Aboard the Anchor's Bane

Measuring Demand
The townhall of Bolten before it was attacked

““ …What do you think Guard Captain?””

Donavin the Paymaster of Bolten asked, raising on eyebrow to his colleagues around the black oak table. The men who sat at this table enjoyed some of the finest mix of power and luxury a small town like bolten could offer. To his left sat the stern form of guard captain Veito Lasrin, and his right the mayor of Bolten, Vincent Gamoto, and across the table sat Gabriel Mateu, primary philanthropist of Bolten who had just offered his thoughts to resolve the Troll-kin problem the town faced.

““Well, he makes a few good points actually, they have been disturbing the peace, starting fights, thieving from the marketplace and stagnating tourism to our town. I wouldn’t mind them if they consented to normal commerce with us. But jailing any of them comes with immediate consequences so we aren’t able to enforce proper Ordic Justice. We’ll need to make a move eventually anyway, giving in is only establishing expectations that Bolten has more where that came from. And I think we all know ””

Guard Captain Lasrin took time to measure that statement. It was clear he didn’t want to upset the brutes but he was trying to establish a way to maintain proper order in the town and make sure the already feeble economy of Bolten is maintained. Mayor Gamoto furrowed his brow at the statement and accepted the statement but not before trying one last time to combat the idea.

““I still feel that only allowing a small rationing of food is going to cause more problems than it fixes. These are a savage proud people and they said they are leaderless any slight to them is likely going to spurn them into action. They only way they know how to resolve political issues are with battles.””

Gabriel Mateu places his palms against one another dedicating his focus completely to the Mayor and the Captain knowing already that the Paymaster will remain indecisive on this matter as long as the prospects of further commerce seems possible. He gauged this concern as well as with the plans he had made for the town and waited patiently for his turn to speak listening to the concerns of his mayor carefully.

““With respect Vincent, I think the time for diplomacy has passed with these Trollkin. When they were asked to leave they didn’t, when we asked them to observe the laws they haven’t, and now they treat the village as their own resource when we four men have worked harder than any soul hereto make it the functional hamlet it is. I completely agree these barbarians won’t want to understand why we must do this, but we must. It’s our responsibility above all else is to protect our people and make sure we live in peace. If battle is brought to us by them we are doing no favors to our village by depleting our food stores.””

Gabriel stood up from the oaken table, scanned the main hall of his humble manor and took in the concerned looks on his other three comrades faces. He knew that if the Trollkin took it badly enough they would swiftly riot and bring battle to the town. But the sooner they established boundaries with these brutes the less intense the reaction. The Guard Captain looked grim but certain the action was the correct one, The mayor still looked to be wavering and Gabriel already knew he could easily force Donavin’s hand if needed.

““We need unity on this, any wavering could look very badly quickly wouldn’t you agree Vincent? I understand your precautions but this must be done for the good of Bolten. Captain Lasrin, should the worst happen, how capable are we to repel invaders?”

Gabriel’s look commanded his embellishment of the facts for the sake of concluding the discussions. Vincent appeared to do some counting on his face and swallowed his pride knowing that losing a key investor to the town like Gabriel and his family would be worse than whatever trolls could muster. After a convince display he looked to the mayor and bluntly stated.

““We of course all know how tough trolls are, but they should be easily handled by our fortifications and weaponry. We are taking the key strategy of sieges, to starve out the troops and leave them weak before engaging. We will be doing the same thing, considering they are already a destitute group the effects should kick in quickly and only the healthiest will fight us and be any real threat. This is of course only if it comes to that my lord.””

Gabriel smiles seeing the Mayor reluctantly nod in agreement. He walks to the window of his manor and peers upon the distant forest. The sight of trolls trying to amass tents and wandering into and out of Bolten is clearly evident as he smiled back to his colleagues.

““It’s decided then, we’ll send an entourage with Vincent to deliver them the news that we will be rationing the supplies offered to them henceforth. It should be stressed in the most respectable manner possible, but surely we can make a case that even these savages could fully accept as necessary for the welfare of Bolten.””

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Tide of the Past (Part 2)
Symbol of a Nation

“Cheers Lads! Raise em high and drink em deep, to the luckiest sonva bitch I’ve ever know! He’ll do us all proud one day! Huzzah!”

Hearty laughs and boisterous shouts echo inside “The Merry Mug” tavern as the crowd of dozens inside the establishment clinked shots and crashed mugs together before chugging down to that. A merry band of musicians inside the tavern began to play an upbeat array of songs Kelley’s Uncle Byron had picked out for tonight but first starting with “A Shard of the Broken Sword”, a classic for those in the military to show support to their country. Kelley smiled rather sheepishly at all the people who had come to congratulate him. He stood in a Ordic Royal Navy Officer’s uniform with pronounced plumage and a tricorn hat both bearing the insignia of the Broken Sword of Ord while friends, family and strangers walked by one after another discussing various topics with him or to marvel at his attire.

Essex couldn’t help but scowl at a face every now and then that pretended to be a friendly or conveniently forgot all the trouble they’d put him and his childhood mates in whenever they would play. Every person here just wanted to be a part of history, while he couldn’t blame them he still could owed it to his Todoran blood to scoff at them for their attempts at etiquette and flattery. To which is hearty uncle chimed in with bravado, laughs and handshakes to the visitors as they left the front of the line.

By Thurian standards Bryon, Kelley’s uncle; had freakish height and size but he clearly paid it no mind and even saw fit to deliver that last bit of his speech standing atop a stool for extra emphasis of his booming voice to draw in the crowd. Wearing the finest clothing he could for his nephew’s debut as a mythic warcaster his grin couldn’t be wider and his blue eyes shined more brightly than any galleon coin in the shop that night. He locked eyes with Kelley who just sheepishly was reminded how Byron took over teaching him how to be a man when his father passed away.

“Jacob must be proud boyo, and ta think it weren’t but a day ago ye’ was crying in me tavern, made me wipe that runny nose of yers’ and feed ye when yer mum cooked vegetables! Har har! And look at ye now…”

Kelley blinked at the harmless humor to everything other than his pride as he realized the depth of pride his uncle must have felt for him. He looked around the scene and felt odd being the subject of so much discussion finding a smile on his face seeing no harm in joining in on the merry making. He found himself thirsty for a slew of drinks and looked around for a table. With a wide smirk Kelley sees a familiar set of four fellows sitting at a table expectantly nodding to him. At the table sat his four oldest and truest friends Lanin, Lucan, Toby and Collin. Lanin was still in an arm splint during the training and was glaring at Essex with a ‘you better get over here’ look with a uniform similar to Kelley’s but less grand as to not steal the scene. Lucan has grown strong and sure but was donned in a lowly ship hand’s dirty uniform and a smile on his face motion Essex over. Toby was dressed similarly to Lucan though he wore less restrictive and more baggy clothing which looked a little more naturally on his lanky figure. And Collin sporting a Orange bandanna around his head and a bandolier of knives and bullets around his chest clearly playing the rogue card to pick up a woman or two tonight.

“What a miserable lot we all make at one table egh? Wyrmsteets! Toby & Lucan haven’t seen you boys in over a year how the hell have you been?! And it really must be a special occasion to see Carre Dova’s very own cardsharp Collin the Merc to show up free of charge!"

“ Wait, no pay?” Collin says with a smile feigning to look around for payment or a contractor which is just met with slugs in the arm and rolled eyes by the others. Toby just smiled and replied “We would never have missed our Cap’n getting his just reward at last.” It brought a smile to Kelley’s face hearing the nickname he insisted upon whenever they would pretend remembered. Lanin grimaced at the whole table stroking Essex’s ego but managed to hold his glass “To Kel, may he serve the Crown with dignity”. Kelley listened to the toast reminding him that this wasn’t just a visit for nostalgia’s sake as Collin downed a shot with a hungry gulp. This would be the last chance he’d get to be so leisurely with friends and family. The grim reminder of what in truth a warcaster is began to shine through the merriment. Wars, battles, warjacks, orders and lives these are the currencies of a warcaster; the men who are iron in all ways in this iron age. Toby finished his glass just before Lanin who is promptly followed by Lucan. Not a drop had been sipped from Essex’s shotglass as he thought long and hard about those words which Lanin choose very wisely.

