1. Raven

    Raven Banned

    Oct 14, 2006
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    The NetherWorld

    The Captain's Table Challenge

    Discussion in 'Writing Prompts' started by Raven, Apr 25, 2008.

    There's a bar called Raven’s Tavern, inside by a large window that looks out across the stormy weather outside and the rough sea is "The Captain's Table," where those who have commanded mighty vessels of every shape and era can meet, relax, and share a friendly drink with others of their calling. But the first drink is always paid for with a story...even For the finest officers!

    You are the captain, and you have a tale to tell. The story can be set in any age: past, present, or future. It can be anywhere on Earth, in space, or on another planet; on a boat, spaceship, galactic cruiser, or space station; or it can be from an army captain's point of view telling the story of a battle he’s been in. It can even be a life guard captain or freighter captain. As long as the story's told from the captain's point of view. You may tell your story in first or third person. For obvious reasons the captain telling the story cannot be killed off.

    At the start of your story you must give your name as though you are the Captain. And you may tell as many tales as you require. You may introduce another captain or tell another story from the same captain's point of view.

    All stories are welcome at the Captain's Table.
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  2. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    Ace in the Hole

    I have the best job in the world, in the oldest pub still standing on the planet. The pay’s ok, the hours are long, but oh, the people I meet!

    To be fair, this is the ninth reincarnation of Raven’s Tavern on the same site. Five times it burned to the ground, twice it was washed away by floodwaters, and to top it all off, there was the meteor strike.

    “Hey, lass, can I get another round for me and me mates?” The question could have come from any of the local fishermen, but sounded quaint coming from an eight foot tall alien who looked like a semitransparent lizard with twin frog-like heads. The other head continued talking to his shipmates without interruption.

    I poured a round of what looked and smelled like swamp water, but with a faint aroma of anise, and collected the empty cups. Then I loaded them into the sterilizer and started the cycle, then turned back to the bar with the polishing rag.

    The new customer was human, so I could read his expression straightaway. Some come to celebrate, or to unwind after a long day of work. Not this guy. He was here to drown his pain. He looked curiously at the rag, and I flashed him a smile designed to slice away his gloom. It rebounded without touching him. “It’s tradition. Bartenders for ages have polished the bar with a bar rag, so this keeps the atmosphere of old pubs.”

    His eyes traveled along the shelf behind me, and he pointed. “What’s that?”

    I followed his gaze to a clear bottle containing a ruby red liquid giving off a soft glow. Gotta hand it to him, if he was looking for quick oblivion, his instincts were infallible. “Stygian Tears, imported from Schaefer’s World. It’ll leave a scar, if you catch my meaning.”

    He nodded, as I knew he would, and beckoned to it as if it would come running on legs of its own. I poured a half shot, and set it before him. A smoky wisp curled up from the surface, but had no chance to escape before the stranger tossed it back all at once. I winced in sympathetic pain, but other than a bead of sweat on his forehead, he might have been gulping spring water. He set the glass back on the bar with a snap and nodded for a refill.

    “Jonas Stark.” It took me a moment to realize he was introducing himself. “Captain of the Black Arrow, running a courier service between twenty-seven worlds.”

    “I’m Colleena,” I began, and stopped short at the sharp look he suddenly turned on me. Across the room, a cluster of white-furred Bloots were waving to get my attention. I excused myself and hurried to take their orders.

    I spent several more minutes making the rounds of the rest of the patrons, finishing with another refill for Captain Stark.

    “I knew a Colleena,” he began, without any prompting from me. Like any good barkeep, I knew when to keep quiet and just listen. “Back then, I was a real Captain, on a Fleet Clipper, with a crew of thirty, plus or minus.” He tossed back another half shot of Tears, and I refilled his glass the instant it touched the bar.

    “She was a real looker. You could hear necks popping whenever she was on deck.. But she was lucky, dammit. It was frakky, and after a while, we started counting on her luck to keep us out of trouble.” He fell silent, and stared at the fuming shot glass.
    I waited for the silence to stretch out for a while. “So what happened to her? Did her luck fail?”

    He refocused. “What? Oh no, never. Far as I know, she’s still out there. Ruining lives like she ruined mine.” He downed his drink, and set the glass upside down on the bar. As he reached for his credit disk and entered the validation code, I wiped down the bar before the wet ring could etch the finish, and put the bottle back on the shelf. When I turned back to the bar, he was gone. But he had left a generous tip.


    I put it out of my mind. This business, you get used to unfinished stories. Business was brisk, and I heard plenty of great stories, even a few all the way to the end. A few months passed, and I forgot all about him.

    Then one bitterly cold night, with jeering voices on the coastal wind, I looked up as the door opened and closed. He shook off a spray of snow, and homed in the very same seat at the bar. I didn’t even have to ask. I brought forth the Stygian Tears and a shot glass, and poured out a half shot. I could swear he almost smiled, but before I could be sure, he had thrown down the first drink and was ready for another.

    The only other patrons that night, an elderly pair of locals, paid their tab and bundled up against the storm. I bade them a safe night, and returned my attention to Captain Stark.

    “We were on a rescue mission,” he continued, as if he had only stepped out for a moment of fresh air. “Some fool in a scout ship flew in too close to the Cygnus Hole on a bet. His engines were at full power, and he was barely able to maintain position. But they were overheating, about to burn out.” He tossed back his drink, and I poured him a refill. The bottle was half empty, and no one else had gone near the stuff.

    He thought for a moment. “His name. I remember now, it was Ace – something or other. Son of some local government official. More dollars than sense, as they say. Well, it was Colleena’s patrol shift, so she took a grappler ship to try to retrieve him before he sank closer to the event horizon.”

    He stared down at the bar for so long I thought he had nodded off. “A micrometeorite took out one of her engines, and she had to throttle back the opposite one to avoid going into a spin. Suddenly she was in worse trouble than that idiot.” He drank down the shot, angrily, and the one I poured immediately after.

    He fell silent. “But I thought you said her luck had held.” I couldn’t help it. He had my full attention.

    “Oh it held alright. Do you know what happens if you try engaging hyperdrive too close to a gravity well?”

    I shook my head. Nobody knew, really. Any ship that tried simply disappeared, never to be seen again. I said so.

    “She was done for. I knew it the moment I saw her engine flicker and die. She started to fall toward the other ship. Well, Ace,” he practically spat the name, “Ace must have decided he had nothing to lose. As quick as that, his ship vanished, and the grappler was pulled into the hyperdrive field as it collapsed.”

    I didn’t understand. There’s no way she could have survived.

    “The rest of my crew were grasping at straws. There were a few superstitious middies who were sure her luck would have saved her. I told them they were dreaming, and their answer was to lay down a wager.”

    He sighed, and a heavy weight seemed to press him into the bar stool. “I bet against her. I didn’t want her to be dead, any more than the rest of them. But I knew there was no way out. At least her end was quick.”

    I finally understood. A black hole is eternal. You fall forever. Time slows, nearly to a standstill, but you never reach the event horizon. You approach it, and to you, you fall faster and faster, but the center of the hole recedes. To an outsider, the image of the ship slows to a crawl as it approaches the event horizon, as the light struggles to escape.

    Captain Stark was still talking, eyes focused on his empty glass. “… and they never forgave me for that. No one wanted to remain under my command, ever again, for wagering against her.”

    I refilled his glass, and he looked up. :”The grappler was found two weeks later, drifting, nearly a light year away. Of the three on board, only she survived. But she did survive.”

    “They never found any sign of Ace, His ship must have gone the way of all ships that try to jump too close to a gravity well.”

    He looked me straight in the eye. “Not only did she survive an encounter with a black hole, she is the only person who has ever survived a hyperdrive jump close to a massive body. Researchers latched onto her, want to know everything she can tell them about the experience. Rumor has it they have learned more about hyperspace in that one incident than in the last twenty-five years of controlled experiments. She could buy her own planet with what they have been willing to pay her.”

    “And me? That wager bankrupted me. I lost my command, and was only able to continue as a courier. No crew needed.”

    We looked at one another, and I pulled out a second shot glass, and filled them both to the top.

    “This one’s on me.”
    1 person likes this.
  3. nolens volens

    nolens volens New Member

    May 2, 2008
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    The spray hit my face, stinging like splinters of ice against my hot skin.

    Well I’ll be a parrot’s bum, I thought to myself.

    The fore of the ship yawned out before me, the pointed end of the bow disappearing into the crest of another wave. My fingers were aching with cold and I turned my head, bracing myself against the roar of water. It rolled over me and left me gasping for air.

    How is this happening?!

    I felt a little wail building in my chest but I clamped down on the urge to scream like a little schoolgirl. Sure, I had awoken upon this mysterious ship, in the middle of a mysterious stormy ocean, and was tied to a mysterious mast, but this was no time to panic!

    “You blubberin’ idiot, hoist the launch and bring ‘er down!”

    I arched my neck, trying to see around the edge of the large wooden mast. I couldn’t see anything but the voice was a barking growl. Far too reminiscent of a Disney movie to be scary.

    “Hey! HEY! Over here,” I said. I wished I could flail my arms but my moment of distraction cost me dearly. Another barrel of water slapped me head-on and this time I emerged choking and vomiting. My head was spinning as I struggled to breathe. My coughing only awarded me a precious sliver of air before I was pummeled once again. This time I felt as though I might pass out.

    “Arr, what’s she doing up here? No wonder the wave’s ar’ howlin’! Get the witch below!”

    I felt heavy hands on my shoulders but at that moment I decided to pass out.

    I awoke to the splash of cold water.

    Oh no…

    “Wake up ya’ filth’e braid.”

    What did you just call me?

    I opened my eyes, instinctively glaring at whomever it was that had just called me a “braid.” Mind you, I had no idea what a braid was but I didn’t like his tone.

    “Huh huh huh,” chuckled the very fat… well, pirate who stood before me.

    Now, at this point three things crossed my mind. I had either a) lost my goddamn mind after math class, b) fallen asleep and this was a very elaborate and convincing dream, or c) I shouldn’t have eaten that magical meatloaf. I know what you’re thinking. Dreaming? Of course you’re dreaming! But in fact, I think it had more to do with the meatloaf than any of that.

    It was Susie who convinced me to eat it. We had snuck into the “Magical Nightmares and Mystics” shop a few spots down from our high school. Mr. Bubbon doesn’t like us and always chases us out once he finds us in there. But we always make a try for it because this shop is cool. Shelves and shelves of skulls, dried out parrot wings, relics of lost tribes, carvings of gruesome tortures, the list goes on and on. So we went in there yesterday and displayed on a large table in the front of the shop was a lump of… well at first we didn’t know what it was. But the big colorful sign (very unlike Mr. Bubbon) said “Magical, Mysterious, Meat-Loaf? Try it if you DARE.” It took a few minutes to calm our choking laughter but Susie instantly adopted that infuriating “I triple-doggie-double-damn-dare-you.” Who could say no?

    “’Ey! Oy, they din’ tell me you ‘ere slow,” growled the pirate. I wrinkled my nose. His teeth had clearly never seen a toothbrush and he had a large amount of black hair springing up from the collar of his leather vest. But no eye patch. I don’t think I could have stood an eye patch.

    “Hey! I’m not slow,” I said. The pirate crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow. He was clearly skeptical.

    Hey, where am I anyway,” I asked, though part of me was afraid to know.

    “You’re ‘ere as a right exampl’,” he said.

    “A who in the what?” None of this was making any sense and I supposed the meatloaf could have been poisoned. Leave it to Mr. Bubbon to have such a rotten sense of humor. Speaking of rotten…

    “Eat,” he said and dropped a plate at my feet. I realized then that I was no longer tied and then I realized that the plate was covered with stinking fish. Not in the “oh I don’t like fish” kind of way. More in the “there’s something wrong with this sewer dweller.”

    The pirate walked away, swinging a large loop on which a bunch of keys whirled around.

    “Hey! HEY!” He ignored me, climbing the stairs. I heard a loud bang of a door slamming. Glancing around it was clear I was in the belly of the ship. Barrels, boxes, and a pile of nets made this scenario far too cliché to be real. Personally I don’t buy into the pinching yourself thing but I gave it a shot just to be sure.

