her embrace as she gently sung him a lullaby…

A long time ago I saw a hero…

Flames did lick at his skin; As the village burned around him…

Children cried in the night; Fallen laid of mourn…

Hope is slain, all in vain; Vengeance has been born…

Hunted and feared, never brought near; He’d be the one whom we’d all forsake…

Always to ride out; Evil to be rout….

No time to refrain; Revenge to obtain…

First to be Blamed; Never to be named….

Our hero.

Her eyes burned and her breath quivered as she traces her hands along his bare back finding a new thick scar along his neck and shoulder she hadn’t felt before he took his shore leave. The wounds appeared painful and almost roused Chaeffer from his sleep. Gently swaying him back to sleep she knew for his sake she should just leave while she had the chance. Holding back the urge to squeeze every last moment with her she gathered his clothes leaving him her silken sash as a momento. As she reached for the door she gasped seeing Kelley sternly staring at her on the other side of the hallway arms crossed, he must have been waiting for some time.

Kelley scanned her face, she had flushed cheeck and a brightness to her nose and blood shot eyes. Her normally composed demeanor was caught completely off guard and even after he made eye contact with her she merely looked back to the door with a look of concern before returning back to him. With a scowl he asked coldly “…Why…?” He wouldn’t allow her to deny what she had done that night, what sh put him through.

The silence upon the boat only made Veronica more unnerved by Kelley’s stare, she brought both her hands to her sides to cradle herself and restrain her breathing. She was faced with the one thing she thought for sure wouldn’t come to pass when she seduced Essex the next after The Anchor’s Bane had sunk the Red Revenge. The poison she procured was painstakingly chosen by a master Kayazy Poisoner contact within Lleal. The Greybramble, a harmless fungus found growing in the oldest Orgoth ruins. Used by the ancient brutes to identify the touch of magic within men and women, it’s spores would cling to innate magical sources like a warcaster.

Through the fine craftsmanship of a toxicologist and costly supplies the substance can be refined to produce intense brain death inside mages. The cost to have this hazard crafted was worth the entirety of her family’s remaining inheritance and her savings, more money than most men in Immoren would ever even see in their lives. The best part was she was to deliver it to him through a kiss amplifying the effects through his alcohol. She had been in overjoyed when her plot had followed through perfectly, she waited till a moment Essex had been lonely and contemplative and threw herself at him like all the other times in the past.

In that moment she smiled realizing she could still talk herself out of this through sheer charisma beguiling him like before. Kelley was limping aboard the ship on crutches like a sickly beggar he was no threat to her yet, the poison had done its job either way. Yet when her eyes lingered in his own she saw something in them, an intensity she hadn’t seen before. His eyes reminded her of the moment she first met Kelley, standing against the winds of fate and circumstance knowing they would bend to him and only when he said. That gaze, it frightened her she had only seen him wear in the briefest of moments when he stood sure and proud against the Black Fleet of Cryx itself. Did he really see her this way she thought. By instinct she looked away from him fearful this discussion was about to wake Chaeffer.

Kelley unfolded his arms and despite his weariness seemed destined to claw his way back stronger than ever. He wasn’t armed but she knew he could kill her still in a multitude of ways and the crew would never object once he named her his assassin. But it was not power that boomed out of his voice, but concern. “Why? Why sweep ‘im of all people up in the maelstrom that we made fer’ one another? To inspire me jealousy? To get me back? To take Penny an’ the Bane from me?” Veronica looked repulsed by every suggestion she made retorting “No, I… I wanted to be taken by him, the most frightening man on your ship. I wanted to be as far from you and the safety you offered. I hoped he might kill me like the rumors said while he gave me bliss in the bedroom. I wanted to numb my wounds I wondered if your right hand man might just do the job. Instead… I found the tenderness you let die in you.”

Kelley’s mechanikal right arm clenched shut tight as he listened to her try to justify her own perspective as he just snaps off “So then why!? Iffen ya really are in love why throw me on Morrow’s doorstep?!” His voice carried over the silence as Veronica immediately snapped back to the door expecting it to fly open and Chaeffer to stare right at her but it thankfully remaining silent and still. She kept her voice low and her breath shallow as she stepped closer " Because I couldn’t forget you, I never will now, here." Under her bra she pulled free a small letter handing it to Kelley. Using his left hand he reviewed the note.

Dear Madam Dubray, It is with a heavy heart I inform you that your estates have been seiged by Khadoran forces approximately 7 months ago. I write to you because during that time I was provided the fortune to join the Resistance here in Llael having once been a servant to you and your mother.

After a recent mission we were forced to withdraw a routine of recruits to safer territory and I suggested we take the Dubray estate. I am not proud that in my cowardice I fled the manner per your mother’s orders. yet I was repelled by the sights I found inside it’s ruin. Out of consideration I shall spare you the details but please understand the affairs seen there remain my personal rallying call till the end of this long and bitter war.

Your sister and mother were both very fine women, and the last words I ever heard from them were their concerns for you. They have passed from this world Madam, may Morrow watch over them as well as you.

My condolences, Theodore Divaluai; may we once again see this country in rightful hands.

Kelley looked to the paper and back to her scorn filled face. The same face he saw in his vivid nightmares of his past. Even without his gifts it was clear she blamed him for their deaths. With a solemn glance back at the paper a circle of runic power formed around his hand as a tiny but intense spear of heat punctured the note instantly lighting it into ash, crumbling into nothing in his hand. Veronica’s face twisted in rage as Kelley coldly replied to her hate.

“I’ll have none of that Ms. Dubray! I’ve lost good men today an’ every day long as my memory aboard this ship. Some days bore mercy better than others aye, but ye contentions with me are no different than any other soul who ‘ave served under me or me First mate. We cannot order the dead, but we can guide the living. What ye suffered should have made a bond with this ship instead you drove it away. I refuse to be yer’ justification for their suffering, they weren’t me crew and clearly neither were you. Get off my ship…”

Her rage vanished in an instant seeing Kelley holding back tears as he grabbed her with his mechanikal limb lifting her like a ragdoll and slamming her against the opposite side of the hallway. His voice shook not with rage but regret “Ms DuBray ye were always wrong about me us. You saw me look to a woman who inspired me and peaked my lust but you never saw that you were given one the one thing that meant more; my love…” he released her realizing how rough he was being as she had begun gasping. She believe those words he confessed after all she went through with him after all she committed she doubted herself, had she merely been selfish?

Kelley turned away from her and looked down to his mechanikal hand that had nearly crushed her neck. He looked over his shoulder to her and meekly replied " It’s over Ms. DuBray, off me ship do us no more harm and I give you my word no more will come to you…" In deafening silence she stood alone in every sense of the term seeing the pain Essex hid matched the look of guilt on Chaeffer’s face earlier. Tears rolled down her eyes realizing whatever life she might live now would never be as vibrant as the one she threw away three months ago.