How long would it be? He thought, before he would make men like his best friends here fights wars they weren’t possibly ready to against Khador or stand firm against the silent whispers of the nightmare army. He felt the eyes of his friends on him growing concerned as he quickly looked around and immediately pounded down the shot. All the more reason to enjoy tonight he thought as the last gulp of rum burned his throat with a hot sigh of relief.

“It might not be long, but maybe I will be a proper captain boys, who know maybe someday ye can all be part of me crew. It’d be an honor and a privle-”

“That’ll be the day…” winced a Lucan who seemed genuinely displeased by the offer to Kelley’s confusion. Lucan took two shots and sat up from the table looking Kelley right in the eye before simply stating “Ord would be a fool to make a loose cannon like you in charge of a ship just cause you found out your magic. You got to study, train… earn it!” Lanin and Essex looked at one another as they realized that Lucan meant those words but was clearly ignorant to the command structure of a Ord. Warcasters were so exceedingly rare that one was immediately moved up the chain of command to equivalent military ranks equal to that of high ranking officers though they commonly were not deployed out at sea instead seeing to the response of invaders. The air was tense by Lucan’s gritted teeth as Kelley could see it clearly on his old friend’s face, it was pride. He stammered, blinking unsure what to tell his hard working sailor friend. It was then that Lucan could see his assumptions were wrong and it angered to the core.

“Lucan… we dreamed of this, together mate.”

His tone was a little desperate as he tried to plead for understanding which wasn’t granted to him. Lucan walked away from the table leaving the glass behind as Toby shot him a pleading look to please sit down which was ignored stubbornly. Essex slumped in his seat and the merriment grew silent within the Tavern. Lucan grabbed some gold galleon coins and threw them in Kelley’s direction in frustration.

“For the fuckin drinks! You really are lucky you sonva bitch but don’t you ever think that luck makes you better than a hard working man! You just think about that Kel! You remember exactly how little that luck cost ya before you think to call yourself my Captain!”

Essex looked at his glass depressed that this was his likely the last words he’d ever hear from Lucan and just nodded hiding his disappointment as best he could. Byron watched from the distance as his Nephew sat up and also walked away from the table as Lucan left the tavern. He locked eyes with his young nephew and plainly said.

“Bear it now boy, A day will come when one day a lost friend is a minor tax to pay for you. Command ain’t paid fer, command continues to charge. Come now, we have all these guests to tend to… no crying away anymore customers aye?”

The words were harsh but Kelley nodded realizing his Uncle couldn’t have been more right. He couldn’t afford to take this personally he simply had to leave his old friend to his opinion and move on, a weak warcaster would reflect badly on Ord. The thought boiled in his mind, the formality of all it… it felt so pointless to him. He hated it, knowing it would be his partner from now on all because he was now the Symbol of a Nation.

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Tides of the Past (part 1)
Rise a warcaster

A thick grey obfuscating fog hung air as about a dozen youths stood back to back in a small cluster with alert eyes and sharp ears scanning the surroundings of a dreary rotting wharf marooned nearly a mile off coast. The rumbling sound of steam boilers could be heard in the silence. The tremors of multi-tonne could be felt shuttering through ricketey planks supporting the young men and women. A young sailor meekly gulped and speaks out.

“W-w- what are we actually going to be able to do to steamjacks? Surely the Major knows that!”

A duo laughed in the dense fog at wavering sailor pressed back to back as any others but with smiles on their face with evidence of trust in one another present. Both wearing the standard Ordic Royal Marine armor brandishing the Ordic Naval Insignia as tattoos on their right shoulders. One stood taller than the other simply using an unconventional longsword while the other brandished a Heavy Flintlock pistol and Cutlass and a wild grin on his face. Pulling their eyes away from the fog they both just nodded to one another know exactly what to do as they relaxed their postures still chuckling at young man. The taller fellow calmly instructed.

" Ord is a nation a few decades behind the times, their best resource is their military. We aren’t as numerous as Khador, or as specialized as Cygnar and lets don’t get into wealth comparisons to Llael, therefore we Ordic must think of warfare another way. The major choose a brilliant battlefield for us."

His partner grinned wide while nodding as a sudden slam shock-waved through the floorboards signifying rapid movement on all directions. The wild looking boy just grinned and resumed his defensive posture with his partner. The first sailor who had spoke panicked hearing the running steamjacks fearing he might actually die as he turned to the taller figure breaking his defensive posture with his own partner to beg for an explanation.

“What does that even mean!? In war you either are stronger than your foe or your retreat for a better position! Quit being cool and just admit how stupid this shit is!”

No sooner than he uttered his frustrations and his partner noticed he wasn’t paying attention two large 8 foot shadows punched through the fog. No sooner than he cold shout “On your right!” A wide vice clamped around the partner and threw him like a ragdoll off the wharf as well as the loudmouthed sailor. This looked to crush the spirits of others still trying to hold the perimeter as the two lumbering laborjacks seemed to be displaying themselves in intimidating fashion to the recruits to break their morale. The wild young man fired off his pistol into the air quickly snapping everyone to his attention before shouting out to them.

“Oy, listen up! We aint fancy Cygnar, or tough as nails Khador or greed-mongers like them sissies in Lleal! Aye, I even say let ’em stay that way! Far as Lanin and I seez it, If they be busy measuring their strengths then consider this…”

All the bravado coming from this youth merely advertised himself as the next victim as the pair of steamjacks trudged forward putting him quickly in their reach. However they noticed right then the youth turned to face them and kneeled very low to the ground confidently staring down the duo. The laborjack’s cortex struggled to understand the angle in which to grab this target at it’s head twitched slightly as though changing it’s vantage would make more sense as it’s body rumbles and a whistle of steam came out showing it’s processing. It immediately gave up on any calculation and thrust it’s vice down with full force concluding that damaging the floor would be a guaranteed way to grab the boy. it’s powerful arm rended right through the sea rotted planks next to it’s feet but the boy had nimbly tumbled out of it’s strike with Lanin continuing his speech effortlessly.

“…Who be measurin their weaknesses? We’re the men and women of Ord, when yer back is against a wall, make the wall a friend! And knock the smug bastard who thought he’d crush ya on his arse!”

The jack ripped its hand free from the planks as a sudden creaking sound gave way due to it’s immense weight as it plummeted into the waters below it’s fiery boiler being instantly snuffed out by strangling water flooding in. The other labor jack examined it’s partner’s position slowly calculating the hazard with a lilted head as the bulldog chassis was joined by 5 more shadows around the perimeter trudging forward at charging speed. Which immediately wiped the grin of Sailor Kelley Essex’s face with Lanin rubbing the sides of his nose in frustration as Essex’s pride as the jacks marched in.

“Alright, maybe he had a point…”

Essex propped a smirk and turned it into a sheepish smile to Lanin who groaned seeing his friend hadn’t given up yet. He sighed and reasserted himself to the cause as he held readied to receive a charge from the second laborjack from the original duo hoping the others on the wharf could maybe find a way to follow Kelley’s example and somehow convince the jacks to be their own worst enemies. Lanin quickly held a free hand to his chest and whispered softly conjuring arcane runes around he palm of his chest and around his ribcage which coiled linearly up and down before starting to twist and bend his image making him hard to see clearly. One or two of the more idle sailors were shocked to see magic cast in this group but in that moment the labor jack became irratic and tried a wide hugging motion to catch Lanin, it worked to Lanin’s dismay.

It was clear the major didn’t want to kill any recruits let along a shining star like Lanin who was capable of casting magic the spell must have confused the jack as it proceeded to bear hug the man who maintained the spell in sheer terror as he felt bones creek and his blood rush to his head bring on an intense headache. Kelley stood in shock for a moment and quickly bolted into action trying to get behind the jack to kill it’s furnace but not to his surprise he saw the bolted reinforced lock on it’s boiler when maneuvering behind. With a growl he trust his sword as hard and fast as he could into the boiler hoping the jack would react only to become keenly aware how limited he was compared to a mighty hero like Ascendant Markus.