    Now that I had a bruise I stood up. My stomach was growling. Half in hunger and half with nausea from the rotten smell of the fish.

    “Hey you,” came a voice. It whispered from behind a stack of boxes. My disorientation must have made me reckless because I poked my head around the corner without thinking.


    My head spun as I hit the deck, literally. It was difficult to stay conscious but my anger was a motivating factor. The whole situation was getting on my nerves.

    “What the hell…” I sat up, grabbing a barrel for support. Stooped over my plate and up to his eyeballs in fish was the tiniest man I had ever seen. The top of his head was bald and bright orange hair sprouted from his ears. His ears were pointed. He looked up and shrieked, scampering back to his hiding spot.

    “Hey what’s the big idea?” I said. He didn’t answer.

    I was about to march over there and give him a piece of my mind when I heard the door in the distance open.

    “Oy!” said the now familiar pirate.

    “Oy yourself,” I said. I was feeling very grumpy about the whole thing.

    He marched over and grabbed me by the arm, making as though he was going to drag me back up the stairs.

    “Lemme GO!” I shrieked and soon reduced myself to a flailing, screaming bundle. I was vaguely reminded of a toddler in a toy store but I tried to ignore that. The pirate was however unfazed and hoisted me up over his shoulder, completely numb to the pounding I gave his back and neck. As soon as we exited the cellar, I could tell we were up top. The smell of salt air swirled around me and the distant roar of cresting waves was familiar. Looking around feeling panicky I was relieved to see that the storm had dissipated, leaving nothing but blue skies and clear waters. The pirate dropped me to the deck, instantly popping my bubble of relief.

    “Hey! Why’s everyone got to stomp about and make such a big deal?” His hulking “oog, me pirate” routine was very irritating. But he only shrugged and moved off to the side of the ship. Then I realized that I was completely surrounded by a rather large group of… you guessed it, pirates. They were growling and chuckling. One even had a… I hate to say it, parrot on his shoulder. Disney was definitely going to have to pursue a trademark infringement here.

    “Excellent. So did you find the meatloaf to your liking?”

    I whipped around and saw Mr. Bubbon seated on a large throne-like chair. Except he was no longer the pinch-faced, wiry keeper of the shop. His cheeks were flushed out and rosy, shining above his large black beard. He also had a peg-leg. If he had had an eye-patch, I would have lost it.

    “YOU. What the hell did you do to me?” I said. The pirates burst into raucous laughter.

    “Well, it is a simple thing really,” he said, now rising from his seat. His peg-leg thumped gently against the wooden deck. “Day in and day out I have tried to keep you out of my shop. Your friends and their sticky fingers have gone far enough! So I brought you here to teach you what happens to thieves on Black Beard’s boat!” I snorted.

    “Black beard? Wow, you’re dripping with originality. Think of that all by yourself?” I couldn’t help it. This was all his fault!

    “Bring him!” Mr. Bubbon shouted and a pirate appeared, clutching the small man with the hairy ears. The man’s eyes were wide, black dots in a sea of white.

    “To the plank!” The pirates roared in approval and one cuffed me over the head. I made to swing at him but he grabbed my fist and dragged me toward the edge of the large ship. Sure enough a plank jutted from its side and at the one end quivered the tiny speck of a man. He didn’t look like a very good swimmer.

    From behind him, two pirates had drawn their swords and had them pointed at his back. They slowly brought it forward inch by inch and the man was forced to scoot further and further down the plank. A gust of wind ruffled my hair and he screamed, clutching the edges of the board. Far below him I could see the tell-tale fins of sharks.

    “Puh-puhlease!” The man was crying now, big fat tears that rolled down his thin face. A particularly vicious poke from the pirate behind him and the man lost his balance. As he hit the water, the tails of the awaiting sharks thrashed about and a dark red stain began to spread. I felt sick.

    “Now if you please,” Mr. Bubbon was saying.

    “If I please what?”

    “Well it’s your turn of course.”

    “WHAT?! You can’t possibly mean to throw me off this ship!” I cried, now clinging to the pirate who held me. He pushed me away, looking disgusted. They were crowding around me, shoving me to the ship’s edge. I was forced to back up, slowly stepping onto the plank as the two pirates flashed their swords at me.

    “Mr… Mr. Bubbon, wait. We don’t have to do this. I’m sorry about the store, honest to God I am,” I said. People will say anything when they’re at the brink of death.

    “Oh really?” Mr. Bubbon paused, stroking his magnificent beard with his greasy fingers. “You… promise?”

    “Sure, sure yeah, I promise I’ll never go near your shop again!”

    He smiled darkly.


    And suddenly one of the pirates shoved me off the plank.

    “WAAAAIII— ”

    “What the hell are you doing?”

    I sat up, my heart pounding in my chest. Susie was standing over me looking revolted. I had been drooling. I quickly wiped my mouth and looked around. The gentle green grass of the soccer field was still damp and when I stood, my butt had a wet stain. Susie smirked.

    “You missed the English test. In fact, school’s over already.”

    I shook my head. It was all too unreal. I could still taste the salt wate—

    “Hey, are you okay? Like really, you’re all bug-eyed,” Susie said, peering at me suspiciously.

    “No, no, I’m good,” I said, even though I felt like anything but.

    “Heeey, you wanna go to the shop?” Susie said with an evil twinkle in her eye.

    “NO!” I shouted. Susie jumped back looking alarmed.

    “I mean, uh, no. I think I’m gonna go home. And uh, I think I’m gonna start reviewing for that English test.”

    Susie stood there looking utterly bewildered as I walked away, rubbing the three red teeth-marks imprinted on my forearm.
  4. Chef Dave

    Chef Dave Member

    Jul 31, 2008
    Likes Received:
    Southeastern Arizona
    The Marrietta is a wallowing old M class freighter out of Capella. Built during the period of the Second Diaspora, her keel was laid over three hundred and seventy five years ago ... and she doesn't look a day over three hundred and fifty.

    Pitted by debris, scorched by repeated landings, and jury rigged to run on components and systems that were never built for an M class ship, she crawls along at speeds that are laughable by modern standards. Unable to compete with the freighters of the inner systems who have faster legs and better carrying capacity, the Marrietta has long since been reduced to running cargo on the outer rim.

    Like the ship herself, her crew is old and tired. Originally built for a crew of ten that included officers and crew, the Marrietta now runs with a crew of one. That would be me, George Jones. I'm the captain, engineer, cargo master, purser, cook, and chief bottle washer all rolled into one. The automated systems that have been invented to reduce crew workloads over the last three hundred years are truly wonderful things. When they work, I can pretty much run this tub by myself.

    Take my freight loading system by way of example. The cargo is stowed and offloaded by a Mashimoto 248 cargo processor. As cargo pallets come up the bow ramp on our conveyor belt, the processor scans the bar codes of each module to identify contents and weight. Robotic forklifts then pick up the pallets and distribute them throughout the cargo hold as directed by the system. At least, that's whats SUPPOSED to happen. In reality, the Mashimoto is an antiquated piece of junk that goes into electronic hysterics if I try and load too many pieces of cargo at one time.

    The inertial compensator in the aft hold isn't reliable beyond five gravities. If I accelerate beyond a crawl and the compensator fails, delicate cargo is broken. Modular containers made with high density plastic are crushed to shards. Anyone in that section would be be smashed against a bulkhead or worse.

    My braking thrusters are also a bit wonky. Lose the port side and the starboard thrusters will push us in circles. Lose the starboard thrusters and we'll spin the other way. To compensate for this problem, the old girl has a magnetic anchor. On the rare occasions that I'm allowed to make a powered approach a space station, I come in slow, cut my engines, initiate thrust, and pray. If that doesn't work, I drop anchor and the heavy magnet will clamp onto the station and jerk this old tub to a stop.

    The anchor is actually quite reliable but station masters being the petty tyrants they are, most have long since banned the Marrietta from making a manual approach. These stations now have tugs to bring the old gal in.

    Still, this tub knows a few tricks or two.

    I was on approach to Cygnus-3 with a load of iron ingots when a pirate jumped me. He'd been hiding on the fringe of an asteroid belt where the iron rocks could hide him from ship sensors ... not that my long range sensors would have spotted him since they haven't worked in the last five years.

    I was standing watch when the radio crackled, "Unknown M class freighter, you are under our guns! Heave to and stand by to be boarded!"

    Shoving an empty ration pack off the control console, I pressed a greasy button. "Cap'n Jones here of the Marrietta. Who're you? Identify, over." I blew a puff of smoke overhead. The overhead scrubber wheezed as it tried to absorb the smoke from my cigar.

    There was a flare as a missile was launched from the pirate vessel. The proximity alarm wailed as the rocket crossed my bow and exploded at close range, just one hundred kilometers away.

    I stabbed the communication button. "Cease fire! I say again, cease fire! This is the freighter Marrietta. We'll heave to but it'll take some time. This tub has got a lot of velocity on her. We surrender. I say again, we surrender, over."

    The radio crackled. "Marrietta, Marrietta, begin braking now. Stand by to be boarded. We will shoot anyone who resists!"

    I clamped my cigar between my teeth and checked the short range senors. The screen was blank. I thumped it with a spatial wrench and the screen flickered to life. A cargo shuttle was crawling up my stern.

    I pressed the communication button. "Unknown shuttle, unknown shuttle, this is the freighter Marrietta. Please dock at the stern lock."

    "Marrietta, Marrietta, this is the boarding party. You are under our guns and we'll dock where we d**n well please!"

    "Boarding party, this is the Marrietta. Stet that we're under your guns but please understand that this is an old vessel. The locking mechanism on the bow lock doesn't work. You're welcome to dock there if you'd like, but you'll have to burn your way in. The stern lock works. Dock where you will, over."

    The radio crackled static. I thumped it with my wrench. "...stood that the stern lock is operational. Will dock there. Anyone who resists will be shot. Boarding party, out."

    I waited as the cargo shuttle matched speeds. The light on the control panel for the stern airlock switched from green to red as the boarding party entered the lock. It flickered green again as the inner door opened. I watched on a security monitor as pirates spilled into the aft cargo bay. The bastards were wearing powered space armor, but no matter. I pulled a lever.

    As the Marrietta surged ahead at maximum speed, the inertial compensator in the aft cargo bay failed. The pirates were smashed against the stern bulkhead. At fifty gravities it didn't matter whether or not they were wearing space armor. Even though I didn't see what actually happened because the security camera shorted out, I knew that at fifty gravities, human flesh would have been pulped into so much strawberry jam.

    Moving more quickly than I've moved in years, I turned the Marrietta towards the pirates, released the magnetic clamps in the forward cargo hold, opened the bow cargo door, crossed my fingers, and fired my braking thrusters. I also dropped anchor. The anchor rocketed off towards a nearby asteroid where it clamped tight and for a miracle, the thrusters actually worked.

    As the ship slowed, the iron ingots in the forward hold flew out the bow cargo door. The Marrietta shuddered as the anchor tether yanked her off her heading and swung her around in a rapid arc. There was a startled squawk on the radio that ended as several tons of cargo smashed into the pirate vessel and ripped it to pieces.

    I thought about salvaging the ingots but decided not to bother. I don't suppose that you know of anyone who's in the market for a used cargo shuttle and a dozen pieces of slightly messy powered space armor? :)

    Author's note: This was my first foray into science fiction. It was a lot of fun! It took me about an hour to knock off. I subsequently spent another hour editing and revising it.
  5. CDRW

    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

    Apr 16, 2008
    Likes Received:
    My friends, I hope that my presence here today will be welcomed and not a cause of contention or strife for you. I call you my friends because I hope, or in other words, I have cause to hope that we will leave this table in the bonds of friendship and not with a spirit of evil feeling.

    My name is Aldanes, and I was once a Captain in the Army of Edarra. You may not have heard the tale of Edarra for it is far away from these lands, so I will relate it to you now if you will permit, for I was present at the destruction of that great nation so many years ago. This is a tale that causes me much grief, but perhaps it will serve as a warning to all who let contention enter into their hearts.

    It was in the one hundred and twenty first year of the reign of the New Kingdom when the King of the land, Antarius, entered into warfare with his brother Eedekiah, for Edekiah coveted his brother’s kingdom for himself and had striven to slay the king by means of a traitorous servant that Antarius trusted dearly.