Veronica held back the inevitable tidal wave that was to be her sorrow, praying silently for the strength to not buckle before she could leave with some grace. She drug her feet toward the quarterdeck’s exit when Kelley picked up his voice one final time.

“We will likely set sail to Five Fingers within two days, you may pick up your belongings after my quartermaster has an accounting of your supplies and our own… that is all.” As Veronica nodded like a beaten animal and left eyesight with all the force his mechanikal arm could must her crunch into the hard wooden wall of a neighboring officer’s quarters to the fright of someone who was soundly sleeping.

Money & Status
Five Fingers

A harmonious adagio of orchestrated brass and stringed instruments gently rise over a large theater filled with hundreds of attendants. The fuel fed to the lanterns in this large auditorium began to wane as a dark silence overtook the ambiance of the area. Many men and women in wealthy attire turned their full attention to the stage as the velvet curtains of crimson began to glide apart upon the main stage. The gentle inclusion of light woodwind instruments joined in gracefully to the deep tones of the strings and the dynamic conveyance of the Brass. A pair of singers entered the stage providing a dynamic contrast between feminine and masculine vocals and the Opera began with all eyes upon the stage alight with beacons shining down.

Within a cloistered suite terrace sat a man in a black vest and great coat, with two women at his sides in casual posture. He smiled as a servant approached offering a silver platter holding cigars and wine silently in a stance of servitude. He grabbed two cigars, one for himself and the other for the girls to share before he planted ten Galleons on the plate and nodded right before snagging the bottle of wine with his other hand. The Servant’s expression barely changed but it was clear the once thought of generous tip barely covered what he just took. With a chuckle the man grinned wide shooing him away before chuckling and pulling his red head close to him fondling her as he propped up both of his boots onto a pristine stool of this establishment.

He clearly was uncouth and his upbringing didn’t match the stature of this place. He was stocky and rough clearly a man from the streets but his coin spoke for him, that and his reputation. The harlot he began to molest seemed more interested in the music than with her current client trying her best to ignore him as she wouldn’t look him in the eyes and passed on the cigar handing it over to the other woman who smiled at the opportunity planting it in her mouth with a mischievous smile wiggling it in her jaws teasing this brute for a light. The man pulled away his hand and sneered at the red head before grinning at the invitation for interaction from the teasing brunette. Pulling out his silver etched lighter it bore an insignia of a pair of dice with sapphires set into the divots of the dice showing up as double sixes. As the Tordorian harlot suckled down on the flame taking a long drag she impishly ruffled his hair blowing smoke in his face which only was responded with a dumb looking smirk. Without warning he suddenly grabbed the midlunder red head by the back of her head cinching into her hair and growled while whispering into her ear. “I didn’t pay for you to listen to the music ya know…” which had been his attempt to make an angry outburst seem more a sensual gesture which only seemed repulsive to every person in the suite, leaving only a painfully awkward moment of silence as the music continued.

“Ye-yeah I know, Sorry Tommy I just … why come here for it?” The midlunder woman asked trying not to sound too annoyed by his oafish behavior. Though her face didn’t do a very good job at hiding her displeasure the darkness luckily did. All the same Tommy rose up grabbing the underside of her chin pressing his thick thumb and pointer finger against her jaw line as he viced down on her jaw line with a mild amount of force. His breathing was thick and frustrated. He grimaced at her in the dark wanting to just take her here and get his money’s worth. That despicable thought instinctively made him lick his lips as the Tordoran Woman blew another cloud of smoke out with a raised eyebrow not surprised to see the cruel behavior from Tommy as she had been with him many time. Carmella on the other hand was new to the whole business and couldn’t stop trembling in this monster’s grip fearing she spoke out of turn she looks at him with pleading eyes to stop too afraid to say another word. The servant having silently watched from the back of the terrace intently watches for a few more moments and nods certain that Tommy had committed his full attention to his women as he silently slides toward the door out of the terrace.

With a deftly silent gesture he opens the door to see a smirking man in actor’s attire holding a rapier in his right hand and mechanical hand cannon holstered on his hip. The Harlequin tilted his head with a hungry look in his eyes holding up a sack of Cygnaran crowns just as quietly. No words were exchanged; the servant merely accepts the bribe with an emotionless face and walks down to the main assembly past 3 rough gangsters in great coats and studded leathers brandishing pistols, clubs and knives. The gangsters hold back watching as the colorful jester creep inside the suite pulling out his heavy hand cannon without sound right before closing the door behind him. At that moment the crescendo of the first act takes place, as thick set of drums and resplendent voices become deafening inside the acoustics of the theater.

As though it were a queue, Tommy’s frustrations boil over and he backhands Carmella twice across both cheeks before lunging on her to choke off any crying or screams she might have. In complete fright she remains still with wide eyes struggling for any air at all she can’t resist the urge to fight against this man easily 100 pounds her better as tears well in her eyes and she desperately pats his arms closing her eyes trying her best to surrender to him. Before the scene can become any worse the Tordoron woman in horror gasps at the actor who glided into her vision who plants the hand cannon at the back of his head with a snicker. The tight grip around Carmella recedes immediately as Tommy remains frozen hunched over the woman in silent shock. Licking his lips with darting eyes he tries to blurt out “Who are you” only to hear the cocking back of the Hand cannon hammer on the first syllable he uttered. The jester in his white face paint and wide smile pulls the hand cannon away letting his target turn to face him.

Tommy is aghast to see the man, he appears to have an unsettling grin with matte blonde hair tied up in a pony tail and brilliant blue eyes and flamboyant clothes. But most unsettling is the giggling that escapes out as his finger appears to be over his lips in a “hush” fashion. The gun still aimed at Tommy’s head the gambler raises an eyebrow and tries to speak again suddenly to feel a sharp pain slice at his gut, a tiny little thing… he felt his flesh fold gently but and for a moment just showed a small cut through his clothes but after a few moments blood began to seep out of the finger length cut. The Jester with blinding reflexes had draw and slashed at his gut giggling again before sounding out “Shhhhhh.” A growl rolled in his breath and Tommy tried to speak again to be immediately re-silenced with a subtle poke into his bicep drawing out more blood and pain. Carmella took the opportunity to breath but crawl away from him backwards. Tommy glanced at her and opened his mouth to command her to return when suddenly a swish was heard as the Jester lunged and jerked the weapon toward his head for a moment Tommy thought himself dead instead he felt a terrible pain as the muscles and flesh of his right cheek were severed in a savagely accurate cut. The muscles coiled up tightly like dead snails inside his face as blood dribbled into his mouth as he suddenly felt his mouth and throat fill with a small pool of blood and he began to cough uncontrollably. The Tordoran woman motioned for Carmella to run with her and bolted for the door with her coworker close behind.