The fighting raged on around them, the sound of flung sailors and clumsy three tonnage laborjacks careening off the wharf were but whispers to Essex right now as he tried over and over to strike at the boiler and head. reloading his flint look and firing at point blank barely registered to the jack who was still lost trying to figure out what exactly Lanin was since he was wreathed in distortion magic. His frustrations grew and grew at this dim-witted oaf as he threw down both his weapons and shouted out to it.

“Ya shoddy son of a gobber’s shite! Put ’im down this instant!”

No sooner than Essex anger flared and he closed his eyes he saw Lanin’s agnoizing face as though he were dying in his arms. As angry as he was his hands were clenched tight enough he nearly drew blood from his own palms. But as Kelley opened his eyes he realized he was infact seeing Lanin dying in his arms… his large mechanikal arms? But no, he was right infront of him at the same time was he? Essex nodded to himself confirming it was true but he was looking down on his friend. With a sudden gasp he unlocked his fists as so too did the bulldog labor jack release Lanin who fell to the ground sputtering blood. Essex rushed to Lanin wiping the blood away and with a mix of relief, panic and personal guilt. His friend was dying he had to do something. He looking up but just then noticed the wharf was silent two labor jacks of the six that attacked were standing motionlessly and every sailor on the wharf looked at Kelley in awe his eyes were glowing orange the same unnatural light that filled the Bulldog’s optics.

From the mist emerged the major, a series of field mechaniks and their bodgers bringing bandages and ropes to gather up the sailors. The Major a healthy thrity-year old stared at Kelley Essex who was kneeling over his friend with deep concern and looking confused at his Major’s notice. The commanding officer stroked his chin and peered to the other sailors for a moment before considering what these events meant for his command structure but completely aware what it meant for the boy.

“I had only planned on trading away one of you, but now both my best cadets? You really are as lucky as they say Essex remind me never to play you at Poker. Cadet Dumont will be taken care of if we can save him I assure you it will be done. But I need to inform the Trident Immediately, Ord Just got a new warcaster…”

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A Fate Given

An anxious panic clenched down on Kelly Essex’s heart as his body writhed crawling back into a weak semblance of life. A breath is sucked up into his lungs as though air had been deprived from them for hours. A heavy throbbing ran amok in his head as he slowly lifted it off on a heavy wooden table inside a dimly lit promenade. He brought his left hand to his face trying to soothe the aching scrapes at the front of his skull before fit of rib compressing coughs swept him into an intense nausea and vertigo. He clamped his mechanikal right limb to the wooden table for stability and eventually managing to control his breathing as his heart raced like it had just escaped death.

A clattering sound inside the room drew his attention as he watched a sextant slide off a familiar looking desk and hit the floor with a heavy thud. With his blurred vision he looked around the room and surmised it was just like his own promenade. The entire room swayed side to side gently like it always had in strong storms though the room was dusty and unkempt. He looked to his bed, the armor stand, his desk, it was all his but in all the cracks, crevices and corners he saw cobwebs and age settling in and it unnerved him.

A clak of glass stamped onto the table as Kelley widened his eyes realizing it has come from the table he was still leaning against. Before him he saw his revenant staring him cold in the face with a terrible grin on its undead lips. Its balefire eyes burned wide and hot as though it were excited. The sound had been a dusty rum bottle slammed into the table unsettling some of the dust. It extended its free arm and dropped a empty shot glass in front of Kelley and itself before it uncorked the bottle. Essex’s heart began to race again before his spine felt chill of ice trace its tongue along his spine while looking at his revenant’s unwholesome smirk. It continued to stare for a few more moments before its emerald eyes drifted to its bottle as it tilted it’s wrist over the shot glass while nothing poured out of the mug Kelly could clearly hear the sound of liquid tumbling out, and smell the hot alcohol stench accent the dry stale air of the room. Another moment or two passed before the Revenant retracted its hand from its own shot glass growling out in annoyance. To Kelley’s shock he saw the dusty table become slick and clean as though something were poured onto it. The revenant shook its fingers clean spraying droplets in sporadic fashion, dotting the table and area within the room as it leaned forward across the table pouring Essex a drink as well. Kelley looked down at his glass as he saw the liquid filling inside his cup. He stepping away from the table as he looked back to the revenant wishing he could draw a weapon and stop this nightmare here and now.

“It’s understandable; after all ye ended up ‘ere from a drink aye? But iffen I wanted to kill ya, wouldn’t ya think that’d be a bit redundant? What do ye even have left to lose egh? Every moment ye reflect on is just more painful than the last. It’s not long now till ye realize it… ”

The revenant took the drink Essex refused and chugs it in one unnatural looking gulp after another before gently setting it down again and pouring another drink before leaning back to its seat. The revenants words pierced deep, it had been reading him like a book since they first met in this dreamscape. He stared to the drink with utter uncertainty hanging on the words the revenant had said the only question on his mind slipped out of his lips without even thinking.

“So I’m … dead?”

The undead looked him cold in the eyes downing another shot and letting out a relaxed sigh before setting the shot glass down. Its expression was calm, but its voice was deep and guttural with a growl much like that of a terrible dragon.

“Disappointin’ never quite describes it aye? Thamar, Morrow, Menoth even The Wyrm, it’s all subjective when ye get down to it; miracles and all. No, for you Captain Essex this is the fate ye cheated long ago…yer true death.”

The beating in Essex’s heart still hadn’t settled, it had only grown more panicked by these words as his eyes shimmered orange as though he were in the middle of casting a spell though his body was spasming in unmitigated pain. He felt his mind tearing at the seams as he toppled backward in dumbfounded shock. The revenant stood up slowly, keeping its eyes locked upon the now terrified Kelley Essex, lumbering slowly closer with each stride while speaking out as balefire licked along the rotted lips of this unholy cadaver.

“Run as long as you like… but in the end you cannot hide from yourself, no matter how hard you try. This. Is. Fate.”

“No! Stay back” Essex screamed as he crawled backward away from the monster feeling his mind getting pulled back into his visions while his legs went numb and his body failed him. He was desperate to find an escape or some solace in his life to get away from this harrowing truth being thrust upon him. Distorted images crashed within the confines of his mind much like the invisible storm that rocked this boat inside the void. Painful memories boiled to the surface; Lanin laying dead at the helm, Gailsyn being skewered upon a Bog Trog Spear, His sister’s loss of eyesight, His abandonment of the Navy and Veronica crying in his arms. Dozens upon dozens of memories all fought for his attention while the revenant strode closer and closer. The agony of these visions while dreading the reality before him was too much, he cried out in pain with tears streaming down his face from guilt and knowing the revenant was planning to descend upon him any moment he closed his eyes barely managing to say.

“…Please… I… I can’t go like this.”

In that very moment, time stopped with a sudden boom of force. Essex opened his eyes to the dismal surroundings to see a white spirit hovering between him and the monstrous revenant. It was roughly 7 foot tall and elegantly standing defiant, having punched a hole in the chest of the revenant that was frozen in its shocked expression like the rest of the surroundings. In that moment of pause the dark scene began to disintegrate around the three slowly showing an expansive white as far at the eye could see. While the rotted remains of the promenade fell into ruin around Essex and the spirit fading into nothingness Kelly heard a series of snaps as the revenant’s head shot up to look at him again staring angrily at Essex as it began to join the promenade’s fate and deteriorate. It cracked a smile and repeated the words still locking eyes with Essex.

“Run as long as you like… but in the end you cannot hid-“

Without warning the spirit threw the body to the ground and with a thunderous stomp it crushed the corpse into white hot ashes beneath its heel as it watched the silenced body fade into nothing. Essex sat up blinking amazed by the place around him and the spirit that saved him.

“… Thank you?”

He said still trying to fight his trembling as the spirit turned to look at him striding closing to him as he took a step back nervously closing his eyes expecting to join his doppelganger. After a brief pause Kelley opened his eyes after he felt warmth hover near his chest. Before him the spirit extended its right arm pointing it at Essex with a balled fist as Kelley blinked in disbelief. It stamped its foot on the ground twice to signify impatience without making a sound and Essex recognized the anxious tick of his personal Buccaneer warjack.