    When King Antarius discovered the plot he executed the servant and sent his armies to battle in the lands of his brother.

    Edekiah met the armies of Antarius in battle by the river Edarra which separated the lands of the King from his own lands. Both armies fought like lions for their prey, and there was much bloodshed that day, but the armies of Edekiah prevailed over the armies of the King Antarius. On that day the King swore in his wrath that he would slay his brother with his own hands and drink his blood.

    The King gathered together more armies and went up to war against his brother. He met him in the valley of Piolder and there entered into even greater slaughter. The armies of the brother of the King began to flee, and the King pursued them until the armies of Edekiah turned and met the King in battle once again. I myself was present in that battle, and am among the few who did not perish. That day neither side prevailed. On the second day they went up to battle again, and still neither side prevailed against the other. On the third day there were few men left, and both armies returned to their lands to obtain reinforcements. Twenty and four thousand of the men of the King perished in the battle of Piolder, and thirty and one thousand of the men of Edekiah.

    When the people heard of the defeat of their armies and the betrayal of the Kings brother they rose up in mighty anger against the people of Edekaiah. Many people enlisted, and the ranks of the army were swollen beyond capacity. That is when I myself became a Captain.

    We went up to battle again, and again both sides were nearly destroyed from off the face of the earth. So great was the hatred of the Kings brother Edekiah and his people that they swore an oath that they would never rest until the King was slain and his bones scattered to the far corners of the earth. Once again the armies came together and nearly all were slain, but the armies of Edekiah drove back the armies of King Antarius until they could flee no longer.

    A call to arms went up among all the people of both lands. The armies of the King and the armies of Edekiah swept the land from the sea east to the sea west, and from the land of snow in the north to the sea in the south until there was not any person who had not allied himself to the cause of the King or his brother.

    I hang my head in shame to say that I myself was caught up in this scene of hatred and bloodshed, and I myself did much to further the cause of the King, calling many to his cause against his brother.

    Five years passed, and there was no one, man, woman, or child, upon the face of the land who had not been swept up by one side or the other. The day finally came when the armies of the people met in the valley of Dertion by the hill Cintilillion. From horizon to horizon the armies stretched, innumerable as the sands of the sea. That day we fought ferociously with the sword and with the axe. That day six hundred and thirty and five thousand of my people fell beneath the strokes of the armies of Edekiah. We fought until we could fight no more. My own arm was as a leaden weight and I fought from the dawn to the falling of the sun.

    That night a great lamentation rose up among our people. They mourned the loss of their men and their women and their children, and their hatred grew stronger for that loss. I myself was caught up in that hatred, and it grew to eternal proportions when I observed a boy of ten years old trying to save the life of his brother who had taken a mortal wound in the heart. That boy of ten did not save his brother, and when his brother died, he took up his sword and made an oath that on the morrow either Edekiah would perish, or he would. I promised that boy that I would help him get his revenge, and I took him into my own unit, for his had perished in the battle.

    All the next day we fought, neither side giving ground or turning to the side. That night we slept on our swords, and on the morrow we rose once again to do battle. For nearly a week we fought, neither side moving, until on the evening of the sixth day the armies of Edekiah began to flee, for Edekiah had taken a grievous wound in the leg. We gave pursuit and engaged them once again in the valley of Piolder, but we were wearied by the long march, and the armies of Edekiah turned us back.

    On the morning of the seventh day I began to see what was happening to my people, and I had great cause to repent, for I had been responsible for the deaths of many of my brethren. On that day I laid down my sword, and refused to take it up again. I was taken and bound, ready to be executed, but the armies of Edekiah attacked once more and I was spared because all men who could fight were needed, so no one was left to guard me.

    King Antarius ordered his men to pursue the armies when they fled, and I was left behind with others who had refused to take up their arms. We waited there for many weeks and never did the battle return to us. I could not rest without knowing what had happened, so I followed the trail of carnage and bloodshed until I came to the valley of the river Edarra. There I witnessed the remains of the battle. On the morning of the third day of the fifth month I saw with my own eyes the King rise and give battle against his brother with only fifty and five men. The King’s brother had forty and three men left. King Antarius smote his brother in the side with his sword, and Edekiah struggled for breath and died. The troops of Edekiah fled and the King pursued and gave battle until all men on both sides perished.

    That year saw the destruction of my people and my nation. When the fighting had ended, more than three millions of my countrymen had perished by the sword.

    My brethren and my friends, I plead with you to remember Edarra, and do not make the mistake that we made. Keep hatred out of your hearts, do not seek bloodshed. Live in peace.
  6. PfatBudz

    PfatBudz New Member

    Aug 8, 2008
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    *falls in through the door with a loud clamour, dripping of the rain that has been traveled through*

    "A safehaven, praise the fates!" I say as I look around at the patrons barely glancing up from their flagons "My name is _____ and I have a tale of a land called ______"

    "You may not understand this tale, for I barely understand it still"

    "I have only just returned to this continent and the lands I have witnessed are experiencing the revival of an ancient civil war, and know one really knows why"

    The bartender just shrugs and waits to hear another outlandish tale, wishing these drunkards could keep things to local so he wouldnt have to think about that twisted world outside.

    "I was a crew member on a trade vessel and halfway across the sea we came under the wrath of Poseidon and ended up shattered by a viscious storm, I awoke on the shore of a strange land that seemed almost barren but I noticed a small city on the horizon. Seemed like luck at first, to be washed up so close to civilization."

    "I began a hike across the plains and eventual came upon a city that revealed itself to be all but demolished."

    "Exploring the city for long enough I eventually came upon a convoy heading north towards what they told me was a border to the land of ______."

    "The family that noticed me and welcomed me into the group was very kind and generous with many blankets and warm bowls of broth to heal me from the cold, they may very well have saved my life."

    "I inquired as to why they seemed to be fleeing and a woman who must have been the mother from the family that found me filled me in on just a few years of the history that led up to this."

    This is what she relayed to me: "We are one of three cities within the province of ______. A little under two decades ago this province won its sovereignty in a long and desperate civil war, but our city of _____ declared itself independent of both lands along with two others along the border. The lands to the north from which this province separated from has always honored our wishes to remain independent and while they have made diplomatic attempts to gain our favor they have never attempted to force us into their ranks. But just recently the lands of _____ in which our cities lie have begun to make forceful attempts to gain control and turn us into cities of their nation. This is why we flee, we would rather make our own decision as to who to join rather than submit or die"

    "I felt sickened to think of what kind of monster attacks a people that only wish to keep to themselves."

    “After pondering this for only a few moments a sudden bombardment erupted and the front of the convoy was laid to waste, the man in charge in the vehicle I was riding in got on the radio and contacted a group that was on the way to guard the convoy, they said they were two miles out and we would have to make it as far as we could or we would surely just be destroyed.”
    “We continued on and while we lost 2 more vehicles along the way we still contained 5 vehicles with 11 families when we met a troop from the Northern Province that had been sent out to take the refugees in and allow the safe passage on into the north”
    “It wasn’t much more distance until we reached the protected lands north of the border but we still came under attack one more time. The troop we traveled with fought valiantly and lost a few soldiers in order to keep us safe and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in a territory that was relatively calm, past the border that separated ______ from _____.”

    “After everything was settled I was taken to a military camp in order to be questioned. After being detained for a few hours it was made clear that I was no threat and they offered me passage on one of their sea vessels back to my home continent. They left me on the shore because, as they explained, their name had been very much besmirched for many years and if they went any farther they would most likely be called combatants and attacked”

    “So here I am, this is the closest establishment I could find after walking for hours, I plead that anyone who hears this takes a close look at the latest war that is just now erupting on this planet.”
    “Also, may I rent a bed? I am the worst kind of weary.”
  7. Zieki

    Zieki Member

    Jul 25, 2008
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    She stared at the back of the dark man’s shaved head as magnificent words spilled from his mouth, charged into the silent crowd, and probed gently at their innermost sensibilities. She couldn’t understand his brilliant tongue, but she could hear the practiced oration and innate charm in his voice.

    “…victynim per’Kiugna synmar. Ityn’nos amyn essynmar.” He spoke in somewhat muted tones, but the words carried beyond even the furthest reaches of the crowd that had gathered around the city’s main steppes. He stemmed the flow of his words just long enough for the entirety of the crowd to shout back, “Ityn’nos amyn essynmar.”

    “Yes we can,” her translator leaned over, placing his mouth next to her ear so that she could hear him. She imagined that the wind which tousled her hair and rustled the sleeves of her delicate dress was caused by the magnitude of the crowd’s uproar. She smiled, continuing to watch the back of the dark man’s head and nodded, acknowledging that she understood the translation. The translator moved away, again sitting upright in his chair.

    Anna broke her stare off and looked down on the masses. She recognized a few in the front row, a small enough bunch that she could count them on her fingers. Beyond them, though, stood the thousands who had stopped their work, come in from the fields and the small villages that surrounded the capitol to witness their leader speak. Their dark faces were turned up towards hers, though she knew none had eyes for her. The brightness of their eyes startled her; they recognized the winds of change as easily as she did. Guards were stationed around the base of the steppes, their gold cloaks and dyed hair marking them as part of the royal retinue. They would not be able to hold back a surge had the crowd decided to rush up at those who sat at the top of the steppes, towards the one they called Zieki. They wouldn’t have to.

    She heard again the echoed cry, “Ityn’nos amyn essynmar.” Yes we can. Her translator babbled a constant stream of words into her right ear, but she did not hear them. What good were the words of her tongue when they didn’t carry the credence of the words that were spoken here today? The dark man, standing at the top of the steppes, looking down on his people continued to speak, slithering his golden tongue in ways Anna couldn’t imagine. His words were bright as stars descended from above; they carried the weight of nations on nothing more than a platform of air and promises.

    The once silent crowd began to rustle. It was subtle at first, but it rose like the coming of some imminent storm as the dark man finally raised his voice to a shout. He barked out his words, lending significance to each one as the avalanche of cacophony fell around him. The crowd was a wave, rising up before its doomed crash to shore, but they knew their leader would not let them crash; they would not scrape the sandy shells below. He made their dissonance a symphony, a pearl wrought from a grain of sand, a hope brought forth from the depths of desperation. Raising his arms above his head in a salute to the citizenry and deities combined, the dark man shouted once more, “Ityn’nos amyn essynmar.”

    Anna’s hair stood on end at the unanimous resonance of the people. She almost wanted to join them. Ityn’nos amyn essynmar. Yes we can. But as the dark man turned away from his people, she heard his muttered undertone, somehow carrying not outwards toward the crowd but back towards her. “Eamar.” She looked to her translator who watched the speech with overt approval. His narrow, pointed tongue sticking between his teeth, he smiled in the fashion of his people as he turned to her and said, “We must.”
  8. Elton

    Elton New Member

    Dec 19, 2008
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    The Last Ferry

    Large, white-crusted waves pounded the pier below. The sky mimicked the ocean with tumbling clouds of white and gray toward twilight, dumping and endless deluge of cold rain. The old man watched drops click against the age-old window. It was glass, an original relic from ages past. He scratched at his chin through wisps of greying hair. Peering at the fierce current below, the water was beginning to crash against the cliff on which the Old Home Inn sat.

    My name is Captain Edmund Heat of the Black Lady, the last ferry, though the name will mean nothing at all very soon, the old man thought to himself.

    This pub had been here since well before humans began to leave. The irony was that this part of land was once known for the earliest settlers that called this once proud country home for a plethora of different races was now the Eastern Zone designated for transportation to a new home far, oh so far away. The old man looked to the sky again. Perhaps sensing his wondernment, clouds rolled clear of the moon. It felt that you could almost see the distance growing as it pulled away, desperately searching for another orbit. But once more, the sky shifted more clouds in his view, and the moon was gone. Gone, the old man thought. As it will certainly be in a few years.

    The old man closed his eyes as a waft of sea breeze whispered in through a crack in the window sill. Good lord, would he miss that smell. He grabbed his glass of beer and stared at the suds along the rim and took a whiff of the last remaining sips. He tried to catalog the aroma of hops and barley so that one day he could come back to it, at least in memories. Finishing the last of the beer, he set the glass down and looked around the room. People were smiling. He found this extremely curious. Despite the Storm and the Departure, people still somehow found something to smile about. Amazing.