Tommy looked at the jester confused and frightened of what was to come next as suddenly the gangsters rushed into the door seeing the fleeing women as their sign to intervene. He continually granted the Jester ground as he slowly retreated to the railing in silent panic. No sooner than he reached the railing he put his hand out in the air like a barrier between him and this madman. The Jester stared at the hand with a sadistic smirk seeing it was the same hand that struck that woman. Before Tommy could realize his mistake a quick thrum of mechanika power charged up in the elegant weapon and the edge of the weapon slid through all five of his fingers effortlessly, leaving no pain or blood just a swift cut. Tommy’s tendons of his hands hadn’t even reacted they just immediately died. As Tommy stared in wild disbelief he barely noticed the gang descend on him with a pair of saps at the ready knocking him out before his instinct to scream could take over.

As a pair of bulky men caught the gambler they looked to the Jester for commands. They saw him holding out a hand expectantly with a smile as one of the men realized what he was asking for and pulled out a handkerchief giving it to him. The Jester began to wipe his face clear of the makeup as he pressed the powering stud to deactivate his rapier’s magic. One of the men studied Tommy a bit disgustedly and replied “Wyrm’s Teeth Jacapoe, you may as well have flayed him.” To which the Jester’s brilliant blue eyes brightened like it was an invitation as his grin was wide only to suddenly turn disappointed when he could see it wasn’t a genuine offer. Jacapoe simply shrugged opening the door they all came from to see the servant from before standing silently at the entrance holding a large leather sack reserved for the weights of the velvet curtains. Jacapoe looked surprisingly delighted to see that and rose an eyebrow to the servant who merely stood at the position like it was his duty. “I like men like you.” Jacapoe said with a smirk motioning him inside.

The Servant entered in laying the sack at his feet next to Tommy and callously replied “Assuming you’d tolerate him to live, he’d do well to be educated on the differences between status and money.” Rather impressed by the cold heartedness of this man Jacapoe rummages through Tommy’s pockets pulling out a small case of freshly minted Ordic Galleons and the silver lighter. Stashing the lighter in his own pocket he plants an addition fifty crowns on the silver platter still held by the servant and smiles to him. “You offered him the wine from the bar across the street, Heh he drank that piss?” He says with a chuckle looking to the discarded bottle as a Gangster helps himself to it.

With stiff upper lip the servant just puffs his chest out slightly and replies quietly “ He certainly helped himself to it anyway…when we heard of Mr. Torrisga’s attendance at the event we felt it would be the most accommodating to his palette, despite our wide selections. Now gentlemen, allow me to show you toward the door. The De’linell Theater appreciates the services and contributions you’ve provided. On behalf of the proprietor please feel free to patron our theater again.” The sound of intermission begins as the audience rises from their seats, the lanterns begin to have life fed into them and the attendants to the event begin to move toward the lobby, The Paulson Street Rovers and their disguised captive being no exception.

the cost of compassion

Their pyre burned brightly against the twilight. Its flames climbed defiantly into the last golden colors of the sunset, bleeding an auburn hue into the world. The sky itself seemed to flow with the stricken emotions of the few who gathered within its harsh light. Oriana, Balthier, Maria, Tyson, and the survivors who remained stood silently astride its glow, hearts aflame with the memory of those whom they had just buried inside of too many shallow graves. Far, far too many. For the gentler souls among them, sorrow clung to their faces as if it were fresh rain. For those who were fiercer, anger loomed, barely contained behind gritted teeth and grim facades…

For one, Vengeance burned the brightest.

The acting captain stood, his back to the roaring inferno, its crackling heat searing a hot breeze against his cloak. tears stained his eyes, and anger clouded his features, but his roar was a challenge to the fates themselves. With all his strength, he drove the marker they had created from scrap wood and metal into the dirt at the foot of the town’s once proud square. Upon its face was a crudely scrawled warning, in Ordic:

Herein Lies The Town Of Bolten, For Whom Much Was Sacrificed,
Slain, By the Enemies of Humanity.
Their Fate, Undeserved, Was Decided by Forces Beyond Their Reckoning.
Their Memory Continues, Those Who Fight For them Remain.
Humanity Will Remember.

Curling smoke spiraled ever higher into the darkening horizon. Wiping his face with a soot stained glove, he swallowed quickly, and addressed the valiant few who now stood vigil. “We who remain, honor the dead each according to our way. The children of the prophet have received their burial, but these…” he gestured with a hard wave, to the raging fire behind him. They are the children of the sea. The soil of the mainland shall not have them, nor the hungry beasts that feed on carrion; no foul wind shall animate these proud sons of the Meridius into abominations. The sea is their mother, mistress, and wife; their truest home. Thus, to the sea, they shall be returned."

After a brief pause, he continued. “Scalawags they were, miscreants and devils and heroes in equal measure. Whatever else they may have been, let it be forgiven, and forgotten. Their commitment to the charter of the ship was true, and fulfilled.”

His eyes were misty, and he struggled to think what Essex would say at a time like this. When at last he found the words, hatred ebbed from his face like a radiant candle. “As for those who caused this, let it be our solemn duty to pay them in kind, for the enemy of one is an enemy of all… If it be your desire to exact justice for these deaths, Step Forward Now, and receive ye the terms of this charter.”

Each stood, gazing into the shadows of memory and fire. Now, It was up to each to make his or her own choice. Would any step forth? The assembled few met his gaze, and for a moment, Immoren itself seemed to hold its breath…

In the distance, a figure crouched in a high treetop, gazing at the deaths which he had wrought in the name of retribution. The pyre had been carefully arranged. From this vantage, he could see the entire gathering, see the seething flames… which burned angrily, as if Vengeance itself had taken them. The burning wreckage, shaped into the symbol of a winged sword.

Weighed Down
Kelley Essex's Final Dream

Kelley opened his eyes feeling an intense silence all around him. He was laying on his back his arm still missing and a deep haze over his entire mind as he struggled to remember who he even was anymore. Minutes past like months in his mind and hours like years only further adding to his lack of identity. He looked around warily fearing he might see it again, his true fate. Despite his fear he saw nothing, either from the darkness or the haze he tried to lift his aged bones from the wooden floor. The quivering of muscles and grunts for exteriton managed to allow Kelley Essex to lift himself from his stupor looking away once more. His entirety was in pain, from his skin, bones even nails throbbed protesting the idea of being alive any longer. Inside his chest the weak pulse of a heart beat gently amplified his pain over time as he shook questioning his sanity to have just moved. A shaky hand stroked his chin feeling a thick beard that was wild and stiff which came as a surprise to Kelley as he gazed down at his hand seeing it withered, wrinkly and old.

He took a deep breath in the dark gloom wincing feeling his rib cage might snap into pieces from the inhaling as he grunted losing all his breath immediately in a terrible coughing fit. He couldn’t breathe and he couldn’t move, the wracking pain of the cough was overwhelming to him as his eyes watered and his mouth ground teeth to cope with the pain raging through his weak frame. As the coughing fit passed Essex had felt something warm slide between his fingers in comparison to the rest of his body trembling from the cold all around him. Curiously he opened his palm feeling the cold trying to immediately overpower the small steaming liquid clinging to his hand. Along with spit and mucus he saw a thick crimson encased within the juices he coughed up feeling the taste of copper sting the back of his throat and flood his nostrils.