“Penny? Is that you girl?”

It rolled it’s arm almost nudging Essex before he planted his mechanical fist against the spirit’s feeling a deep sense of control and calm wash over him. He could feel the undeniable loyalty of his warjack greet his mind with an exuding a sense of concern for her master.

“Oy, am I ever glad to see ya girl! Ye just saved me fer sure, does this mean I’m actually alive? Or are ye just loyal enough ta join a dead man in Urcaen?”

It provided him no answers but he chuckled all the same. He suddenly heard a shout from one of his memories inside this place.

“Come on boy! It’s the basics of Warcasting! Seeing through the optics of a warjack’s cortex is an absolute must!”

Essex smiled hearing the gruff voice of his old Warcasting tutor joining in with the memory saying nostalgically.

“But it’s hard to fight with double vision. Just because I’m a warcaster doesn’t mean I want to divide my attention.”

Essex smiled remembering the heated rebuttal and debate he had with his commander that day. Talk of how unpredictable battle was and focusing on concentration and focus would be the key to understanding his gifts. His commander might have given him some bad habits but he smiled realizing how right he was within this lucid dream of his. He felt it was what had prepared him for command, but now he knew it is what kept him alive today. He looked at Penny’s shimmering aura, a non-humanoid ephemeral shape of white light vaguely in the shape of his warjack stared at him like a blazing sun with no distinct features he could make out other than its mind when pressed against it. The thought of his commander echoed in his mind as he smiled telling his warjack.

“Well girl, I don’t exactly know where I’m at right now. But maybe ye’d be willin’ to lend me a looksie. It might hurt either one of us, but it’s worth a shot aye? I mean, I’ve been jumpin all over me own head, why not go on a bit vacation egh?”

The jack knelled down silently and leaned its head toward Kelley’s. He pressed his forehead against its straining himself to connect to her mind deeper than surface level . It was painful the white around them shuttered and dimmed as Essex clawed his way into Penny’s cortex as he had done countless times before but never with so much effort. He realized why quickly, it had no coal no fires burning in its boiler, it was inert. It was growing quickly more and more difficult to stay connected but right then a blue blurry image walked past the optics of Penny. Essex poured all his will into trying to focus the warjacks eyes as the image he saw was his Chief Engineer Kerchak who was tending to the ship’s auxiliary steam engine release mechanisms. A sudden surge of hope welled up in Essex as he all but screamed Kerchak’s name upon seeing him through the eyes of the Jack. As the Trollkin began to study the pipes he began to walk out of view to Essex’s dismay. He dove deep into the cortex of his warjack, deeper than he ever bothered when he was conscious; to the point he imagined wearing penny like his suit of warcaster armor. Her limbs were his limbs, her eyes were his eyes, and her boiler was his hopefully beating heart.

A sudden rumbling turned into a grating whirl which gave the needed spark for an ethereal inferno in the true body of Penny. With a shutter the warjack rose from its relaxed position as Kerchak immediately looked over in shock staring at it in marveled horror knowing it had been fed no payload of coal for days. The warjack shook like a shivering animal as it took a step closer turning its head to the left and right to look around before extending its arm out to Kerchak who stood frozen unsure if to fight, flee or document this phenomenon. But no sooner than he gave it more than a fleeting moment of thought the warjack tumbled to the ground lifeless again with a heavy thump.

“Gah! Was it enough? Whadda ye think girl?”

It responded with a sensation of shame as though it had failed its master. To which Essex realized he just felt without touching it, and to his amazement Penny seemed to realize this as well. They stared at each other and Essex tapped a finger to his chin. While this connection was something to think about later he didn’t have the luxury for idle musing right now. Penny responded with concern now knowing if it had failed its master he may still get worse for which Essex only nodded silently signifying she wasn’t wrong. Essex thought to himself and the last words of his shadow, the revenant and the portents of his fate.

“This is fate ye say? Well then, we’ll haveta wait and see won’t we? Because as I sees it, a man is entitled to cheat as much as he likes long as he isn’t caught. And ye haven’t caught me yet, so the game is still on then. And I may not know much ‘bout fate; but I know exactly who i am, and I ain’t running from me. I’m running from a fate given rather than fate earned!”

Penny crashes her powerful fists together projecting complete agreement with her master as Kelley steels himself for his inevitable next encounter with his fate.

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Your Last Friend

The revenant bearing the same black captain’s duster as Essex grinds it’s teeth in mild anxiousness as it rolls is neck to the left letting out a sickening series of snaps in his frame as bones clacked against one another between-st rancid gummy flesh. The emerald orbs that shine like matches tighten to pin needles slowly inside the empty vaccums that were once it’s eyes as it speaks out to Captain Kelly Essex who appears to be in a daze.

“I would not linger here…” it warns pulling it’s cutlass from the rotting floorboards of it’s ship walking past him toward the aft of it’s nostalgic vessel. Yet Essex didn’t move his eyes were glazed over as it staring at something plainly in-front of his face that neither he or his revenant imposture could actually see.

The sky was a vast emptiness of onyx with windless and starless horizons. Not a single cloud to be seen from any direction nor an ocean below the vessel it stayed perched within the null. Much like the swelter of the sun an unease beat down upon Essex forehead and shoulders driving him into his mild stuppor having many moments later realized he was spoken to snapped back to life as though a faint whisper were all that managed to reach his ears. He quickly checked his surroundings in further detail recognizing the layout of his ship immediately despite the grime and neglect she endured. “That’s precisely what I aim to do. Not linger.” he says with a forced smile as he looks to the revenant who is dutifully at the helm of the ship staring on vigilantly toward the dark horizon as it chuckles.

“A true shame you’ll soon find nothing left but the ship… the need, left in ye.” It states to him with a venomous tone still not even paying him a minor glance of it’s attention.

Essex looked toward the downward stairs of the maindeck finding himself already wondering what lay below and it chilled him to the bone that it was the first thought to pop into his head just like the revenant had said. With a cold glare to this other Captain of his ship he quickly tries to spite that train of thought by remembering a good thought a happy thought, Galisyn.

He remembered her loose hair waving in the winds of the crows nest, her cold glares when he would watch her smiles when she thought he hadn’t be. Her danty hand clasped in his and the fascination she held with the warmth of his body when they laid together in bed. Even now months after she died all he could remember is how damn free she had been compared to him even her death was swift and on her own terms, fighting.

His smile turned sour as he remembered what came before the short bliss he had lived with Gailsyn
. . . . . .
. . . .
. . .
. .
.

Essex’s eyes opened and to his shock he saw the familiar sway of his roof lamp in his personal quarters. He shot up and looked around and then immediately to his arm seeing the Mechanikal limb nodding in the affirmation of this reality.

His motion had stirred someone in his bed. He realized just then he lay naked between his sheet with the warm body of a woman clinging to his own as his heart sank knowing all too quickly this was not as the world had been. Veronica Du Bray with her gorgeous amber eyes flutter open turning into a scowl immediately as she locks eyes with Essex. “She is still on your mind after such a great night?!” she hisses out to him.

Essex calmly sighs taking in all his sensations for a moment knowing all too where exactly where this conversation lead to the first time he lived it, he was in no mood to go through it twice. He rolled to one side of the bed and opened up a crewman’s manifest from a ship called “The Ademia”. He hadn’t done this while his memory but no sooner than the book opened the pages of the ink streaked and smeared quickly distorted becoming painful to even look at as it felt like a knife was carving the words on every inch of his skin immediately reinforcing the idea he was doomed to repeat the conversation with Veronica.

“…Aye” he says his hand still trembling from the mental anguish his flesh inexplicably felt his words were cold but tactful. Veronica immediately struck him acorss the face harder than he remembered which still warned an adequate response from Kelly.

“Damnit Essex, You can’t do that to me anymore! I love you damnit!” she shakes in frustration as though her display would change his opinion even now. “You have no idea do you? I … I listened to you, a bloody pirate for Morrow’s Sake! I had a husband in waiting before you!”