    But the smile won't last, the pessimistic side of his brain rationalized. Soon, they will be completely horrified and seemingly lost in a black expanse of nothingness for several years, and they will lose faith and they will lose hope. The old man's nerves got the best of him, and his hands started shaking. Violently, the table followed. He lifted his hands, but the shaking continued, growing louder.

    He looked outside the window again. There was a soft spot of white that blinked behind a clump of clouds. Something like a smile stiffened on his face. He watched as a bright light cut through a shallow cloud and danced around the side of the cliff. The light was searching for something, and then, another arc of light connected sky and cliff. There was a loud humming noise that was companion to the vibration.

    The clouds began to swirl, clockwise, and became womb-like as a large object was spewed forth. Collected rain on the ship's hull and body waste was ejected like the placenta, and the two beeming lights came together on a particular spot just above the cliff face. And then, the old man's eyes shifted to the spot. And once connected, and warm red light shot out towards the ship - the dock had located the ship, and would begin to anchor her in.

    People in the pub became excited. They spoke of the final Departure. Their Ferry had finally arrived. The old man listened intently to their conversations. Here were the last remaining humans in America. Soon to be exiles on a planet quickly extinguishing life as her rotating cousin spun out of control, soon to leave Earth's orbit. As the Ferry sailed overhead toward the dock, ancient pictures of George Washington and Barack Obama and The One Who United Earth fell from the walls, their frames shattering on the old wooden floor.

    The old man grabbed a worn cap and placed it on his head. Somewhere in the pub a man called out for everyone to leave orderly, and that it would take a couple of hours to replenish the ship's energy cells, and that there were thousands of passengers topside awaiting to board as well. But, as the old man looked around, he noticed the people slow to leave. Most, in fact, were still seated. Being the last remaining humans on the planet assigned for transportation, they seemed united. Someone met eyes with the old man, and said, "After you, Captain."
  9. Okie

    Okie Member

    Mar 30, 2009
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    Tulsa, OK
    From one of the rear tables in the tavern, a scrawny figure stood. “Gentlemen, if I may?” He approached and came to stand at the head of the table, leaning on a long wooden staff for balance. His chilling gaze slowly rounded the table, resting briefly on the eyes of each captain in the assembly. “I too am a captain of sorts. I am a ferry man. Let me tell you a story. Perhaps you can guess my name.” The gaunt fingers of his pale hand gently placed two gold coins on the table and he began to speak in a cold, raspy voice.

    It was a long time ago, and yet, maybe just yesterday. Time has no meaning on the river.

    I had just moored my vessel, preparing to take on a new wave of travelers. There always were more awaiting my return from the island. They all seemed to be patient enough, with the exception of one man. He was pleasant on the eye, and in his hand he held a golden lyre. He paid his fare, 2 golden coins, and we set off towards the isle again. The young man sat at the ferries bow and with his gilded instrument, he sang verses. In my never ending days I have not heard such sadness. He was a man, to be sure, but with the power to make the muses cry. I myself may have wiped a grain of sand from my lashes. Finally I could not hold it in any longer. I had to ask him why he was stricken with such melancholy. With his sad eyes he looked at me, I will never forget the moment. And he simply said “She is lost to me.” I was relieved when the island came in sight, and we were docked again. He left my boat, and I knew I would never see him again.

    Several passes across the river went by. Filled with travelers on the way there, empty on the way back. No one ever returns from the island. Imagine my surprise when I see the young man on the wooden dock on the wrong side of the river. His lyre in his left, and the hand of a beautiful young woman on his right. This was unheard of. He told me he was bringing her back. I just shook my head at him. Not possible. But he had permission to do so. You see, he played his verses for the gods of the isle, and they took mercy on his plea. They were permitting her to return. I found it odd he never once glanced at her at all, she was stunningly beautiful. His gaze never left my eyes, all the way across the river. It was eerie for certain. Again we moored on the other side of the river, and the man led his beautiful woman up the path. I stared after them for a while, I could not help myself. Finally they reached the gate, the one to the other side, and the man stepped through. He turned as if to guide her for the final step. I swear to you, by all the gods above and below, the woman vanished. The Gate closed and I never saw either of them again.

    No one has ever come back from the island before, or since.

    Again the pale old mans eyes found each captains here, and he nodded solemnly. “This is my story, Gentlemen. I thank you for your time." He then turned slowly and bracing himself on the wooden staff he had been leaning on, he walked out of the door. The two gold coins still gleaming on the captains table.
  10. Taino

    Taino Member

    Jun 22, 2009
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    Under the Umbrella

    I just joined and this is my first post, hopefully not my last.

    Under the Umbrella

    “For a long time, eons it seems sometimes, I’ve commanded the finest ship that ever sailed the seven seas,” the braggart captain of a tub named ‘The Liberty’ started, before taking a shot of many to come at a spittoon some six feet away from where he sat hoping to get drunk.

    I, Cofresí, Captain of the truly finest ship which has ever cruised any ocean or sea, got comfortable in my seat to listen to the braggart’s half-truths.

    “I will never forget a seemingly innocent episode that I witnessed in one godforsaken port, the name of which may God strike from His ledgers,” the wind bag continued. “Although, I suppose I should mention that the port was in one of the many colonies held by the British Crown at the time, a fact that I’m sure you’ll all be able to easily guess.

    Mrs. Shuttlecock was fond of a cup of tea every single morning and it didn’t matter if she went without another for the rest of the day. She had just finished her morning tea. “Oh, my! Look at the time,” she said to herself and ran to the window.

    She opened it and craned her neck trying to see around the corner. The street disappeared a block away just a few meters into the bend.

    “Ah, there you are,” Mrs. Shuttlecock whispered, as if afraid the object of her curiosity was somehow listening to her words.

    A woman—the person under the umbrella was surely a woman, Mrs. Shuttlecock thought—turned the corner, hurrying down the steep cobbled street. An open umbrella obscured the upper part of the woman’s body. The only portion of the person under the umbrella Mrs. Shuttlecock could see from her vantage point were the woman’s worn-out leather shoes and a long, ample skirt made of a flowing black material that almost touched the ground. She probably wouldn’t be able to see the woman’s face if she went downstairs and lay on the stones, Mrs. Shuttlecock thought.

    She had been a late sleeper until the morning she heard the racket and got up to investigate. The whole neighborhood, it seemed, had spilled onto the narrow street to look at the woman under the umbrella, or rather the umbrella over the woman, hurrying down the street. The bright-red umbrella was deep, more like an upside down cone.

    For the next three mornings, Mrs. Shuttlecock got up just in time to look out the window and catch a glimpse of the strange woman who strode down the sidewalk in front of her flat every morning at the same early hour. She always looked at the woman from the safety of her parlor window and wondered what the woman looked like.

    Mrs. Shuttlecock was a childless widow with no one to answer to; she was also a busybody without equal. Therefore, one day she resolved to see the woman’s face. That night, she went to bed earlier than ever. She planned to get up before the sun rose and be ready to go downstairs to wait for the mysterious woman under the umbrella.

    Next morning, Mrs. Shuttlecock was up at the break of dawn. She had her tea and went downstairs to wait for the woman.

    Moments later, the woman appeared barreling down the sidewalk, her umbrella apparently blocking her view.

    Mrs. Shuttlecock stood in the center of the sidewalk, smack in the rushing woman’s way.

    Just as it appeared as if she would trample over Mrs. Shuttlecock, the woman stopped. She slowly lifted the umbrella and looked up.

    A hint of a smile graced the thinnest lips Mrs. Shuttlecock had ever seen. The face—long and haggard—was the face of a witch, the regulation hairy mold on the tip of her ridiculously long nose included.

    Mrs. Shuttlecock brought a hand to her mouth to stifle a cry of horror as she took a step back away from the woman. An earnest urge to run away took hold of her senses, but pity for the wretched soul under the umbrella took precedence over the unfounded terror that she felt, and she stood her ground.

    “I was curious to know who passed under my window at the same hour without fail every day,” Mrs. Shuttlecock said in a tiny voice.

    The woman just stared at Mrs. Shuttlecock, her gaunt, skeletal face a sneak preview of what the grim reaper might look like.

    “You look famished,” Mrs. Shuttlecock said. “Would you care to come in for a bite?”

    “A bite? Yes, a bite,” the woman said, eagerly snapping together two rows of very sharp canines.
  11. jonathan hernandez13

    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

    May 12, 2009
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    Mount Vernon New York
    The Isle of Eternal Youth

    (Captain Cion MacLiar is a solitary figure in a corner surrounded in shadows, he takes a drink from his drinking horn and recalls a tale)

    Ti's no happy tale that I am about to tell, but a tale of lament as true as it is bitter a thing to recall. For me and my men as well, aye, I tell this tale at their behest as much as mine. Perchance it may mend old wounds to tell it, perchance I am a madman with a mad tale to tell. I'll leave it to you to decide.

    Perhaps my eyes and ears and nose all lie, and my mind swims in the murky waters of madness. Yet there is no cure or remedy that can rob me of the keen details. No song or charm can bring back happiness for me or any of my men.

    We left our homes and our families one day, for the lonliness of the open seas, for the promise of enterprise. We found courage and friendship with each other, and the waves lapped at the hull of our ship like the tongue of a loving hound as we left farther and farther from our emerald isle.

    How far had we travelled? Very far indeed. So far they we left storm and shadow behind and found tranquility. Found peace in still green waters as clear as crystal, and were cooled by sea mists as soft as a seabird's breath. We could find naught sign or direction, but coasted aimlessy for days before we caught sight of a shore wreathed in glowing mists.

    You will surely call me mad for saying all this, but it is the truth and no lie at all to say that we alighted on the shores of an enchanted isle. I looked straight into their amethyst eyes, and they looked back into mine. They showed us kindness and welcome the kind that is only found among close family. They welcomed us in their homes and urged us to drink what they drank and eat what the ate. When we asked them the name of the drink and the meal they told us 'ignorant bliss' and 'forgetfulness' We laughed and ate and drank, and sang ther songs, and slept with their women. How heavenly were their voices, how angelic were their women!

    Long ago had we forgotten about our families back home, long ago forgotten the shape of our houses and the soft touch of our babies' skin. I spoke long and earnestly with their wisest elders, they told me thngs that no wise man of our time knows. They told me of blades of grass that can be plucked from the ground, which can be rubbed on the skin to heal a wound. They told me the name of each elder race that lived before the flood, and a few that have lived ever since, on other isles. They told me which spirits of the forests were friends, and which were enemies, and how to deal with each and every one as I met them, but I can't remember now.

    They talked and talked, and the more I learned, the more I forgot. My head was full to the brim of unearthly knowledge. But on some mornings, on the edge of dream, I remembered my home. My loved ones seemed far away from me and I could not remember the color of their hair or the shape of their face. I could say a name on a good day, but it would sound like a foreign word to me. I told all of this to the elders and they responded in sooth. The day would come when not only could I not remember the shape of their face or the sound of their name but even the love that I felt for them would fade. 'For this' thus they spake, 'is the land of the eternally young, the isle of eternal youth'.

    Me and my men ached in our memory, and in our memory felt sorrow. We could not leave the heavenly folk, but could not live without holding our loved ones in our arms again. We loaded our ship with all kinds of goods, and tended to sails that we had not handled in so long. We sailed and sailed until we reached the edge of the world, and sailed some more. Past green, blue, and clear waters, past waters that have no name and odd fish or foreign masters. We sailed on and on until we met with storm, and hardships, and knew that we had again entered into our world.

    We made our way to our beloved Emerald Isle, but were so used to the enchanted Isle that our homes seemed like muck. We searched every corner of our isle for our loved ones and our homes, but found instead only strangers with odd dress and customs, and every monuments seemed different. I found my beloved in a cemetary along with my oldest child. Our home belongs now to another master, and my youngest children are older than me. They are feeble old things with grey skin and blind eyes that cannot remember the sound of their father's voice. For we had lived in the isle of the eternally young and had not aged a day while everyone else has aged accordingly.

    We have since left the emerald isle and have sailed in every direction, but in vain. We have never found the enchanted Isle again, and perhaps never will. The way to that far pier is lost to us, once we knew the way, but we have since forgotten.
  12. Yxes1122

    Yxes1122 New Member

    Sep 23, 2009
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    Changing Tides.