Tears welled in his eyes as deep in his heart he knew he was dying, he wasn’t long now. He wiped the gunk of lungs against his pant leg as he made the decision to walk around the belly of this dark and empty place. Each step seemed heavier than the last as he stepped forward dragging the soles of his feet weakly against the wooden floors of this place. His thoughts turned to Penny who had left some time ago undoubtedly due a lack of coal in it. He remembered the warmth that rolled off her aura and the silence loyalty that kept him sane in this lonely place, his own mind.

His vision grew foggy and he used his arm to lean to one side of a hallway he had come to. It looked long and endless, a foreboding task to someone as weary and fragile as himself now. But he looked back the way he had come, it had been a mere seven steps and yet had seemed like an ordeal unimaginable. His lips frowned with depression and he let out a sigh wishing he could just take a drink or smoke a cigar but he had long since run out of those luxuries years ago. It was then he heard a faint sound barely above a whisper echo in the darkness full of joy and song.

“…Captain needed upon the deck!”

It sounded full of pride and life, the sound was compelling to him having been trapped in this dark void of his mind for what felt like an untold eternity. He proped his arm against the hallway to give himself leverage as he dragged his weak body down a long and dreary hallway fearing he would be left with no one again. Almost immediately he slipped against the dusty wall falling to the ground in a crash as he cursed out in frustration and pain feeling three rib bones rattle and snap as he plummeted. The voice continued to ring out.

“Ahoy! Any survivors aboard?”

With a wheezing groan he rose to his knees screaming out hoping the voice heard his pleas though it clearly hadn’t as it continued to call out. He looked to see how far he had traveled from his original spot only seeing himself a dozen steps from the dark room he had laid in. Wailing out in pain and rage he slammed his arm against the wall crying out one last time knowing he had to try to stand again as his nailed clawed at the wood to get even a mild amount of traction as he pressed his broken frame against the wall holding his breath and letting his anger build purpose as he found himself raising back to his feet despite the crippling pain of using his body. He immediately spat blood as he rose grunting past the pain as he hovelled forward holding onto his anger like a lantern in a cave as the steps came unnaturally but quicker to him as he clenched his teeth hard shaking uncontrollably while he felt blood seep through his teeth. But as quickly as his rage, anger and power came it backslid just a fiercely on him as his wobbling legs buckled and he threw himself forward howling out in pain as his arm instinctively stopped him from a second full blown fall as he threw his leg toward the center of the hall to counterbalance as he started sobbing feeling his heart racing hard burning away all feeling in his muscles with untold waves of anguish.

“I… I can’t. I’m right here ya dumb bitch! Please… PLEASE! I … I can’t I just… can’t anymore.”

He couldn’t bear to hear himself sound so utterly pathetic, He ground his jaws feeling powder form in his mouth to his displeasure. Spitting out small shards of enamel from his mouth and feeling fresh new ways of agony enter his mouth he yelped and threw his own fist into his chest to shut himself up. His thoughts turned to his crew, his friends and his family. He took a throbbing breath in and leaned against the wall of the hallway. He knew he was truly alone, the voice more than likely another figment like countless times before to pass the time but he was no longer able to fill the eternity with his reflections or memories… he was dry, he was barely even certain of details like name, dates, or faces. In the end he clung to this miserable existence because he figured the end of this life meant ceasing, fading to be forgotten, like his father.

He opened his eyes at those thoughts drying his tears. Even while alive he had forgotten almost everything about the man named Jackson Essex. All he could remember was a tall man who planted a large hand of his head as a child and mess up his hair with a smile. He realized everyone, everything that had ever touched his life was starting to become that way. Names would float to the surface of his mind but seemed like foreign thoughts or concepts to who he was now. All the same he spoke them aloud.

“Jackson Essex… Lucan Talicove… Veronica Du bray….Lanin Dumont…. Anchor’s bane…. Blasting day… Major Mirossa… Bathik…Penny… Uncle… Mom… Sis?”

He blinked back tears but his lip quivered all the same he couldn’t remember a one of them he knew them but couldn’t see them. Not their eyes, not their face, not their smile or their sound, only phantoms or figments. He heard the woman’s voice cry out again for him as he couldn’t help but wonder who they were… why they had come. A sudden twinge of pain pushed into his neck and then another into his skull…His body was thrashed but he rose against the wall all the same with a heavy sigh of bloody teeth and spit snarling out demanding an answer to who that was calling to him. Pain washed over him like water as he refused to acknowledge it any longer. Using his arm once again as a crutch against the wall he walked taking in deep breaths and quivering with each step he took. His body grew numb to the pain that flooded against him like a geyser as his body convulsed and shook it continued to take rymthic steps toward the bleak darkness as he let out a thunderous shout from his horse voice.

“ I’m ‘ere! I’m right bloody here!, Come and get me! Tear me apart, chew my bones and tear me into oblivion but the last thing I plan to do is see you!”

As he cried out his eyes were wide and his vision focused as his breathing was deep and hungry for confrontation. The sound of his steps were accompanied by the jostling of armor and mechanika as Essex felt weight shift off his bones. His feet felt lighter as he picked up his pace screaming out drawing Cheat from his scabbard with his left arm of mangled mechanika and Foul wind from his holster turning both on shifting his weight to both feet and sprinting faster and faster. Each step he took he heard the howl of the wind and the crashing of the ocean waters around him. As he ran down the gundeck of his ship toward the stairs leading toward the main deck he heard her close within the tempest that had grown around the ship at random as he stay the storm clawing into the guts of the ship as he rose to the top of the Anchor’s Bane to find it crashed within a field of Iron Spikes and Needles admist a foreign coast. Countless other ships lay impaled and skewered upon these spikes like trophies from a horrible monster as a woman in white stared at him with short blonde hair and closed eyes.

Kelley felt compelled to raise Foulwind at the woman but found himself holding it to the ground. This face before him it was known but forgotten he saw concern on the face of a young woman who’s hair covered her eyes as she had an immaculate glow like she was from another world entirely somewhat like Penny when she had come to his aid. The woman was strangely holding a net filled with fish at floor and a trident held at ease. The young woman looked dry amidst the tempest as she smiled back to Kelley.
Water and wind whipped at Kelley’s face as it rolled down his hair and clean shaven face as he gasps with strength in his lungs. He could heat rolling off the boiler in his warcaster armor, the twinge of his pneumatic pistons clenched around Cheat, and the cold rain staining into his glove on his left hand as he stood tall and in control befuddled at the surge of strength he found making it there… infact all the sensations were somehow nostalgic to him as a sudden flash of lightning crashed through the swirling storm illuminating the husks of other dead ships around his own wrecked one impaled upon the massive black spear of smooth black iron.