Essex grinned at that one making sure to enjoy saying “Who tried to kill Me, you and the crew. all for saving you from bandits…”which was immediately huffed at by the now enraged Du bray. “This isn’t a game Kelly! I can’t see my mother, my father… my friends tears well in her eyes my sister… No one. All because you just had to sweep me off my feet!” she turns away from him and despite the time that had past the passion behind those words still struck harder than any broadside blast he had taken aboard his ship.

Even after a full year he had no good rebuttal to it… a deep sigh rolls out as his instincts take over “Last I recall you forced yourself on me, humoring the idea of losing your virginity to a true ‘Chilvarous Gentleman’ such as me.” the words were hollow merely deflecting blame which was met with a confused “What did you expect Kelly?! You’re Goregeous, commanding and a rogue to boot you just drip with sexuality! I hurt knowing I wasn’t your first but I remember I was so happy you were mine.” her tears turn into bawlings as the throws an illogical plea at him.

“Why her!? She is deformed and some shiver inducing rude bitch! What does she have I don’t?!”

Despite her pain he thinks to the fate Gailsyn met on Black ridge isle sighing remembering how he just plucked Az’s favorite toy at the time to give her a proper funeral pyre on the move. It was a passing connection, but one that he never put to rest like he did Veronica… and then the reason came to him just as free as it did then.

“Ye aren’t wrong, she’s an oddity and maybe that attracts me bit but no more than your doe eyes … What draws me to her, what keeps me thinking of her is how amazingly free she is. Admiration, she has my admiration….” His words were painful but from the heart the emotion washing over Veronica turned from jealousy to cold hate in that statement.

“Then I am not to be admired… I am vacuous and shallow? A pretty thing to ruin and tear for amusement?” Her sniffles stopped her eyes growing strong with resentment. “Who do you think you are to just ruin the lives of those you see fit?”
-
--
-

-

A cold sweat suddenly causes Essex to tremble as he topples to a knee looking around the void heart beating fast sweat pouring down his face and he quickly looks for the Captain finding it still in the same spot though it clearly appears to be watching him.

A sudden giggle echoes across the ship that Essex recognizes as his sister’s as he looks around for her. A hearty laugh bellows out “Again Essex I’ll make a Warcaster out of your Yet boy!” shouts his commanding officer from the Ordic Royal Navy during one of his old drills. Essex instinctively assumed the stand his commander was asking for before a phantasm of First Mate Chaffer has it’s back pressed against Kelly’s with his Caspian Battle Blade out before shouting “To your right!”

Essex stumbles away the imagine having already vanished before he could really focus his eyes on it as he crawls away from it backwards panic on his face as he has begun to realize how little control he has over these images that haunt him now as the visage Jarod Evermore grins at him within the madness as Essex bumps up against the railing of the ship scrambling to stand. No sooner than he does he finds a bottle of rum in his hand and Hooga Cigar in the other with the sound of a buoy off in the distance he throws the glass hearing it shatter as everything goes black.

Essex is a young boy again breathing heavily panic pounding in his heart inside a dark tavern which has closed for the night. a loose stone had shattered a loose glass pane near the door’s handle as he had found he already let himself inside and closed the door behind him. Cold sweat ran down his neck and face as he breathed heavily his face was puffy was crying and a ignorant stubborness was balled up inside his heart. He walked behind the counter and forced open a small chest he knew he would find. Cracking it open the shimmer of Ordic Galleon coins was more than he could resist as he dumped the entire contents into a pillow case. For a moment guilt welled up inside of him for doing it, to his uncle of all people until he remembered he was just like his mother.

Before turning around he growled and caught eye of a unopened bottle of Carre Dovan Rum , a moment of silence passed as he forced down his conscious and drank deeply before quickly coughing watery eyed almost wanting to puke before he continued to prove to himself he could.

Proud held back tears and a determined face he told himself “I’ll find you… We all win me and me Crew old man. They gave up but I won’t” Essex realized that was his very first drink and act as a dishonorable man as he slowly feel back into the awareness of the gloom and dread ship.

The Revenant staring at him directly from the helm Essex shook and replied “..Where… is this? Who are you?”

The Revenant just laughed " This? This here be both home and coffin, on the ship that always delivers and now the Ship that never lingers, The Anchor’s bane and all her legacy! And Me? Ha, I’ll be your last friend in these parts."

The only word that that Essex could muster out “W..Why?” to which the revenant only chuckled ominously resuming his duties.

View
The Patient
Aboard the Anchor's Bane, Docked in Carre Dova

It must have been be nice to see Carre Dova again Captain.” Synr the Physician says with a weak smile pushing slumped figure out to Port of Anchor’s Bane with the aid of the ship’s only Wheelchair. Essex lays lifeless in the chair as the breeze from the coast has nearly no effect on his greasy unwashed hair.

Synr sighs looking into the docks and watching the stevedores marshaling their labor jacks, the heavy iconic Cardovar Horses drawing wagon and carridges alike while the familar sound of buoys and fishmerchants filled the air. His gaze turned to five young boys in small clique together near the docks some fishing others eyeing pouches to snatch from a passerby.

“I always heard Carre Dova didn’t have much crime, heh.” He says toward his lifeless captain, finding a smile as he watches one bravely latch onto a belt and deftly cut it before so much as a tug was felt by it’s owner. With an excited hoot all the boys scamper over and before looking start to walk the opposite way out of view. “_Though I suppose then that could never have explained you egh?”_ His tone grows sad seeing no improvement from the captain what so ever not even a glisten to his eyes or a twitching finger.

“How is our Captain’s vow of silence coming along?” chuckles out the rarely seen Chaplin of the Anchor’s Bane Donavin. “I hear tales that he makes Menites seem like blabbermouths.” He turns in front of Essex and stares into the Captain’s blank eyes long and hard no saying a word.

“I genuinely thought Carre Dova would have helped, I heard it’s a rustic port and besides the thinning coast it is mostly untouched the last decade or so. Were I not about to become so busy I honestly think I i could have spent a few nights painting this harbor and it’s coasts. The Captain was lucky to grow up around this.” he replies taking in every aspect ignoring the peculiar behavior the Chaplin as he still isn’t too familar with the religious customs of men.

“You certain will be soon, still no idea what caused this?” Donavin says still eyes locked on the captain’s. He is only met with an exasperated sigh and a shrug from the Iosan who blunt states “Only a few hunches but my books are mostly looted from other vessels… It’s not like Az and I together even come come to an adequate compendium of rare toxins.”

Surprise graces Donavin’s face as he looks concerned at Synr “You still think it’s a Toxin? But wouldn’t it have left his system by now?” The physician cooly replies “Not all toxins leave a system and many can cause the damage and still leave the body. Az and I tested the Captain for hours and came up with no results that had left his urinary or digestive tracks. I’m not giving up hope that this is treatable.”

“You know another theory is starting to become popular…” He says returning his gaze to Essex snapping his fingers in front of the captain’s face which doesn’t blink whatsoever. Synr raises an eyebrow not liking the tone or the gestures the Chaplin just made putting his hand on one of the handles of the chair before sarcasticly stating “Oh? a Theory? One versed in medicinal remedies and trials no doubt.”

Donavin plants a hand on the Captain’s shoulder glibly smirking at the insult from Synr and just informs him “We’ll have much to discuss in the new few minutes. I understand we’ve been called to assemble before a soul leaves the ship.”

Synr blinks puzzledly and looks around the ship realizing indeed no one has left the ship and Gorgon is at the gangplank arms folded staring down any sea dog or pressganger who gets within 15 paces of the exit. Looking back to Donavin “…Chaffer perhaps?”

Donavin simply smiles and replies “Navigator Ulvari of course, I would start rehearsing your itinerary with the officers now because I imagine its one of the first subjects on the Agenda Old friend.” rising to stand he plants a firm clapping hand on his left leg giving him a quick sting from his past surgery which nearly buckled his leg in sudden unexpected pain. As he knew better than to welp out in front of anyone above deck.