    Well, I found that having this outside was kind of an eyesore, so I quoted it. I wrote it, but i think this might make it a little bit prettier to read. Well, not that much, but I think it helps if only a little. So this is completely mine, you can probably tell by the amateur nature of the writing, and this was mostly a practice for a single writing technique for me, so the plot isn't too solid, and the writing isn't dazzling but maybe someone will find it interesting. Either way I had fun with the challenge. So enjoy my brain-junk :D

  13. amck

    amck New Member

    Jul 21, 2010
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    This is a true story, and it's all about the arithmetic.

    Two hundred and sixteen minus nine equals how many I brought back with me.

    One hundred and ninety plus seventy-five, that was how much I weighed with all my gear. Kitted up, we all looked larger, stronger, older and more dangerous than we really were.

    Eighteen, the age of the youngest member of my company, only because the law states that you can't go to war at seventeen.

    Eighteen was also the number of seconds the medic told me that it took for my gunner to bleed out from his aorta.

    Twenty-nine, the number of roadside bombs we ran over, and fifteen, the number of months we were there.

    Two: that's how many hours I sleep each night. People complain about counting sheep, and I'd like to tell them that there's worse things.

    Coming back, I hear a different set of numbers, but I don't remember them exactly. The billions of dollars spent. The number of lives lost, combat and non-combat, civilian, Iraqi, American.

    Six, that's how many days I have left, but I'll never forget my time as a captain. Fifty, the percentage of disability I am to be discharged with. That's their number, not mine.

    Me, I still stay up all night, and I try but I can't add it all up.
  14. jaywriting

    jaywriting Member

    Jan 27, 2011
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    The Captains Table: The Master of War

    Greetings Ladies and Gentlemen. Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Lord Marcus Elderberry, Earl of Ham, Overlord of Krobia, Defiler of the Fountain, Admiral of the 11th, 12th and 13th fleets, and Captain of the good ship Avalanche, the finest medium cruiser the galaxy has yet seen.

    My rise to power has been well documented but generally misrepresented by my enemies. Always they nitpick at details while missing the big picture. What essential qualities have brought me success? Well I’ll tell you. Good old fashion hard work. Self sacrifice. A sense of decency and of the correct place for all things in the universe.

    I come from humble beginnings. My father owned a mere six planets and mining rights to two Kuiper belts. My mother held some shares in the Jovian Slavers Cooperative but alas the profits barely covered her pastry bills. As children we often had to go without. While my childhood friends were racing around neutron stars in the latest luxury grand tourer, I had to trail after them in some obsolete model, years old and barely capable of FTL travel. The shame was excruciating.
    My father, though generally a failure in life, had some ambitions for me. He set me up in business, but after a few years working in currency speculation I knew I was destined for greater things. There are only so many time you can rig a planetary economy to collapse before boredom sets in and the money loses its lustre.

    It was the very same childhood friends I so envied that gave me my first taste for a military life. The Duke of Doloxoren was mounting an expedition against a breakaway mining syndicate that was attempting to negotiate higher prices. We’d been friends since I could remember. To me he’d always be that snotty little brat who liked to show off about how important his father was. He was well deserving of the beatings I delivered when I thought I could get away with it.
    As it transpired the Duke was short of funds to finance the operation, leaving him with a potentially embarrassing situation in court should he fail to assert military authority in the matter. Some have claimed that my own financial activities may have had some part in his difficulties. I would like to point out that these allegations were never proven and my lawyers have many years of experience with dealing with such scandal-mongers.
    I contacted my friend the Duke and offered to help finance the expedition. My terms were very reasonable; half the spoils of conquest, and first refusal on all maintanance contracts for servicing the fleet. I would also be credited as second in command for the operation.
    The operation proved to be a great success, the enemy capitulating shortly after losing their primary habitats to bombardment. Our casualties were within acceptable margins and the reparation payments negotiated represented a substantial return on initial investment. The greatest tragedy occurred when the Duke’s own flagship mysteriously exploded en route, forcing me to assume over-all control.

    From those first heady days of conquest, I have never looked back. Appropriate contributions were made to relevant factions in court and I was installed as Admiral of the 8th fleet.
    Eager to prove my worth and silence the doubters, I promised I would bring peace to the Rea System. For years there had been rebellious mutterings, governors had been assassinate, armed struggle between police and local gangs were commonplace, tax obligations were paid late or not at all. Moreover the place was a haven for criminals, foreign spies, and undesirable elements of all sorts.
    My approach was elegant and simple, yet some times it takes a genius to find a simple solution to a complex problem. An antimatter charge was placed in the system’s star, the denotation precisely calculated to initiate a supernova collapse within the year. Naturally a quarantine was put in place to manage the evacuation that followed. Rats may abandon a sinking ship but with the firepower we had available, this was shooting fish in a barrel.

    Success at Rea cemented my position at court. Since then I have blazed a glorious trail through the stars, my proud achievements too numerous to detail.

    One of my fondest memories was the cleansing of Sathudia Secundus. The Sathudians had overthrown local police forces some month prior and attempted to set up their own little republic. These creatures were barely more than animals, talented at abstract mathematics granted, but then that’s what we have computers for. They actually held out for another six months before we overwhelmed them. Today you’ll most likely find Sathudians in a zoo or occasioned served as a delicacy at the most expensive restaurants. I’m happy to say there aren’t any left in the Sathudia System.

    They say an army marches on its stomach. Well I say war is all about the numbers. I’ve always prided myself on having more guns than the other guy. I remember the campaign against the barbarians of the western rim. They bred like rabbits and upon achieving FTL travel spread like wildfire. Their pacification was a tiresome business. It took 90% of our stock of fusion and biological munitions to enact effective population controls, but eventually superior planning and logistics won through. Such initiatives would never have been possible without the additional research funding I personally provided.

    But do not think for a moment I am merely some backroom bureaucrat, or some inspirational figurehead to guide the troops. During the storming of Garashore did I not personally lead the 4th assault wave? With these very hands I helped cleanse the battlefield. Exhilarating. Those who say war is hell must have been on the losing side.

    Yes, a brave warrior, an expert tactician, a leader, a visionary, I am all these things. Of all the commanders involved with the Immias Fiasco surely history will judge me the wisest. Granted the 8th fleet was lost, but in so doing we were able to obtain excellent navigational data of the minefield our enemy had stealthily prepared. It was I that personally negotiated the peace, buying us crucial time to infiltrate the mines and launch a surprise attack that ended that particular little civilisation.

    Ah my friends I could go on and on. Such tales I have to tell. But oh the rumbling in my stomach inform me of needs that must be attended to. I shall call over the waiter, I do so hope the grilled Sathudian is fresh today.
  15. Suadade

    Suadade Senior Member

    Jun 16, 2011
    Likes Received:
    My name is Barber. I’m a native of the outpost world Woodrow Wilson – a heroic name, to be sure, straight out of old Earth history and unfitting a dirty place like my home. The only traffic we get is the big company freighters, orbiting eyesores waiting to refuel. Otherwise, we’re left to fend for ourselves, at least officially.

    The last time there was even a routine checkup from Solar was nine years ago (or just under twelve, in Earth years), which I can’t wrap my head around. Someone’s got to be bright enough to see that our miserable little planet, mathematically speaking, just plain couldn’t survive on just refuelling those ugly hulking freightships, right? I’ve come to the conclusion that Woodrow is just so insignificant and so distant that the head guys at Solar don’t even care about illegal activity here.

    Which is where I come in. I work as a psychologist on Woodrow, back-room no-license don’t-worry-I’ve-done-this-a-thousand-times type of business, though I only treat humans, who knows what goes on in those alien minds? Back on Earth and on Mars and on the other close-by well-bred favorite-son colony worlds, there are psychologists who still do it the old-fashioned (and, I might add, wholly legal) way of talking to the patient until something supposedly happens. Talking! If that sounds ridiculous to you, that’s because it is.

    I’m more hands-on. The way I do it is, I put the patient in an electronically induced trance by overstimulating the senses until the brain just, in layman’s terms, shuts down. Then, I use a pirated prototype of a weapon presented to Earth military by a private developer a few years back, which was supposed to be able to alter the target’s mind and induce insanity (they rejected it, citing the whole UN human rights thing, as if there were still individual nations to speak of). I’ve put my own touches on it and now, instead of inducing insanity, it can induce Barber.

    You know? I go straight into the patient’s sleep-mode brain, projection style, and fix what’s ailing ‘em. 5 Solar credits for removing traumatic memories, 10 for phobias, neuroses cost extra, low self-esteem a specialty. Sound unsafe? Don’t worry, I’ve got a nurse on hand through the whole thing who watches blood pressure and such.

    Every mind is different from the last. Lots of people have minds that look like their homes. Sometimes it’s their childhood homes, which makes it significantly easier to find their inner child, at least. Forests are popular, lots of people do city streets. But I wanted to tell you about the time I suddenly wound up captaining a submarine.

    When I first enter a mind, any mind, there’s this huge sense of disorientation that’s less like you can’t tell up from down and more like there’s no up or down to speak of. I usually just close my eyes and wait it out while the mind sort of coagulates around me. In this particular case, I rode the crazy-flashing though-colors out, then suddenly there was only red like when the sun shines through your eyelids, and the huge breath of the ocean and a cool sea breeze.

    “After you, captain,” someone said and I opened my eyes. A man was motioning towards a hatch and a ladder descending into the metal tube on which we stood, but I looked past his shoulder and took my surroundings in. Two reasons: first, it’s always a good idea to evaluate the mind you’re trying to psychologize. In the mind-world, nothing just is. Everything has a meaning. Second, when you’ve seen a mind, or ten minds or a hundred, the real world just gets samey. You begin to miss that shifting quality.

    The waves were wispy, as if they were mist instead of water, and the tube – which I now recognized as a submarine – was gently bobbing up and down, though not in time to them.

    “Captain?” After a moment’s contemplation, I turned to the hatch and climbed down.

    You learn to roll with things when you visit other people’s minds, like in dreams when you just accept everything that’s happening. It’s the easiest way, so I accepted my captainhood without question. I was wearing a sober black jacket with commendations and adornments over my heart. As my second-in-command came down the ladder after me, I turned to him and asked: “What’s our situation?”

    “We’re readying for descent, sir. We should be ready any moment now.”

    The interior of the submarine was claustrophobic. Perspiration beaded on the up-close walls. Most minds have the same basic blueprint, and you learn to recognize the principal actors in them after a while; this patient’s greed came brushing past me in the narrow corridor. A few feet away, his thin and faltering sense of civic duty was checking readouts on some meters and breathing asthmatically and being clapped on the shoulder by compassion.

    Relishing the thought of being a true psychonaut, I exclaimed heroically: “Very well, Mister Jones! Take us down!”

    The newly renamed Mister Jones – the name embroidered on his chest was still wriggling in an attempt to conform to my emphatic reconstructing of the dreamworld – clicked a smart salute and shouted “Ay-ay, sir!” pleasingly. And the submarine began to descend.

    Through a porthole I saw the water’s nature change from playful and misty and blue, to truly fluid and green, to opaque and solid with deep pressure. The submarine creaked grudgingly around me and I wondered how much pressure a simple metal tube can take. Out the porthole, just beyond the vague light cast by the lights on the vessel’s exterior, were suggestions of movement. Huge, living things.

    “How deep are we going, Mister Jones?” I asked, only turning when the question was finished.

    As Mister Jones responded, every shadow on his face seemed to grow deeper, every contrast sharper. “As deep as she’ll go.”

    The patient who had this maritime mind was a huge man with a shaven head, who had come down to Woodrow in a pod from one of the orbiting freighters along with some of his fellow crew members on shore leave. He’d transferred ten liquid credits and asked me to rid him of a fear. I never asked what the fear was. I was starting to get a sense of that now. A fear of … monsters? Huge monsters, living in the dark abyss? Polyps and worms?

    Through the porthole, I could glimpse the bottom. Which I shouldn’t be able to, in the dark. Still, I saw it – it seemed to have some luminosity of its own. A hundred fathoms down… fifty… thirty… twenty… ten… five… thunk. I don’t mind telling you, that’s the first time I’ve ever been afraid in someone else’s mind. There was this huge knot in my gut as I looked out on this wrongly visible seafloor.