He stared at the devastation to his ship watching the ebony colors of the Anchor’s Bane clinging wet and crumpled to the spire a torn into shreds the hull wrenched open and pouring out into the waters below. The swirling gale force winds howling a banshee’s wail between the carnage as he hears the sound of footsteps behind him growing louder. Kelley tuned it out staring in wild bewilderment at the turmoil of this graveyard wondering where this terrible place even could have been.

“How does it feel…egh? Lookin’ into the maw O’ destiny and knowin’ this place be callin’ to ye an havin’ absolutely no idea why…”

Kelley’s blood froze as he turned to the dread at his back, the sound of footsteps that could be heard within a calamity like this. He turned to face it, as it rose from the depths of the hold in Essex’s wake with emerald Cryxlight within its eye sockets and a thin layer of rotting grey flesh clinging to its bones. Adorned in a tattered black captain’s jacket with a black steel necklace holding a charred coin of Scion Roth. It was brandishing its Necrotech cutlass, and corroded warcaster armor. It rolled its neck and snarled locking eyes with Essex and an unwholesome grin on its lips. Essex quaked in terror for a moment before he locked his legs finding a bit of courage to stand against his phantom questioning the cryptic words it spoke. But it strode closer and closer to him a sneer on its face as though it were annoyed at him. Essex eyes widened as he suddenly saw the Necrotech cutlass pulled from its sheath and held high with a roar. The lightning of the storm cracked again detailing every difference between the two one could ever think of. As Kelley thrust “Cheat” reflexively upward to parry the attack the Revenant clanged against his sword and immediately pulled the blade low and used the basket hilt to smash it into Essex’s face knocking him to the soaking wet floor.

Essex was dazed by the swift blow as he pulled himself up. In another strike of lightning and thunder Essex saw his reflection in the slickness of the wooden floor. He saw the image of his young self…. The self he knew… the self he was… no, the self he is. Blood dripped down his nose and lips as he saw his long hair and clean shaven face and suddenly just started laughing. Even despite seeing the Revenant in the reflection of the water drawing its pistol in anger.

“Why ar’ ye’ laughin!?”

It demanded an answer cocking back the hammer of its pistol and hovering it inches above Kelley’s head. It growled at him preying upon his fear and readied to pull the trigger with a hiss narrowing the pin dot eyes of emerald fire in its skull waiting for its answer. It suddenly raised an eyebrow seeing a halo of runes around Essex’s head who boldly stared down the barrel. Before it could cinch down it’s boney digits on the trigger to kill him Kelley unleashed an explosive bolt of arcane energy that scattered and dissolved away the remnants of the undying corpse leaving nothing more than a smoldering pile. Essex rose to his feet and took a very deep breath before responding.

“Because yer’ just damage. Nothing more than me anchor, my regrets. And I’m done being weighed down…”

The woman with golden hair covering her eyes smiled seeing Kelley standing strong and proud once just as she always knew he was meant to be. No sooner than Essex turned back to the woman she disappeared only leaving him alone to within the carnage all around him. He looked to the view around him and down to his weapons and his young strong hands in silent contemplation, trying to understand fully what all actually just took place. It began to all slowly come back to him as though he was filling with renewed vigor. Faces, Names & Memories began to slowly rebuild as he suddenly gasps with widened eyes placing the woman’s face.

“Samantha?!” he cries out to the chaos all around him among the storm. The face of the woman was none other than his own meek and blind sister. The prospect of seeing little Sam as some sort of immaculate ascendant and worse yet not to know her… it stung him deeply. His thoughts turned to his family on Black Shoal Isle and how long it’s been since he’s seen them. He gazed longingly to the spot he last saw her and couldn’t help but worry if it foreshadowed poor news.

He furrowed his brow and bit his lip before he heard a deafening horn over the ship graveyard’s howling winds and crashing storms. A reverberate low note that inspired instinctive dread echoed across the remains. As a crimson beacon shined out on the horizon like a potent lighthouse it’s lens turned to Kelley and the Anchor’s bane amid-st the storm and wind. It was painfully blinding and felt like it seared his skin as thick harsh voice boomed over the sea, one with a language Kelley couldn’t have possibly hoped to have known. Something primal boiled up in Kelley as he roared out against the light before throwing his mechanical hand against the shine.

Suddenly his eyes opened, the smell of his ship filled his nostrils as the murmuring of familiar voices could be heard within the wooden decks he had always known as home. The familiar face of of Doctor Synir and Master Gunner Uldara both smiled to one another and back to him.

“Welcome back Captain, got enough sleep I hope…”

Synir says with a warming smile alongside Az’ big toothy grin

Ly-Veld lys Scyr

The moon of Laris had hung high in the sky with Calder beginning to wane among the glimmering starlight. Kivyr stood vigilant to the south of a human encampment, loud and boisterous over their recent victories. He was alone and knew incapable of what must be done. His grave soil stained hands occasionally trembled from lack of food or sleep but his sunken eyes stared ever-watchful over this horizon day or night.

These humans were as industrious as ants upon a hive. Kivyr had wondered briefly if the surrounding ruin around them was calming to them, that among the power they had claimed they were only truly at peace among its ashes. It would certainly have explained a lot of the wars they had waged.His musings suddenly broken when he saw movement, the encampment of men around the village began to shift and move, breaking down their tents and loading on their warjacks to wagons. It was at that moment that Kivyr felt urged to move but a calm washed over him reminding him of the one person who must receive their Retribution.

Narrow eyed and mindful of his exposure Kivyr watched the warmachine of man roll away from the carcass of Bolten much like a vulture who had taken it’s fill. Scanning the faces that marched along the road Kivyr’s hands struggled to hold his crossbow but slowly he lowered it not finding his target. With a keen eye he spotted three souls walking back to Bolten and rose an eyebrow and looked to the warband with a smile stalking after them.

Kivyr’s thoughts turned to his vengeance knowing information was how he would pull out his quarry. Gliding through the tree line he caught sight of a pari scurvy seadogs lagging behind with a bottle of grog they were nursing singing a song ,laughing merrily. With a smooth and endlessly practiced action Kivyr found strength in his movement, whipping his crossbow out and barely a brief moment of aim resulted in the bolt passing through the back of a pirate’s head instantly silencing the first wretch. Before the second could figure out what happened to even shout he found a bolt plunged through his right lung instantly silencing his shout for help to a mere groan. To the Sea dog’s dismay he saw an Iosan sprinting at him crossbow already reloaded a 2nd time as he thought to reach for his pistol another bolt punched into his hand pinning him to the ground with a light thrum.

“Where is your captain, mongrel?”