Donavin walked toward the promenade stroking his Morrowan Necklace with a pure smile but mean spirited all the same. Synr’s eyes were narrowed as he rubbed his leg for a moment to check for bleeding and looked to Gorgun with a sigh “Some assistance in making sure the Captain attends please?”

With a chuckle the Ogrun pointed to a Sea dog to take over and cracked his knuckles reminding him that was an order as he strode up with a broad puffed up smile “My pleasure M’lady Hahar!” Synr glowered at him reluctantly accepting the insult and sighed taking one last moment to admire the view as the Ogrun picked up the chair Captain and all

“Easy does it sir.” The Ogrun replies out dutifully to his non responsive captain steadfast as always with a tone that simply refuses to acknowledge this odd lack of communication as anything other than colorful human pouting.

View
Unyielding
Through Mists, Determination


…..
………
“He wants you dead, you know.”

She shook visibly, speaking these words. “He’s been talking to that Squatter again; I heard them conspiring through the window. It isn’t over…”

Jehremi simply nodded, pouring her another glass of the brew Captain Essex had gifted him after the battle against Magda the Red. His expression was almost infuriatingly calm. Why couldn’t he see the danger he was still in? First mate Ulvari had never lost his composure as completely as he had in the weeks following the duel. “He believes you mean ill to the squatter, and the thought has sharpened him to madness. A maddened man is a dangerous man—“

“A maddened man is a beaten man,” he replied sharply. “Proud Morgan is not used to the taste of defeat. He has been beaten twice; a thrice-beaten man will be a broken one. And a broken man,” he intoned thoughtfully, “can be remade.” He rubbed his chin, carefully choosing his words. It was all too plain to see that Ms. Du Bray’s concern was genuine; despite her carefully maintained façade, she was clearly invested in his safety. He meant to soothe her fears, but wasn’t willing to mince words. Lives could hang in the balance.

“As to the matter of the Squatter,” he continued, “I know little enough of his history or intentions, but I also have little interest. Whether he truly represents some omen for this ship, good or ill, it is obvious that if he had desired to sink us, he has missed many opportunities to do so. Let the craven keep his pet; it’s little concern of mine. All I care about is seeing this battered heap safely to Carre Dova, and maintaining the lives of all the ragged souls contained herein.”

“Would that I had your confidence, but I know this man,” she called softly. “A number of the crew are still loyal to him, and just as many are terrified of you. If he meant to call a mutiny…”Her voice caught, betraying her feelings. Her ache stung him, somewhere in the heart he’d often tried to forget he had.

He stood then, and leaned to place a hand on her cheek. It burned warm under his touch. She was upset, and managing it only in the barest sense. She took his hand in her own, for a moment, and then broke away, turning to hide her eyes.

He collapsed slowly back into the seat at his desk, slumping into his weariness. He stroked his temples, trying to make sense of everything that had happened since he had returned from beneath the waves.

His captain… No. His only friend in the world, brought low by some insidious measure.

His companions, such as they were, tired and bloodied from battle after endless battle at sea.

Lo, and the doctor, recovering still from injuries sustained under his watch.

Lanin… the image of his mentor’s crumpled body fallen under the wheel still too fresh for belief.

His crew, pushed beyond all breaking points, struggling to survive.

And now, this. Petty. Treachery.

Chaeffer’s anger burned then, fierce and hot. “Fear for him, Veronica. Fear for Ulvari, not for me.” His eyes glowed with arcane light as his anger kindled. “Clearly, he has forgotten the terms we arranged on that fateful day. Other men are free to do as they may, but that one’s freedom is forfeit to ME. Perhaps it is time he learned his place.” His single gauntlet tightened around the neck of the bottle, squeezing until it shattered, spilling aged rum and glass all over his desk. “He will learn,” Chaeffer vehemently spat the words, his features dark and furious. “And whether he survives or not, he will OBEY.”

She spoke again, soft as the wind, still with her eyes misty and hidden. “What of… what of the crew? Kelley had promised them Five Fingers, and they’ll surely be expecting that to be honored. Of course, now that you’re Captain—“

“Acting captain,” He reminded her, bitterly. Many aboard had clearly given up hope on Essex’s condition, but Jehremi refused the thought. “Which is why we need to stop in Carre Dova. We’re in dire need of refit and resupply, and besides, there may be something… I don’t know. Something that might help him. It’s his home.

He didn’t mention the voice, the strange force that had taken hold of Lo that day in the infirmary. It was best for all if that remained his own personal mystery. Tensions were already high enough.

So many questions. So many paths lay ahead. None would prove easy. He hardened himself, prepared to be cruel if circumstance demanded. If Essex were awake, he’d have something simple and reassuring to say. Since he wasn’t, fear would have to suffice to keep this boat running…

For just a little. While. Longer.

Rain pattered on the window’s glass, herald of the grey clouds looming overhead. Just outside, seagulls cackled, proof of how near they were to shore. Carre Dova loomed hard out of the mists.

And somewhere deep in the bowls of the ship, a single tear flowed from the eyes of a dreaming man.

View
When Darkness Shivers
Five Fingers, Late at Night

“Please! NO, enou-” A frail terrified voice cries screaming out before another hard iron shod boot kicks it firmly in the stomach four times before all the wind it knocked clean out and gasping weakly for mercy.

Upon a bleak and dark alley in Dag’s Ward lays a man in his late 50s on his back lantern cracked and laying next to his beaten frame. Looming over him appear to be two bulky men in armored great coats with popped collars, rugged stubble and apathetic glares. One of the men squatted down and grinds his teeth savoring the position he is in and squats close before palming the back of the old man’s head with his large hand before promptly throwing it into the pavement with a grunt. Without reprieve he forces the old man to face him ignoring the blood streaming down his forehead, nose and eyes.

“It’s simple Simon, real simple…” Immediately another few savage strikes come from his associate to Simon’s back. With a quiver of pain and a trembling body he weakly pleas.

_"I… I just can’t get out of debt, Ever since Jake Horley bought up- _

With a growl the squatting thug raised his heel and grinds it on Simon’s hand instantly quelling his excuses with whimpers and flailing.

I’ve had enough Simon, quite enough you’ve been a good gambler before but I can tell I’m dealing with some no good two-bit has been when I see you flappin them gums!

A sudden clack of footsteps draws close as the associate turns to face his partner with silent concern of witnesses. Without so much as a word he takes a few steps away from Simon toward the sound to see a lantern light in the distance.

Make it quick Bax, bribe em if ya need to.” the ringleader says with a distaste in his mouth clearly turning it into more frustrations he will take out on poor Simon momentarily.

Bax lumbered toward the lamp light to catch sight of Mercenary Patrolman escorting a nobleman through the dark streets both engaging in a lighthearted conversation. “Evening Sirs, afraid this road is closed tonight. Might i provide you gents some fare for your troubles?”

The mercenary put a hand to his sword for a moment then looked to his terrified charge and decided to examine this shady figure. Bax had a bulky and powerful frame perfectly shaped to be a bruiser, his clothes represented money and connections but above all else he noticed a small black coin embroidered with a hand of cards and a single die and in that moment his heart froze.

Oh, Absolutely how silly of me to forget. A few Half-Galleons should do the trick to double back.” He says restraining the shaking in his voice. The perplexed look of his nobleman charge was ignored as the guard has no intentions of dealing with the cepts tonight or any night for that matter.

Excellent, sorry for the trouble m’lords here you are.” Handing the coins to the petrified man with a smirk he returns to his compatriot dusting his hands like every other time in the past with a grin.

Now where were we Simon?” The ringleader said with a wide grin.

You really should have known better than to dodge me when you had a debt this large Simon… We’ve backed you, supported you, helped you and your family many times make ends meet in this town, Now haven’t we?!” He growls cracking his knuckles next to Simon’s bloody face.

Y… yes you have Wickers, I.. I just can’t get the fund together I.. I’ve tried so hard!” Another set of knuckles strikes him on the back of the head as he immediately regretting his actions again.