    “Open the hatch,” I said dully to Mister Jones. Dream-logic. And, by Sol, more dream-logic, he climbed up the ladder without question and opened the hatch. What rushed into the submarine then was not crushing limitless amounts of water, but only darkness. Every light went out, and there was this emptiness and I knew the crew was gone, too.

    I climbed the ladder, this close to panicking. I would’ve too, but when I got out I saw Mister Jones, bless the man, I saw his outline against the seafloor. He may just’ve been a figment of someone else’s imagination but I’ve never been as glad for seeing someone. “To the seafloor, Mister Jones,” I commanded and we made our stately way down the hull of the submarine. Strange, that: the water was still there in some respects. Blackness, slowness. But of the pressure that should’ve made pulp of us, there was just a suggestion of heaviness, like wearing lots of clothes, and you could breathe, obviously.

    The sediment of years lay at my feet. I waited, because sometimes meditation does the mind good. Jones stood at my side, ramrod-straight.

    Out of the darkness, the beast came. It had suckered tentacles as thick as a man and smooth flesh, colorless in this unlight. Its many eyes stared obtusely at nothing, its mean beak worked restlessly. I hate removing phobias. The phobia, as it appears in the mind-world, is always the total sum of what you’re afraid of, concentrated by a lens of fear into a single thing. That is to say, it’s ****ing terrifying.

    I could sense Mister Jones’ terror. Considering what the damn thing was doing to me, Jones must have it a lot worse – after all, he came from the mind that feared the thing. He was still holding up well, I thought. I wondered briefly what part of the patient’s mind Mister Jones might represent. Sense of duty? Courage? “Retreat to the vessel, Mister Jones!” I barked and grabbed the man’s arm.

    The submarine lay on the seafloor behind us, a dark shape, but damn if it didn’t feel like a much longer way on the way back, water-slow and with the monster squid at our backs.

    We half-ran, half-swam back to the submarine and scampered up the hull using whatever footholds we could find. I could almost feel the phobia breathing down my neck, and I chanced a look behind me. It was much too close for comfort. Mister Jones was desperately hewing at the wheel which opened the hatch – dream-logic, of course, the hatch was closed again – when I felt something grabbing my leg. It hurt.

    “Mister Jones!” I called out, and my second-in-command looked up and blundered towards me. We were only a couple of feet apart but in the water it felt like an eternity before he reached me. Then – the damn fool – he starts kicking at the monstrous limb, like his bootheels are really going to do this monster any harm. “Mister Jones!” I screamed again, frantically, because other tentacles were worming towards me. “Use your harpoon!”

    Now, the dream-world changed at a word again. Suddenly Mister Jones was holding a wicked-looking harpoon in his hand, which he didn’t even spare a glance. As far as he was concerned, he’d always been holding it. He sprung into action immediately, attacking the beast viciously with thrusts and jabs.

    There was a shriek, a stupid wounded feral-animal why-me keening, and I felt the terrible vice-grip around my ankle loosen and disappear. I don’t think real squids sound like that. I risked a look behind me and saw that the other tentacles had retreated too … but only for a moment.

    Jones dropped the harpoon and launched himself at the hatch. It swung open in seconds, thankfully, and I dropped in without looking back again. Mister Jones came right after me, hurriedly wheeling the hatch shut behind him.

    Just then there was a wounded creaking all around us. I felt the panic again, but it was under control now. I had my mind on the job again. “It’s on us,” I said, and the lights came on inside the submarine again.

    Through the porthole by the ladder I could see nothing but huge suckers working against the glass. The phobia had wrapped its arms around my vessel.

    I knew what I had to do with absolute certainty. Dream-logic, remember? So I looked at Mister Jones and noted the naked fear on his face and commanded: “Mister Jones, take her up!” And Mister Jones, apparently calmed by having something to do, jogged away to do nautical things. All the while, the hull of the submarine was groaning, a deep metal groaning as the monster squid squeezed.

    “Hold fast,” I muttered, sounding more like a naval officer by the minute. Then I said it again, louder and imperiously, to the submarine all around me: “Hold fast!” And all at once the submarine began to rise, ever so slowly. Mister Jones came back, sweat running down his face.

    The phobia beast hung on, monstrous tentacles wrapped around our little fly-speck metal tube as it gently buoyed upwards to the surface, endless fathoms above. The seafloor disappeared from view and the creaking of the distressed metal grew louder and more constant. Through the portholes I could see the huge tentacles and the massive whale-wrestler muscles in them. How could our puny little submarine stand against that?

    Through the portholes that weren’t blocked by the squid’s limbs, I thought I saw the water slowly changing color. But damn if it didn’t take a lot longer to rise than to go down… And all at once there was this huge, desperate clank, and above me a bit of the submarine buckled in, a huge dent. Then a few seconds later, another one.

    I couldn’t do anything but wait and hope (I didn’t pray – I leave the luxury of worshipping a scientifically disproven god to the Solars). I’m amazed that it didn’t turn my hair grey. It was only a few minutes from seafloor to surface, but those were the longest minutes in my life.

    The submarine kept buckling under the choking trash-compactor embrace of the squid. The water was definitely changing color now, from lightless black to deep green and brightening by the moment. The sound of crying metal was constant and deafening now. I thought at any moment the hull would break and admit the killing seawater, or me and Jones would just be crushed to fleshy pulp like insects caught in a flattened-out aluminum can.

    Then, suddenly, it was all over. The low pressure in these upper reaches of the sea got to the phobia: first its embrace weakened, then it began to burst. I had to look away. Its grip loosened, and it fell dead to the seafloor to be forgotten. It felt happy-sappy poetic, you know? We’d dragged this beast up into the light with us, and it had been destroyed. More than that, we’d made it.

    “Yeah! Take that! Captain Barber at your service, ma’am!” I screamed, laughing and crazy with adrenaline.

    I looked around and Mister Jones was gone, and I had the crazy thought that I should’ve said goodbye. Silly. He was only a figment, after all, as real as the monster squid.

    I relaxed and shut my eyes, knowing what was coming, and just as the submarine broke the surface of the calm dream-sea, I broke the surface of my sleep and came back to the real world.
  16. LucifersAngel

    LucifersAngel Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    Likes Received:
    Well, here goes. I apologize in advance for any historical inaccuracies.

    An ageless age

    "There tis," announced Kyle, pointing excitedly toward the little human inn. The sign above the lackluster shack proclaimed, "Raven's Tavern."

    "Humans," I muttered underneath my breath, "Is there anything else they can do besides drinking away their brains and blowing each others' bodies to smithereens?"

    Kyle gazed at me, perplexed. "They are but humans, sir," he replied, apparently expecting me to have forgotten why we were here.

    "Ready, Kid?" I asked, ignoring his comment. "Remember we have to speak like them, and you have to call me Cap'n."

    Kyle nodded, his brown curls bobbing next to his pale white face, as he slid toward the door.

    The shack was everything I expected, a thick stench of rum floated throughout the room, broken glass lay strewn across the grubby floor, telling tales of bar fights and wagers. Bearded men sat at little wooden tables, recounting tales of grandeur and squabbling over who was the 'manliest.' Women dressed in fragments of cloth scooted around the tables, bringing ale and food to their rambunctious patrons.
    A bar keep stood behind a sorry looking bench, cleaning a mug. Apparently unfazed by the failure of his mission. He stood at six foot seven, slick black hair was plastered to his unshaven face by beads of sweat. A rum stained apron adorned his bulking stomach, and his face held a permanent scowl.

    My companion and I strode across the room, ignoring the gawking masses of beer, spit and sweat. As we took our seats, in little more than splintered wooden stools, Kyle ordered a pint of ale.

    "You two ain't from aroun 'ere, is ye?" barked the bar keep, pouring a disgusting brown liquid into a blackened mug.

    "Oh, leave th' whelp alone, bar keep," snarled the hulking mass of mattered hair and muscles seated next to my companion.

    "The name's William, but ye can call me Cap'n Skull," informed the man, reaching an outstretched grime covered hand, to an obviously uncomfortable Kyle.

    Cap'n Skull? I thought to myself, That's a rather unusual pirate name. But then humans are peculiar creatures.

    I shook the man's hand, as he chuckled at Kyle, landing a punch on his shoulder that left him clinging to his stool.

    "Tell ye what," said the man gleefully, between sips of ale, "I shall buy ye that drink, if ye can tell me a yarn worthy of it."

    I released a long sigh, just once I would like to do this without a request from the lowly creatures. But since the man was going to die anyway, what was the harm?

    I gazed at Kyle, who was looking at me expectantly, through his brown childlike eyes. I often thought that the boy was too young to be doing this, his life snatched away from him when he was but a helpless child, hardly out of the womb. Baby fat still clung to his not yet formed features, his brown curls still strangled his face, as he kept absently brushing it away from his eyes.

    And so, after seeing the eagerness in the novice for a story, I told the tale of how I came to this 'life.'

    "Me story," I began, "starts many years ago.

    "On August the 6th, in 1588 the year of our lord, I was engaged in a battle that would rival all battles in years to come. My Comman- uh, Cap'n was a beast of a man. A bundle of hair, sweat and blood. His blood lust was rivaled by none. But he was a loyal and admirable man, and I would gladly follow him into battle. Even knowing what I know now.

    "We had sailed with our fleet across the unforgiving mistress known as the ocean. We called ourselves 'The Spanish Armada.'"

    "The what?" sputtered the man, spraying ale and spit onto the unsuspecting bar keep.

    "The Spanish Armada. It was basically a Roya- ah, a bunch of pirates sailing the open seas pillaging a plundering the cities," I replied, casually.

    I was taken back that the man had not yet noticed that my story was set over a hundred years ago. I shrugged it off as drunkenness, or perhaps a lazy mind.

    "Aye," the man said, pleased, "A pirate is ye? Continue."

    "Well," I continued, shaking my head in disgust for the lack of historical knowledge, "We had reached a shoreline of the ene- er, of a town ripe for the pickins."

    The man smirked, taking a swig of ale, and leaning forward to learn of the plunder about to take place.

    "The town was prepared, as they pointed their weapons toward our little fleet the Cap'n shouted, 'Prepare for battle, ye scurvy sea dogs.'
    Words which would haunt me for years to come.

    "We clambered to our positions, facing our guns toward the town and their little boats.
    The silence choked us into fear, so thick it was almost palpable.

    "I readied me cannon, which I kept in pristine condition. It was a beaut to be sure, lad. Me prize and joy."

    "Oh aye," the man commented. "Cannons, I recon be the most precious things a man can 'ave on a ship."

    I nodded, stamping out the urge to roll my eyes.

    "We were readyin' ourselv's fo' battle, we was."

    I was finally beginning to find my pirate voice. About time. I always hated talking like a pirate, it's all so uncivilized. Even against the backdrop of the so called civilization in this century. Murdering, whoring, pilfering and plundering on a whim. Surely, there were no morals left in mankind, and if there were, they were surely stamped out by cruelty and cowardice.

    "Then the first cannon fired, sending sea water raining down on me. Me cannon, thank God, was untouched." I continued.

    "'Fire' the Cap'n yelled, and we obeyed instantly. It was truly a tug of war, cannons exchanging between us, sometimes hittin' th' target, sometimes blasting the sea, showering us in salt.
    "We were suddenly blasted round the side, the ship slowly descending into the murky waters, a sure fire way to gain a watery grave.

    "The Cap'n yelled, 'abandon ship, lads.' He clung to the mast, as twas the caliber of the man, sinking with his ship, the only thing a Cap'n should do. "

    "Aye," the man agreed, stroking charcoal covered fingers through his bushy beard.

    "Only the brave or the stupid refused to heed orders. I staggered onto the deck, salt water sloshing as my boots stamped on the wooden floor. I could hear the yells of men drowning, of men fightin' off sharks. The stench of the dead filled me lungs, as I saw me crew mates strewn across the drowning floor, mangled and bloodied.

    "Twas truly a harrowing sight to behold."

    I left my reverie and returned the gaze of the man and my companion, staring at me with awe.