Kivyr’s tone was harsh and demanding but he didn’t expect it to be effective. His eyes widen when he heard the pirate quickly offer the truth, that their captain is a no good soul stealing monster who was trying to get all the men killed and profits or fun be damned. And that mister Matue was going to change that for them and offer them money and jobs as escorts. Kivyr tuned out the names and excuses the man provided he merely questioned why this man would so quickly betray his captain. Rather than ask he felt this not only was the truth but it explained everything why pirates would work with mercenaries as well it wasn’t to protect themselves it was to make money. Without another word Kivyr drew his blade that began to crackle like ice on a hot day and slide it violently across the neck of the pirate which had quickly hardened the slice into a frozen moment of vengeance. Kivyr silently stowed his mechanika blade studying the painfully surprised face of the pirate. Chuckling to himself thinking how the pirate must have expected to be been let go.

“Ly-Veld lys Scyr…

His heart raced, hunger and lack of sleep all demanded he stop but he refused. Skulking up the hills to Bolten Kivyr climbed up onto a ruined building to perch and survey the town, only to see more people than he expected to see. His hopes for revenge sank when he spotted the Ogrun he had been warned about standing right next to Captain Chaeffer among a group of other specialists and towns folk. Cursing for a brief moment he lowered his crossbow in the darkness and studied his prey intensely. He was a proud man, one who hid his weaknesses, but more importantly the touch of magic was barely there like something he couldn’t place. Just like the scouts had said in the past his profile of magic is a wisp among the bog, something seen but not true. Being a Thamarite explained it all… it made it clear he had to die for his blasphemous choice of patrons, but more over for his cruelty.

Resentment bubbled up in Kivyr, his sister and friends were slain by this monster who offered no prisoners except as slaves to be the only way hold on to precious life. He rose his crossbow to his eyes wanting nothing more than to plant the bolt between Chaeffer’s eyes eyes and charge in with Shattershard his blade held high and his lungs screaming those last words to fill all with terror for their past wrong doings.

… before death, Retribution.

His finger stroked the trigger gently wanting all the pain to just be over, all his misery to just come to an end. When he heard his own thoughts aloud he diffused his own anger knowing that true vengeance needed to be earned for all the other fallen properly. Calming himself he considered his options and rather than end this pain he would share it instead. He looked to Chaffer as he nodded to the guard captain of Bolten and motion the Ogrun to start creating fortifications.

“Ah… I see you for who you are now, strong, imposing … but caring.”

Kivyr’s gaze scans the devastation around Bolten and smiles seeing the evidence of trollkin corpses littered within the ruin. He makes count of it’s food stores and wells seeing all devastated except for one. And smiles gently strapping the crossbow to his back and descending form his perch.

To Fathom Mystery
Espionage upon the Marionette Killer

Reggie pressed his back against the dark alley keeping his ear open for her approach. He stopped moving, he stifled his breath and half closed his eyes to enhance his hearing even further because he knew everything rode on this brief moment. Having choose his spot well, the tarp that dangled over the edge provided a screen for him to see her pass in the dim lanterns above them both that dangled out and around the street.

In that moment his hairs stood on end as he watched a small shadow deeper than the darkness around them both drift gently along his tarp. She had come much sooner than Reggie had expected as he noticed even this close she made hardly a sound. It didn’t stop for even a moment which he silently pleaded to Scion Roth meant he would live this night. For he at the exact moment caught a glimpse of her…

The Marionette Killer…

Robed in black cashmere, crow feathers woven into the shoulders and neck to create an air of harrowing elegance. The cowl of her robe was drawn hiding away almost all of her features except a brief glimpse of a porcelain mask hiding the possibly of any additional features. Before she slipped from view Reggie’s eyes scrambled for even one more detail as he looked to her feet and posture wondering how she made nearly no sound. Peculiarly she strode the seedy dark alleys of Five Fingers barefoot.

His heart raced but his mind clenched over him reminding himself that everything he did now at this point needed to be calculated and thought out. Even the concept of breathing needed approval, for he was following his own death was he not more careful than he had ever been. After she left view he silently counted out ten seconds in his head before letting out his breath, slowly and controlled and gently inhaling inward slowly over time despite his instincts to wolf down the air around him from panic that he might have been seen.

Stepping out from the alcove’s sanctuary slowly his mind began to run simulations of what were likely causes for his death. He needed to focus on his posture and stance but waiting around most the night had left him stiff, with watchful eyes he began to stretch his joints out. He thought about the texture of his shoes would make on the ground in Five Fingers but the concept of accidentally stepping on discarded refuse concerned him more. If it came down to a chase; while no one had ever heard of them escaping the Marionette Killer, Reggie still preferred to try all the same.

He pulled from under his belt a small tin holder and opened it immediately. Inside was a filthy black muck that resembled ink, ash and mud. He smiled knowing other brands of this sort of thing existed but he made sure to choose the one with no scent even if it did agitate the skin he wouldn’t mind if it made the difference. With a practiced hand Reggie applied the compound along exposed parts of his skin making himself blend well with the shadows around him as he pulled his bandanna from around his neck up to his face. He moved forward at a swift pace gliding through the desolate alley with a mild bit of haste cautious not to make a single sound but worrying that he might have taken a little too long.

The catwalks overhead swayed in the breeze that the streets of five fingers never felt. The dark alleys stunk of the ghetto and pollution and the evidence of coal smoke plumed out in this back alley incrementally. All of this was home to Reggie he reminded himself that these streets where where he grew up and this killer didn’t know them like he did. As he rounded the corner he saw her turn at he immediately reduced speed to a slow prowl fanning out his weight with his arms and wide stance eyeing every step his feet took as he mandated his breathing to shallow and hungry for air.

He narrowed his eyes silently scolding himself for taking so long, losing visual of her for so long might well have cost him this opportunity. The Rovers couldn’t take another series of murders on their turf again, even now the once diminutive neighboring gangs have been churning through their streets like sharks hungry to cause another brawl. Rather than dwell on it though he focused on his intuition. Examining the view he was somewhere between Kardi Street and Emery Circle. The area here didn’t lead directly onto the main roads but they did provide good cover from the watch, but that area was always was crawling with vagrants due to the exposed scaffolding. Alternatively, she might have decided to scale the buildings here as most were barely taller than a person to get higher ground, but it was noisy no matter how you went about it and no matter how you’d go that is awful close to the Gobbers that live in the ropeladder networks above this area. Mulling over a decision he turned his thoughts to his mark’s reputation and decided she would risk the vagrants. Gobbers are craven little beasts and too numerous to really keep from spying on you. If the Marionette Killer was anything, she was enigmatic. This would mean using fear which is something vagrant homeless were renowned for in Five Fingers, like roaches fleeing from safety to safety.