Just couldn’t?! You take me for some wetear here Simon? You think I don’t know how many suckers traffic through Five Fingers? You think you can convince me that you couldn’t have stole or robbed a few nolemen?!” Wickers pulled out his an iron cudgel handing it to Bax and simply says “left arm…

N-nn- NO PLEA- AH!!!” His voice screeched out before Wickers put his quad iron in Simon’s mouth and strangled him into silence.

“_Only one way out of this now Simon, you know that don’t you? Debts as high as these, and trying to leave town? Only way we can stand this disrespect is to hand over your final collateral.”_ Wicker’s tone was serious and despite the shock of a broken arm Simon’s eyes shot open wide as he shook his head violently pleading for it not to be so. " You either offer it here… now… or we just take it from you. Don’t be an idiot Simon…"

A sudden gasp escaped Bax’s lips as he stares down the dark street pointing “Ugh… Wickers.” With a turned head Wickers sees a shady form of a woman standing motionlessly staring at the trio. She wore no lantern and he could barely make her out in the shadows of the alley but she stood there, clearly watching them.

“_Let the bitch watch… after, tail her and send her to the depths over the docks.”_ Wicker whispered with a grin as Bax nodded and stalked closer to the woman who had tilted her head just slightly to the side while the duo had their eyes off her. Yet she was still still as a statue

Wicker pulled the quad iron of Simon’s Mouth and picked him up by the right shoulder commanding him to stand as he put the Quad iron to his back. Simon winced as he pulled himself up as best he could just sick with bruises, cuts, swelling and a broken arm. He watched Bax leave stride closer and closer toward the woman like a delicate animal of the woods scampered out of view as he drew too close to her with Bax giving sudden chase.

Now then, have you come to a decision Simon? Be smart man and at least live while you can.” Wicker leaned in close and whispered to him “If you make us work for this more than we need to…I might just have a go at your wife heh, or maybe that daughter…. how old is she again?

With disgust Simon turned and faced his oppressor beaten and broken and " You’ll take what you want from me…" he smiles between the blood and swollen lips “But my family? where do you think all that money went?” with a half crazed smile Simon spits a mouthful of blood into Wickers face which freezes the brute cold for a moment stunned the peon would do such a thing. As he continues “They got away from such a terrible place! And you’ll never use them, A father pays for his mistakes.” with the last vestiges of pride he has left he stands ready for his death.

Cocking back the hammer of his quad-iron quickly and with hateful eyes he growls out one final curse to Simon. “You stupid sonva bitc-” Just then Bax lets out a terrified wail of pain through the silence of the dark night as the filthy face of Wicker stares into the dark alley perplexed for a moment before Simon’s instinct to run is also enticed with the grim sound.

The hell just happened?” Wicker blurts out in genuine confusion as he wipes the blood from his face to see the silhouette of the woman is exactly where she was just few minutes ago staring at them watching. Grabbing Simon by his broken arm Wicker stomps toward her quad iron pressed out demanding answers

The fuck is he at wench?!” He squeezed off a single shot of his quad cartridge as she gently tilts her posture and head again causing the shot to miss entirely. Defiantly she stands as he storms closer unflinching from the gunfire. “What did you do to him!? You are going to regret this!

The shadowy figure extends out her finger pointing at Wicker as a silent threat even at this closer distance he can only make out that she is wearing some form of dress. For a fleeting moment he feels a shiver down his spine as he stares at this figure in front of him just a few steps. Her eyes were clearly on him and gradually her body was shifting to flee like before.

A tiny groan of pain from Simon reminded him he was dragging a wounded man and immediately corrected the handicap by throwing his victim to the ground shooting him in his right knee insuring he wouldn’t be going anywhere. No sooner than he looked back up from his aim he only caught a glimpse of her escaping down the same Alleyway Bax had gone down just minutes ago. Without an ounce of fear he trampled after her kicking aside any obstacles in his way.

His lantern was barely lit the winding and constricting alleyway, it was overrun with crates and debris making it a chore for even a bulky man to move through. Only hearing distant sounds of overturned bottles or thumping crates. “When I find you girlie I’ll make you talk! You’ll be my bitch by the end of this night nothing but a whore on the streets when I’m through with you! Ya hear?!” Desperately trying to find her as rage seethed over his normally cool head.

His pursuits had finally taken him to a small side street with multiple exits. the clacking of chains waved in the night air and rigging above shuttered in the wind. No life was anywhere to be seen even here only a few short steps from a construction yard of some sort. The silence to be heard was terrifying to Wicker, never in all his years had he heard such pure silence on the streets, he was actually thankful to hear the clacking of those chains as he caught his breath rationalizing what happened.

“Well Bax is probably dead.” He thought to himself “And that bitch must of made off Scott-free the slut. who was she anyway a ganger?” With a deep breath and heavy sigh his thoughts returned to his priorities. “Riordan … right time to have Simon pay my deb-” a sudden few drops of liquid dripped onto his greatcoat as he brushed them off only to feel them it was slick and sticky. Bringing his hand to the lantern light he unmistakeable hue of crimson was smeared on his hand as he immediately checked the sky.

The grisly sight Bax hung suspended in a web of chains the hook of a Crane punched into his spine his head taken off at his shoulders dripping the last few globs of blood still left as Wicker realized the blood all had drained into a grate below him. His eyes were transfixed on the horror, but from behind him the head of Bax was throw into his view…. a look of sheer shock was on his face as Wicker instinctively turned around to who threw it stammering in shock.

A dark blur lunged at his throat as shallow gash carved into neck the size of his finger as he instantly held the wound and rose his gun at the figure. In the lantern light he could make out a fine white porcelain mask bearing the face of a weeping woman decoratively depicting cracks along it’s flawless face and smeared with the bloody hand print of most likely Bax.

In that moment though Wicker was too slow and a dagger was plunged solidly into his meaty right hand and twisted forcing his tight grip into that of a feeble child’s as the gun fell out of his hand. In a panic he stumbles back throwing his lantern at this woman as she twists unnaturally out of the way maintaining perfect eye contact with Wicker the whole time another knife in her left hand as she silently points and Bax’s fate and trails the finger to Wicker.

With sheer panic he sprints out of the alley trying to hold back the bleeding from his neck wound as he presses crashes blindly into a fenced off area with a sign he doesn’t bother to read. Looking over his shoulder the woman has vanished again to his dismay as he only redoubles his efforts to run somewhere he knows he lads would be.

Without a light, having lost much blood and fleeing for his life he stumbles into into something that groans at his feet. He recognized the sound… it was Simon, was he back where he started? He thought to his dismay. He forced his good hand into the darkness and picked up the figure and fumbled through his person.

…Wi…Wicker is that you?” Simon asks just as terrified as Wicker.

Ignoring the man he finds what he was looking for and pulls the lantern from his hip dropping him and quickly lights it hearing the gasp of Simon below him as the illumination shows a bleak bloodstained woman behind him knife in both hands above her head and she plunges them into the back of his head and out through his left eye. In that instant the hefty thug falls to the ground lifeless smashing the lantern under his bulk cloaking the scene is shadow again.

An odd silence if only filled by the panicked breathing of Simon as he weakly speaks out “..th…Thank you. You saved my life, no my soul.” It is meet by the silence of the grave as Simon feels more unease now than ever before. “I am indebted to you, I can go to my family if I can just find a boat.” He says trying to inform this shadowy figure wherever she now was that he was innocent. “_I would never speak of you of course… you are my benefactor… my angel”_

The distant sound of a knife clangs on the road, and soon a course panting is heard like one under a mask as it draws slowly closer and closer. “Have… have I said something to offend you?” he asks in terror having realized the specter had been leaving till he spoke. “_I apologize! I… meant no disrespect!”_ The breathing is close and trembling is heard in the panting like one on the edge of satisfying a craving. “Please! you don’t need to do this! I just wanted to thank you!” He says closing his eyes as tightly as he could before suddenly the grew tighter and tighter as the fine point of nails pressed into his eyeballs and hands begun to ring his neck shut. Weakly gasping for a bit more of air he attempts to thrash against his attacker to no avail as a weak giggle escapes her mask as she continues to struggle to control her breath.