    "How did ye, survive?" the man asked, clutching his mug like I was about to snatch it away from him.

    "I didn't," I replied coldly.

    Kyle sat back, a wry smile crawling across his child like face.

    "Ye did not survive?" the man asked, bewilderment sweeping across his gruff features.

    "No," I replied, without feeling, as I transformed. My features contorted and twisted, as the flesh from my face melted like ice cream left out in the sun, leaving a skull with dark caverns for eyes in it's wake. A scythe materialized in my skeletal fingers, engulfed in a blue flame. My most precious weapon. My clothes slowly washed away, replaced by a hooded robe, as black as the night itself.

    The man had turned as white as a ghost, horror and fear choked his face, as he reached for his gun.

    "That won't do you any good," I told him, with a toothy grin.

    The baby faced novice watched in awe as we left the sights of regular humans, yet to appear on the death list. Even his reaper form looked childlike.
    A small skeleton draped in a robe two sizes too big. His scythe sitting clumsily in his tiny fingers, as he tried to control his weapon.

    "You see," I said, as I marched toward the now cowering man, "I am what's known as 'death.' A reaper if you will. It is your time."

    The man shot at me wildly, bullets traveling through my appearance, as if they were but holograms.
    Why do humans always fight me? What are they going to do? Kill death?

    The man quivered as his gun sank to the grimy floor with a thud. And that's when he saw it. His lifelessly body crumpled on the floor, a hole in the back of his skull, causing his blood to shower the shattered glass below. The patrons were all gawking, some were looking around themselves, checking that the murderer was not after them. Some were trying to help the man, poking and prodding his unresponsive body. Some still were arguing amongst themselves as to who the culprit was and some boasted how they could have apprehended the murderer barehanded, had it not been for the ale.

    "This," I said, indicating the child like reaper with my bony finger, "Is Kyle. This is his very first reap. As such you might have a bit of a headache. Sorry about that. He was supposed to touch you after he transforms, but I guess mistakes are how we learn, right?"

    The man was now a blubbering mess, thick tears streamed down his charcoal face as he clutched his head, only now realizing the pain.

    "Bu- but I don't wanna die," he stammered.

    "Ahh. It's not so bad," I sad in a soothing tone. "At least you get to go to your afterlife. I, on the other hand, have to reap people's souls until I fill my quota."

    "How many do you have left, sir?" Kyle asked, his tone filled with wonder.

    I unfurled my scroll, causing it to tumble to the ground and scurry across the floor.

    "Ahh. A few more to go, kid," I replied listlessly, as I placed a tick next to the blubbering man's name. "A few more to go."
  17. GoldenGhost

    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

    Jan 11, 2012
    Likes Received:
    So this is my take on the challenge. I am sure it has got some errors I have yet to pick up. I had quite a lot of fun writing it. I used the name of my MC in my story although it is not his personality. Hope you enjoy the read.

    Barnacle Bill

    Turek sprinted down the street. The cool, salt smelling air blew on his tanned, unshaved face as he ran. He took a moment to look behind him. They were still chasing him. He darted into an alley to his right. Dead end. It was a narrow piece of street tucked in between two buildings. He looked around wildly for a way out. The light was dim, cut off by the damp walls that towered over him on each side. Nothing. Just cold, hard stone. He wiped sweat off of his brow with a coat sleeve. His heart was beating fast as he tried to catch his breath. “By the Gods! Of all the damned places to run,” Turek shouted to himself.

    “Of all the places indeed boy,” said a voice behind him.

    Turek turned around. It was those two thugs that were following him. They finally caught up. Barnacle Billy's henchmen no doubt. Savage creatures. They wore beer stained shirts. Both were unshaven and dirty and smelled more foul then the alley itself. Mangy things they were. Years of working on ships as hands for hire left them built like the masts of the vessels they worked on. One of them had a scar that ripped across the side of his entire face. All Turek could see were their hands as they approached. Those tough hands.

    “Tell that ole sea dog that he ain't a' gettin' his money.”

    “It don't work that a' way friend. No one cheats old Billy and gets away with it. No one,” the man with the scar said as his eyes glimmered with malevolence.

    “Ye be a' messin' with the wrong man this time boy. Why, ye be lucky ole' Bill ain't out here a' skinnin' ye himself like,” the other man said backing up his partner.

    Turek's back touched a wall. He was trapped. No way out. His eyes struggled to find some other means out of this place. He would have to fight. It was his only option. “I figured he might a' felt that way. Course, if he was so intelligent like,” Turek mocked the two thugs, “Why would he a' be sendin' two thick headed starfishes to do 'is biddin'?”

    “C'mere!” the man with the scar shouted as he lunged forward.

    Turek saw those big hands come at him with quickness. He swiftly ducked, avoiding them and punched the man squarely in his gut. He could hear all the air in the man's chest leave his body at once. The other man came in with wide arms to help his partner. Turek skillfully rolled to the side and came up hard, uppercutting the man with a fist right under the chin. Turek watched as the man toppled backwards onto the ground. He bolted out of the alley, stepping over the man where he lay. He decided this conversation was over.

    He stood at the mouth of the alley. He asked himself where he should hide. He looked left then right. He tilted his head up and in a split instant read a sign that said 'Raven's Tavern.' No time, he thought. He had no choice. He ran into the tavern.

    The taproom inside was alive with all kinds of people from all kinds of different places. Mostly seamen spending their time inland until they shipped off to their next destination. Turek's eyes bounced around the room as he made a quick mental note of his surroundings. He noticed a back door towards the rear of the room. He could hear the clanking of mugs as men cheered to life and memories saved coupled with the occasional call to a passing server for another round followed by raucus laughter. The square room reeked of sweat and stale beer. Turek looked at the barman who eyed him warily. He needed a disguise, he thought.

    Turek noticed a pair of decorated seamen sitting at a table close to the entrance by a window that overlooked the harbor. One of them was wearing an eye patch and a hat, the other a red bandana. Their rough hands gripped their mugs tight like taught rope. He calmly walked up to their table, ignoring the barman and pulled up a chair. He positioned it so he could see the entrance to the tavern. He made sure once more that the back door was still where it was. He then turned to the man with the eye patch and spoke, “I'll be a' buyin ye plenty o' drinks if ye wouldn't mind me a' borrowin' yer hat and eye patch friend.”

    The man eyed him curiously then laughed. He nodded and handed over his belongings. “Funny way of introducin' yerself friend. Most fellars start with their names first.” He stuck out a callosed hand towards Turek. “My name be a' Cap'n Korsan and this here be my first mate Jack,” continued Korsan as he pointed to Jack sitting next to him with his free hand.

    He put on the eye patch and hat. Once he had his disguise in place he took Korsan's outstretched hand and shook it. Turek's face crunched in thought as he pulled his hand back. He needed to come up with a story and fast. He stopped a passing barmaid and exclaimed, “Drinks here for me and me new found friends.” He reached into his pocket and tossed her a gold crown. “And keep 'em comin' lass!”

    The barmaid's eyes lit up as she caught the coin. “Of course Sir, right away,” she said excitedly as she scurried away.

    “Ye shore have no problem throwin' coin around I see whoever ye are,” said Korsan.

    Turek turned back to Korsan. “Cap'n Turek's the name and smugglin' be me game. The best around don't ye know,” he boasted.

    “Ye aren't from around these here parts then. Ye sure don't look alike it. Iffn ye were ye would know ole Barnacle Bill. He be the best around here.”

    “Oh is he now? Well he hasn't met Cap'n Turek yet now has h—.” Turek stopped talking as he realized the two thugs from before entered the tavern and looked around. He bowed his head and avoided their eyes. His heart started to pound. His muscles tensed. He looked behind him to that back door once again just to make sure it had not moved anywhere. Still there. He stole a glance at the thugs and then quickly continued to look elsewhere. They were still looking around in confusion. He started to tap a foot in case he needed to dash through that back exit in a hurry. Suddenly, the two men looked at each other and shrugged. They turned around and left, the door slamming behind them with a loud bang. Turek let out a long breathe of relief. Apparently he had forgotten how to breathe.

    “I see ye already met ole Bill eh?” Korsan guessed. “Just who are ye Cap'n and why do ye be here askin' for mens clothes and throwin' money around like it was sea scraps.” Turek saw Korsan's eyes narrow suspiciously as he spoke.

    “That, me friend is a very long story,” he said as he gave Korsan back his hat and patch.

    “Well as long as ye be keepin me and my first mate Jack mugs a' full then we be a' listenin' to yer story however long it may be,” said Korsan as he grinned ear to ear. Jack eagerly nodded in agreement.

    “Ha! Well in that case. Ye see, I be a' sailin' over from the western seas. Pulled into port a few weeks back. There were riches to be had don't ye know and I kind of wore out me welcome back home if yer winds be in me sails. Nothin' bad mind ye.”

    “Course not,” Korsan said as he inched closer.

    “Course,” Jack agreed, sipping his ale.

    “I a' just,” Turek's eyes looked around blankly, “Ye know, who needs silk? So what if I took a couple extra cargo's full. No one was goin to miss them. They were a' just standin' their catchin' seaweed.”

    “They'd be a goin' to waste!” exclaimed Korsan.

    “Nothin' wrong with some extra coin,” said Jack, putting down his mug and relaxing backwards in his chair.

    “Well there be a few people I was werkin for at the time who didn't take too kindly to eet. So I a' hoisted me sails and got me ship, me crew, and me self of course out of town. For bigger and better things don't ye know

    “So ah' one day, crisp morning winds favoring me sails, me first mate comes to me and he a' says 'Cap'n',” Turek did his best to impersonate the man's harsh accent, “ 'Thereish thish guy I knows not too farsh east from heresh. He goesh by the name Barnacle Bill. Bill could usesh a man of yer talentsh and could prolly do a' shomethin with that shilk.' “

    Turek cleared his throat. Korsan and Jack sat back in their chairs as they sipped their mugs of ale every now and then. Their eyes were intent on him and their ears tuned to his story. Turek went on, “So I says why not? I never been a' east before. I a' show up and make a point of findin this here Bill. When I did. I approached 'em, that haggard sea dog and saw his face. My! It really did look like he a' had barnacles growin' right off him don't ye know!” Turek laughed as he picked up his own mug and drained it in one pull, slamming it down hard on the table. Jack and Korsan joined him as they did the same. Turek motioned to the barmaid from before. “Lass! Another round and be a' quick about it. Jack here, he's been a' eyein' ye up.” He looked at Jack and winked. “I'd be a' scared to stick around any longer. He might just a' grab ye and take ye out back don't ye know!” The barmaid smiled as Turek pinched her bottom in jest, sending her away. Korsan roared with mirth. Jack just stared blankly at Turek obviously not impressed.

    “That be ole Bill alright! He looks like as if he lost a fight with a reef,” Korsan said slamming his own hands down on the table in laughter grinning wide. Jack just kept staring at Turek. He noticed Jack was not laughing.

    “He isn't gonna' hurt me will he?” asked Turek looking at Korsan with a head tilted towards Jack.

    “Jack? Gods no he wouldn't hurt a jelly fish!”

    Turek chuckled. The barmaid came back with four mugs and set them down on the table. She spoke with a delicate voice and said to Turek, “An one more for ye and that pretty little face of yers.” She winked, her eyes sparkling with mischief.

    “Why thank ye Lass. Cap'n Turek always rewards kindness.” He tossed her another coin and she bounced away in delight, hips swaying.

    “So I says to Bill. I got a' the fastest ship in all of the seas. Ain't nothin' blowin passed her sails. Bill turns to me and says 'He could use a ship like mine.' So I went ta werk fer him. Small things ye know. Some jewels here, some wines there. Then it got a nasty.” Turek's face smiled as he recalled the events earlier today.

    “What happened Cap'n?” Jack asked his face filled with curiosity this time.

    “Yeah Turek tell us!” Korsan demanded.

    Turek nodded in silence as he took a long slow pull from his mug before continuing. “Well I was on my way back earlier this mornin' to pay him the coin I a' got for his last cargo, makin' plenty sure he never a' knew what I really got fer it mind. A man's always gotta' take care of 'emself don't ye know. Risk ye understand."

    “Course risk!” Korsan said spilling his mug as he agreed.

    “Risk!” Jack concurred.