He crept to the left of a steam filled stone foundation quartered off from the world and turned his gaze to a large amount of exposed and rotten wood the steam have caused from ages of blasting the porous material. The wood had been a dock like foundation rise for buildings to be erected on top of due to the uneven nature of the foundations beneath. While on the run this is a brilliant place to duck into which is likely how she would have come to known it. However, he’d known these underdocks like the back of his hand it should have had dozens of eyes keeping look out for guards and gangers to give early warning but not a soul was in sight. It chilled him to the bone to look into the dark underdocks and not see a thing. However, it was evidence to suggest maybe she had come this way.

He grimaced before slithering into the dark, if this woman really was some sort of supernatural freak maybe she could see in the dark, because he spotted not lanterns or torches to provide light. The concept worried him greatly as this wouldn’t end well if it were true. The under-docks were muted, the tiniest beams of light shone through the bottom of hardwood floored establishments like taverns and gambling halls. He could hear the sounds above but they were only a mask for his footsteps and hers he reminded himself. He knew where the exit to this area was but he noticed a discarded blanket thrown over something that the lights from above threw out. He didn’t even need to check even from here and the unmistakable stench said it all. A corpse, He understood why no one was here… The Marionette Killer must have slaughtered these homeless some time ago.

As he turned his gaze from the corpse he froze where he stood seeing the familiar image of the Killer in the distance silently walking up cobbled together stone stairwell pouring with moonlight from Caulder. She moved with intently speed and he found her hard to tail without making some sort of sound as she seemed to be moving much faster than he was. All the same, he smiled at his luck and used the opportunity to close the gap between them. As he approached the stairwell he heard a gentle grinding of wood on stone as he immediately remembered this exit was often concealed by a large piece of scaffolding that disguised it well in the dirty streets. He growled knowing he’d have to give his target time to leave the area before moving it himself otherwise he’d advertise his position.

Alone with his thoughts he reminded himself of the objectives he needed to follow through with. As proud as he was to resume the shadowing it wasn’t just to watch her, and the longer he did this the more likely it would become that he’d be discovered if not by her then by someone who wasn’t in the habit of minding their own business like the guard, mercenaries or noisy drunks. He knew that she was heading into the main streets likely to leave another grizzly reminder to the Paulson Street Rovers or anyone sticking their nose in her business. He gulped reminding himself that he was one of those people. First objective was to learn useful information, he weighed the idea of his description and felt the only thing that stood out is she walks barefoot but that barely provided any benefits and he still wasn’t even sure how she has killed so many including some of the deadliest duelists in Five Fingers. The Second Objective was optional and at this point seemed less suicidal to him as he was starting to think shadowing her wasn’t going to end well, which was to kill her. One shot, back of the head well aimed. it would be noisy he would need to have a footrace with the authorities but that was old hat routine for him now and days. He looked up to the driftwood like scaffolding and mumbled another pray to Scion Roth to keep him hidden from this monster of a woman.

The wood scrapped gently as Reggie exerted himself to keep the wood mostly above the lip. He didn’t bother to close it knowing he couldn’t waste anymore time he needed to end this now. He drew out his handcannon and immediately pressed against another wall to get his surroundings again. Thankfully she wasn’t here, he knew Paulson Street wasn’t far from here, he debated on just embracing his inner coward as he was starting to crack under the pressure of this mission but reaffirmed his tasked. He calmed down and tightened his grip on the gun. As he stepped out from the wall he turned the corner to see a perplexed looking citizen had stepped inside the dark alley a few steps looking in the direction The Marionette Killer had most likely went. Wide eyed he had to immediately seize the situation as he deftly lunged forward and into view with the citizen pointing the hand cannon at his head and applying a finger to where his lips would be were it not for hit mask. He cocked back the head of his hand cannon and gestured him back to the main streets. Frozen in terror the civilian did exactly as he was gestured to do wanting no more part of this.

His panic was at high levels Reggie knew he was barely on the rails now at this point the plan was in danger of falling apart the closer he go to civilians he was grateful this one had the decency at least not to speak or even worse beg. This has to end, now he thought aloud keeping the hammer of his weapon cocked back and at the ready now. He turned the corner just in time to see this sinister woman envelope a hapless guard walking by the mouth of the alley. Her blade work was both fast and efficient going right for the windpipe and throat. But in that moment Reggie noticed something, she caught the dying guard as he fell and rather than lay him down she cast her shroud over him and began to drag him deeper into a small alcove reminiscent to a trapdoor spider. But why? Surely the man would die in the next minute wasn’t that enough? She was taking a risk to perform her grizzly reputation work immediately without fully scoping out the scene.

(close previous music start this one up)

Curiosity pulled at him but he knew better than to stop what had be working so far. He took his time to skulk up nice and close. On the approach the wet sounds of gargled gasps were being muffled by something. The struggles of the dying guard grew softer with each thrash, Reggie was no stranger to this moment, he called it the “The Hushing Moment”. While he, and any good cutthroat would take a moment to reveal in that silence enforced on someone he could hear her busily moving inside the alcove. He crept only a few feet away from confrontation as he suddenly heard her speak out.

“…when minds become mazes, eyes begin to scream and fear beats in the heart, it will be then that the dying become witness. In unity from living desire and the certainty of the dead to you I say, rejoice…”

In reviled horror Reggie slowly turned his gaze around the corner to see The Marionette Killer on her knees panting as though this moment brought her untold pleasure. A kris held high above her in both hands as she plunged it deep into the plate armor of the watchman gently moaning out at his dying breath. The blade hit true, plunging into the poor man’s heart, it seemed unnecessary but her suggestive mannerism likely spoke of compulsion. Her body convulsed as she shuddered inches from the poor man’s face hovering over him. The posture of the two seemed sensual almost but it was just the angel he was at. He leveled the gun at the back of her head fighting the urge to speak aloud to catch her while her guard was dropped but her knew better. He pulled the trigger with his aim true…

As he pulled the trigger the breach on the pistol suddenly cracked open to his horror as the weapon toppled to the ground letting a loud claking sound out as it hit. Reggie looked to his hand questioningly and the weapon certain not only he check it but that the weapon couldn’t have malfunctioned either. He scrambled for the gun and as he lunge down to pick it up he froze feeling something above him while he crouched. Palming the handle of his weapon he trembled having lost all control over his body. The heavy breathing was right above his head as he foolishly looked up to see a cracked porcelain mask of a crying maiden transfixed on him her lily white hands were covered in blood as she didn’t move at all she just stared at him less than an inch from him. He was baffled why she didn’t strike at him yet and make him bleed the had ample opportunity now. She slowly let him rise from the ground to his bewilderment gun in hand. Nervously he clicked the weapon back into locking position and pointed it at her motionless body. His mind raced in that brief moment he aimed wanting to ask why but it was over for her now he wouldn’t die here like the others!