The morning rises as two men stand before the crossroads of Dag’s Ward seeing two dead bodies in the street. a young man shakes his head looking away while the older one throws his helmet down with a growl rubbing his head with both hand

Two more last night…” The constable says sighing deeply as he looks to his cadet who nods visibly upset by the violent display that happened to these last two victims. He replies grimly “_ Actually sir, I already heard a third one was strung up in the back alleys sir….”_

“Morrow Save us…” the Constable whispers to himself looking to the sign with with a glare as it reads Havershaw’s Folly

View
When I was last whole.
A look into Essex's far past

" Kel, Hey! Come on get up already ya faker"

His eye shoot open as he takes the fastest and deepest breath of his life, hands trembling as he immediately check his body for the fragment of skeletal remains of his nightmare only to find nothing to his relief which quickly fills with confusion as he takes his surroundings in.

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The sky is bright orange at the moment getting ready to set over the Meredius for the night. Young boys are frolicking in the last moments of day along a rolling out tide laughing and picking up sea shells with bright smiles on their faces. With a stupefied looks he realizes he knows every face on the beach all from his past. Without a second thought he realized who must have been calling out to him and looks up from the sandy ground at the wide mischievous smile of his old friend Lucan.

" Hah! maybe you really did swallow a little too much of the soup Kel." He squats down and dangles his hand out to pick up Essex rolling his eyes like he always did right after Kelley had done something stupid. The sun peaked through two of the supports of a dock in Carre Dova blinding both the boys, while Kelly put his right hand in the way.

At that moment it all became clear to him what was going on, because he was staring at a hand of flesh and blood belonging to a much young self. With a tear in his eye he marveled at it, he could feel the warmth of the sun channel into his flesh as the salt water of the sea slowly dryed on his flimsy muscles. A broken laugh of disbelief escaped out of his lips as he heard his voice very clearly now. It was runty and alto showing no signs of all of Essex’s vices.

Lucan rubs his eyes with his free hand for a moment then rose an eyebrow at Kelly blurting out “Are you crying?” he says mockingly with such a sting that it somehow still urked a response of “N-No of course not, shut up!” for that moment the first genuine smile in a long time was worn across Essex’s face. “I just really hope this lasts you know?” He says standing up and looking at “The Old Crew.”

With a deep breath he took in the nostalgic scent of Carre Dova precisely how he remembered it. With a chuckle he catches eyes with “Tree-Top” Toby the finest rigger he ever knew currently arguing with Lanin over who got the speckled gold shell from their booty. Colin in background enjoying the sunset as he has his hands on the back of his head with a wide open carefree smile.

With a smile Essex shouts out to Colin “What are you looking at egh?” starting to scamper over with curious expression, remember just how keen of a crack shot he was from the Crow’s nest. Colin removes the palms from the back of his head and looks surprised he was asked before plainly stating “The Sunset, just saying goodnight to Morrow.” Lucan runs the sand out of his short dirty blond hair and socks Essex in the shoulder

“No more faking next time.” he says exorcising his concerns when he originally found Essex the only way a boy knows how. Rubbing his shoulder he thought about yelling at him like the old days but smiled happy to just be able to hear his voice again. As the sun slips under the coast Kelly realizes he is forgetting something and without a word starts sprinting down the coastline much to the befuddlement of his boys.

“Kel?! What’s wrong?”

To which Essex replies “No time, Follow if you want!” He carries himself so freely and nimbly up the stairs of the barge and into town tumbling over or around crates, barrels, boxes, horses, yelling guards and concerned old women. Having speed ahead so fast his heart was pounding in his chest like it hadn’t in years as he felt truly alive in whatever this dream-like state was. But if even by chance he could… he had to see him.

Knowing his friends would be soon behind he comes to a slow stop looking at the sight of his old home in Carre Dova. In the front of their home sat Sam, his younger sister on the stair up to their door her fingers gently tracing a small floor as he smiled knowing she couldn’t see him from here he walked up allowing himself to catch his breath as he walked his sister’s head perk up as she looked in his general direction with a sad smile.

Sam had always been blind ever since Kelly could remember but her vacant eyes and frown spoke volumes of a story he didn’t want to hear again. ’Kelly I…" in that moment of hesitation he sprinted up to the door without a word hoping against hope it would be different this time and he closed his eyes praying to anyone who would listen “I just want to see him one more time.”

As his hand touched the knob the door flung open and a figure stood in the doorway wearing an Ordic Royal Navy uniform without the courage to look even a child in the eye. The faint sound of his mother crying in the background could be heard as the soldier apparently had finished his duty already attempting to excuse himself.

As he walked past the young boy a anger boiled inside him one which was rekindled by this vivid memory. If nothing else he wouldn’t be silent like last time! he thought to himself as he turned with resolve and composure to shout at the messenger when he saw no evidence of the solider…. instead staring him cold in the face was the Revenant of his nightmares cutlass already in hand a mere second from killing Essex.

Tears streaked down his face he screams out in pain holding his mechankial and living hands against his head cradling it like a fragile egg. Whimpering out “How much more…? How much more will you do this to me?” to which a roar of laughter comes out of the Revenant who throws the cutlass into the boards of a decaying ship around the two of them.

" That… is up to you ‘captain’ he…he…he"

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The Price of Progress
Port of Deceit; Five Fingers

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“Sorry nothin I can do about any of that constable.”

With a shrug and tilting up of his longshoreman’s hat the young man who spoke those words smiles with a defiant form of kindness. Taking a deep breath and speaking swiftly like it were practiced “And besides, I was always of the predilection that ares of public safety were happened to be ye and yer boys sort of affair egh? I’m just a simple merchantman when ya get elbow deep in me ya see.” clearly upsetting the constantable with his words

" Mr. Horley, I must insist that you take the death of so many people on this plot of land more seriously! Eight, eight murders in the last week, you keep assuring me it’s those Rover gangs but even you would have to say this seems to be the workings of a Serial Killer. We need your approval t-"

With a snap of his suspenders and a narrowed green eyes he sharply interrupts “Nothin doing!” With stamp of his foot he tilts the pipe in his mouth to the side and spits out smoke right in the constables grimacing face. “I got deadlines ta meet an’ workers ta pay, you’ve done enough search and simply disrupting our process here! Now politely ye should be shoving off Constable and doing yer bleeding job!” as he waves him away dismissively.

With one quick hand gesture he throws a thumbs up to the night sky as workers return to work upon a maze of steel, Laborjacks boil back up to life grabbing heavy iron beams putting them into place and foreman begin to walk up to the Mr. Horley with pressing matters on various projects clamoring all about it quickly muscling the fuming red Five Fingers Constable away from the owner.

Storming off in a huff the Constable leaves the construction zone glaring at any person on the streets he passes by on his way to speak to a patiently waiting young man at the crossroad in similar guard uniform. He sees the young man already has a look of disappointment on his face as he must clearly be able to hear the construction work in the distance.

striding close the boy responds “Not even an ounce of guilt?” with a heavy sigh he rubs the back of his head and shrugs back clearly at a loss “So what now? Lieutenant said without any further evidence Mr Horley is free to protect his employees as he sees fit.”

With a slow shaking head and a very deep sigh the constable looks to be letting go of his anger slowly as he bluntly says “I know he’s behind it… somehow just… somehow. He’s always keen to throw me and anyone else onto that Paulson Street Rovers gang. But it just doesn’t add up, I mean sure we all read the stories in the Dailies about them last year but I grew up here, and that just isn’t their style. They were always just a bunch of vigilante punks. Nothing like these recent murders at all…”

The young cadet listens intently nodding in agreement. “I’ll have to take your word for it sir, I was a Bellicose kid myself.”

The constable takes off his helmet rubbing his short greying hair with a chuckle “You’re still a kid Cadet, I suppose we’ll have to leave him to it though I know what i will be reading in the news within a day or two. If we could just crack open his alibis a bit or figure out how he is producing more workers and equipment for an amusement park here than a Lucky Dicer on a streak…”

With dissapointed sigh and shaking head he plants his helmet back on “Time for patrols.” he states walking casually by the street sign in the intersection reading…

“Havershaw’s Folly”

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