He squeezed the trigger again and this time it fired, but the shot fired sideways due to an unexplained spasm in his right arm. The shot veered wildly off into the wood walls of the alley tearing through into someone’s home accompanied by screams. His muscles were twitching and on fire as she still stared at him not even phased by the sound of the gunshot. In a panic he grabbed for his concealed knife letting out a roar of anger forgetting his plan with a lunge, yet her blade immediately thrust into his right wrist which was holding his weapon. With the seized momentum the Marionette Killer stapled her blade into the same wooden wall he shot at pinning Reggie in shocked terror to the wall with blood gushing out of his wrist. A roar of rage and pain shot out of him as he flexed trying to throw her off him only to pull yank his arm out of the wall only to lose strength immediately and be repinned. The blade he held drops weakly from his hand as his vision began to blur. His struggles were similar to the Guards… he was accelerating the process. In that panic gripped moment he realized he was going to die. The kris was slowly pulled out from his wound only furtherly hastening the process as her blood soaked hands grip his throat and she spoke out again as though finishing her sentence after an agonizingly long silence.

“…For when you pass, The void around us both shall open and I shall see so many things.

The kris found his heart with the same elation washing over her as it had with the guard her hands stroking the back of his head and grinding her body upon him with desire as the sounds of her lust rocked him into a black and eternal sleep.

a lifetime ago, held close and far

Jehremi Chaeffer

Grey clouds, bereft of fowl or fair wind. Grey skies, endlessly rolling in macabre reminder. Grey ocean, occasionally spattered by the red-brown color of gore, which oozed from every bole of the lower deck. Grey, and crimson. These were the colors of his new world. To imagine another was becoming more painful by the day.

How many days had it been? The boy struggled to remember. There used to be more… hope. Now there was only the work, the rowing, and the cruelty of the dead.

“Eat.” The harsh rasp of a whispered command. “You are to remain fit and breathing. Suffer quietly, or your suffering will be greatly multiplied. The captain does not take kindly to such ingratitude of his hospitality.”

The lad did not need to look up to recognize his captor’s voice. The glow of necromantic runes cast a baleful light ever so softly about his surroundings. This was Harramor, the skarlock lieutentant who had called off the thralls after they’d dragged him from a burned-out cellar. It had not been a kindness.

The child looked glumly at the ration that had been provided to him: a thick, black slurry that was composed of the wasted materials unneeded for thrallcraft in the charnel decks. It was boiled and processed until a barely nutritious paste was what remained. It smelled of death. Half-starved as he was, he still could not bring himself to ingest this foul concoction. “I.. I can’t. Its not right…”

“You will, when your hunger overtakes you. Death will not be yours, save if my master wills it. Your very body is among our spoils of war. The dead take what they wish.” The dread gaoler turned, and wisped away into the thickly laden fog of the topdeck, as he was often wont to do.

Resignedly, the boy glanced back down to his plate. he had tried to eat one of his own boots, before, but he’d had no means to boil it, and it was too tough. He’d decided to simply go hungry after that; the lad would rather starve than eat this… this aberration.

“Oiy, Jehremi,” a hushed call from a nearby shackled slave. Though bruised and beaten, the tearstained woman was still clearly recognizable as the baker from across the street. “Its.. its not much, but they ‘avent found these yet. They’re a bit soggy from the storm, but they might do ya a bit better than that evil slop.” She held aloft a pouch of wafers, the tough, bready crisps that she’d often sold to sailors." She held them out cautiously in his direction.

(click new music and continue)

He was indeed, fiercely hungry. With a lick of his cracked lips, he strained against his chains… too loudly, too quickly… both sat hapless, frozen in silent terror. the sudden clank of their chains would be enough to draw attention. It wasn’t long before the nearest necrotech hauled the woman to her feet. “Fetch the captain,” he stated flatly. A thrall immediately staggered off to do his bidding. This was all so wrong. All he’d wanted was a few wafers. Knowing what must be coming, he now regretted having ever seen them.

WOT BE THE MEANIN’ O THIS??” The captain’s roar boomed out from the forecastle. Oergoul Bloodwake was his name, a particularly terrifying specimen of the bloodgorgers, blighted trollkin who took to cruelty as a sail takes to wind. He strode powerfully to the slavepost, towering over the shuddering pair. Harsh barbs and vile looking tattoos marred his darkened blue flesh, and one scarred eye socket stared with as much intensity as his other, bloodshot orb. The frightened child voided his bowls under the nightmare’s gaze.

“Contraband, sir. Some kinda ‘orrible little breadcakes. She was trying to feed the lad. What’s to be done with em?” The tech waited, expectantly. He knew his answer before it was given.

“This muck be suitable fer fish, but not fer these maegots.” With a bladed fist, he snatched the crumbling pouch and tossed it mightily overboard. As fer this wench… egh, yeh wanted tae feed the lad, did ye??" His other hand grabbed her throat, and pulled her viciously to the length of her chain. “Well, Fear not, for feed him ye shall.” With a maddened glare and a single, harsh crack, he crushed her neck with such force that her body fell free away from the chain that had been her collar. “Take ‘er down fer processin’; and fer the gall o’ it, take another five o’ these lubbers as well. Oy want tae smell em bleedin’ from mae quarters.” He looked around, grinning wickedly, an expression that was joyless and full of bile. His lone eye came to rest on the trembling boy who’d sparked his ire. “As fer yoo,” the beast continued, “Oy’m like to carve ya open the next time ya bring mae attention. See that yoo don’t—”

“Watch your tongue, brute.” Harramor’s sudden interjection was unexpected. “This one is to remain unspoiled, by order of the one who sent me. Do not think that you can—”

“Think that Oy Cannae WOT??” Captain Oergoul bellowed with fury. With his bloodied talon, he grabbed the boy and held him aloft by his jerkin. “WOT IS THERE, That oy cannae do tae this… pathetic manwhelp?” He beat the lad, cuffing him about with his other fist. Clasping his face in a cruelly twisted grip, he smiled viciously at the glowing thrall. “Dinnae think that oy will not send ye back tae yer master in pieces, puppet. If oy wish to dine on this whimpering meatsack, he’ll be on mae cookfire, faster than yoo can die.” He threw the lad down, who collapsed in a heap, spilling his plate across the timbers of the deck. “Eat, or sure as death ye’ll be eaten fer yer disrespect. Heh, be grateful ye haven’t been eaten yet.” He turned, with only a final command ere he strode away. “See that ’e gets it all. If ’e cries, peal ’is lilly skin off.” The sound of his boots slowing fading into the mist was hardly a comfort.

Numbly, the boy glanced to the remains of the baker woman. A pair of mechano-thralls was already dismembering her, for ease of storage. Those giant steamfists pulled the arms from their sockets so easily… the daily horror of it had grown dull upon his senses, by now. It was almost routine. His glance drifted upward, slowly, into the illuminated visage of the skarlock who had not yet left his side. “Eat.” The dread creature softly intoned. “You survive at our whim. The dead take what they wish. There is no other way.”

With spirit broken, and limbs shaking, the boy knelt to the deck and did as he had been commanded….


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