    “He was away for the day. Sposed to be back in a couple hours. I was told to wait. So I a' sat a' waitin' fer him to come back. When all of a sudden, the heavens opened up and in walked this fine little lassy. Not the fairest maid I ever seen don't ye know but she was a looker fer sure. I mean, I had been away at sea for a while. Ye understand,” said Turek

    “Course,” said Jack.

    “Course course,” said Korsan.

    “One thing led to another and we were a' wrasslin' and tasselin' out back behind the buildin' when Ole Bill came upon us blood red mad. I mean he was a' so mad oysters would have steamed 'emselves. That scar on his face nearly explodin'!”

    “And?” Jack asked on the egde of his seat ignoring his ale.

    “Turek spit it out already ye fool!” Korsan encouraged pushing his mug away as well as he leaned closer.

    Turek let the tension hang for a minute. He had these guys by the hairs. It was all too much fun. Too easy. “How was I sposed to know the mangy cat was 'is wife? I'm just an innocent smuggler don't ye know!”

    The two men burst out laughing their faces twisting with each breathe of air. Turek found himself joining in their happiness. After a time they stopped laughing and went back to putting their attention on their mugs of ale, taking small sips in between looks at each other. Korsan was the first to speak, “Oh well ye gone and done it that ye did Cap'n. Ole Bill ain't one who forgives easily like,” he said as he drained his mug. Jack nodded his reply and finished his own.

    “So that be a' why I'm a findin' meself a' talkin' to ye guys, borrowin clothes and what not don't ye know,” Turek said.

    “Well the next round be on me Cap'n,” offered Korsan as he motioned for a barmaid.

    Without warning the front door burst open. Those two thugs from before blasted through the entrance. This time they brought friends and they looked right at Turek.

    “Well men. I think it be about time to hoist me sails and head out to sea. Maybe next time.” Turek stood up and spoke one last time to the two men, “May the wind find ye sails and yer ship never find ground.” He bowed as quickly as he could and then swiftly dashed out the back door of the tavern leaving the two at the table alone to ponder his story in silence.
  18. TheStarChild

    TheStarChild Member

    Apr 24, 2012
    Likes Received:
    The ground crew sifted through the rubble pile. The building had been demolished by a misplaced orbital strike. A tall, decorated officer stepped forward. His blue eyes intensified his commanding gaze. He crouched and picked up a splintered sign. Clear black letters spelled out “Raven's Tavern”. He smiled.

    “It's a damn shame. One of my favorite watering holes,” said the captain.

    His squad chuckled. They continued removing debris from the pile, searching carefully for something. The captain shuffled through the destruction, peering over shoulders and giving out directives. A young private spoke up.

    “Captain Adler, sir! I've found something, sir,” said the private. He reached down and picked up a shiny green coin. He held it up to the light.

    Captain Adler headed toward the commotion. “What's going on?”

    The private stood to attention and presented his finding. “It's a coin, sir. It almost sounds like something is trying to transmit through it, sir.”

    Captain Adler took the coin from the private. He held it up to his ear. The faint gargle of white noise streamed through. Alien chatter peppered the transmission. Captain Adler frowned and dropped the coin. He crushed it with his boot.

    “It's the Heliomorphs. They're still active,” he said.

    Lieutenant Hollison frowned and furrowed his brow. “Captain, if I may. We ordered fourteen different orbital strikes at key locations. If that wasn't enough, and by all means it was overkill, the five days of intense plasma bombardment finished anything that was left. How do you draw this conclusion, sir?”

    Captain Adler smiled crookedly and placed a hand on the lieutenant's shoulder. “I've killed too many to underestimate the bastards. I've seen these beacons before. Once we've wiped them off a planet, they go silent. Any activity means they're still around,” he said, gesturing to the landscape in a sweeping motion, “and a Heliomorph that's still around is a threat.”

    Lieutenant Hollison nodded and turned around. “Move out men. You heard the man. We sweep the area. I want delta and alpha formations heading west. Beta and epsilon heading east. Anything else Captain?”

    Captain Adler stared at the slowly setting red giant and sighed. “If you find their Speaker, let me know. I need to talk to him personally.”

    Lieutenant Hollison gave the captain a bemused look. “Talk to him, sir?”

    Captain Adler stared into the lieutenant's eyes. “Just get it done.”

    The men split up into squads and headed out toward the alien landscape. The planet, lovingly referred to as The Furnace, had been invaded by one of the most brutal extraterrestrial races known to man. Dubbed “Heliomorphs” by most popular publications, these creatures thrived in incredibly warm environments. Humans could only traverse the landscape when the sun started setting, and this was only possible after a liberal application of an anti-inflammatory cream over most of the body.

    Captain Adler traveled with delta and alpha squad. Lieutenant Hollison paired with beta and epsilon. Captain Adler withdrew his personal weapon, a Savior SSG Freon Special. His men clutched their standard issue freezing rifles. He looked upon his Savior and smiled; Judgment was coming. And it would be sweet.

    Adler's squad came upon a barren structure a kilometer from the landing zone. The large building stood fifty meters. Red in color, the building was mostly hollow. A large ramp led down into the ground. Heliomorphs had to retreat underground into heated convection ducts at night. Adler walked over to the ramp.

    “Over here men. You can see the blood trail. At least they got hurt when we rained death.”

    Several men cracked a wry smile. Captain Adler motioned toward the ramp and took point. Descending into the depths of the Heliomorph's subterranean dwellings destroyed morale. If he took point he knew his men might feel more confident. The squad went deeper and deeper into The Furnace. Sweat poured down their faces, and Captain Adler stopped the group several times for a breather. They all used at least one nutri-pack, containing several ounces of hydration and electrolytes. Finally, they heard something.

    Captain Adler held up an open hand. He took a small step forward, putting his hand to his ear. Veins bulged in his neck and forehead as he listened. A low, guttural growling rumbled in the distance. The heat increased perceptibly. He peered around the corner and saw it: a Heliomorph.

    It stood on four legs; its obsidian skin had molten cracks running through it. Several prominent, blood-red ridges protruded from its back. As it breathed, fire escaped its nostrils and gaping maw. A face shaped like a hellish horse had slits for eyes. A brilliant mane of orange fire surrounded the head. Large, molten claws completed the image.

    Captain Adler motioned toward his men. “It's just around the corner,” he whispered, raising his firearm, “so we can just-”

    One of the men, leaning against the dirt wall, slipped and landed on his back. He cried out loudly. Captain Adler's eyes widened and he sprung into action.

    “Fall back!”

    The Heliomorph let out an otherworldly roar. It sprinted down the path at impossible speed toward Captain Adler and his men. They retreated down the path into a choke point.

    “Defensive formation!” yelled Adler.

    With brutal efficiency, the men set up a tight, layered formation. Once the creature bounded around the corner, they unloaded. Rounds and rounds of freezing materiel pounded the Heliomorph. It struggled, regained its footing, and continued to charge. It had slowed, but Captain Adler knew better. This one was bigger than normal. It needed The Ice Queen.

    Captain Adler fired several rounds from the Savior into the creature. It damaged its exterior, but it would still reach them and do what Heliomorphs do best. Adler withdrew a long, translucent blade from a sheathe on his back. One of the men gawked and stopped firing.

    “It's The Ice Queen! Adler has The Ice Queen!” he shouted over the firing. His squad mate slapped him hard on the head and he resumed firing.

    “Stop fire!” said Adler. The men halted immediately; their discipline was only surpassed by their dedication. Adler held the blade out in front with both hands. “Get ready you sonuvabitch. Come salute your Captain!”

    He charged forward, The Ice Queen protecting his front. The Heliomorph regained its strength and took off to meet the Captain. Less than twenty yards away, he crouched low and spring loaded his legs. Just before impact, he shot into the air and flew toward the beast. The Heliomorph sprang into the air and unleashed a massive breath of fire. Adler thrust the sword forward and it absorbed the fiery blast. As it absorbed the fire, the sword pierced the beast between the eyes. Their bodies collided.

    Captain Adler smacked into the creature. They fell into a tangled heap. Color drained from the Heliomorph's body. The molten cracks and claws turned black. Heat dissipated from its mane, and it let out a dying sigh. Adler stood up, bloodied from the impact, and brushed off his uniform. His men surrounded him, tending to his wounds with a medical field pack.

    Adler clutched his radio and held it up to his mouth. “Lieutenant, this is Captain Adler. Let the Speaker know I killed his son.”

    His radio crackled. “Yes sir. Anything else sir?” replied the lieutenant.

    Captain Adler smiled. “He's next.”
  19. PlotDeviceManager

    PlotDeviceManager Member

    Sep 24, 2012
    Likes Received:

    They almost didn't notice him, sitting there. Waif-like was too extreme a word, and perhaps too kind. He was not so skinny that you could read his bones like cuniform. He was not so pale or sickly that one would shy away at his stray cough. He was not so wild haired or rough looking that the Raven's patrons were over-wary. He was, in fact, mostly non-descript, if a little weather beaten.

    But, even this did not explain, even this did not comfort, when the old barkeep, a man the size and shape of a giant's apple barrel, spotted the man. The barkeep had been behind this bar, sun up to sun up for too many years for anyone to know. Save himself. His name was Heckers and he knew.

    He knew every face, every story. Every tab owed. Every slobber knocker of a fight.

    But this man, Heckers did not know. And he had somehow managed to slip in through the door and pass the near side of the bar without Heckers so much as feeling the iced edge of the outside wind that accompanied every patron like faithful hound.

    Heckers left the bar through the flip top and knew it must have been twelve years since he had done so, for there seemed to be about twelve years less space between the corners and his waistline. He walked up to the man.

    "Good morrow to ya, sir. I'd be glad to pour a mug of the finest, but that table there is for Captains only. House rules."

    "I'm a captian."

    The man's voice was thoroughly unnerving. It wasn't weak or pale, any more than the man himself, but it was . . . airy. If voices were alive, the man's voice would have been a ghost. Heckers heard the man speak, but even as he did, his ears swore it was nothing more than the wind. So confounded by this was Heckers that he stood a moment longer, wondering if the man actually had spoken.

    "Sorry? Can ya speak up?"

    "I'm a captain. Captain Farrel." the man said again. He spoke to the window, his dark eyes rolling up and down the dark street outside, like a man on a stroll.

    "Well, that's just fine then, fine. A solid silver to drink for the night. But if you're sitting at the Captain's table, you have to pay for the first drink with a story," Heckers added quickly, "but if you'd like to uproot and sit elsewhere-"

    "I have a story."

    There was no one at the table, and Heckers was sure the other patrons couldn't hear the man's windy voice.

    Heckers had his rules, and then Heckers had his beliefs. Rule said captains only, and a story to boot. Belief said this story was not worth any amount of booze, free or paid for. Heckers debated. Heckers thought. Finally, with a grumble, he went to the bar to get the man a drink. Heckers had always been a man with more rules than faith.

    Heckers had only just squeezed through the flip top and started searching for a slightly dirtied mug, when the man's voice rose above the bar. If his voice had been a quiet breeze before, it was the howl of the wind through the eaves now.

    "It was the woman. It was her."

    Every eye found the man now, and not one arm in the bar went without gooseflesh.

    "It was her. I know that now. She had long hair, long and straight and it hung to her ankles in one thick river of red. Red. So rich and so red, it was almost black. She booked charter on my ship and I knew then. I knew but I wouldn't let my mind tell me. I wouldn't listen because she was beautiful and because she was quiet. And because even a man as suspicious as a sailor has to draw the line somewhere.

    If I had known then . . . If I had but listened."

    The man was still sitting, but every eye had to climb to find him. As his story went on, his voice rose and his eyes grew brighter. Before it was done, he was a hurricane, the full teeth and hell of a true ocean storm, all trapped in his thin, trembling frame.

    "The first night, it was only a wave. Even a seasoned sailor can be surprised by the sea and when Bridges went over, three saw him go. It was only a high wave. The woman had been there, but she'd been aft, while Bridges was astern. Yet even then, even as I was consoling passengers and conferring with crew, my eyes sought her out. Even then I felt it, but even then, I didn't listen.

    The third night, three children were crushed beneath a shifting crate. The rope was salt rotted through, even though I'd refreshed every line only two weeks before. The woman was in the mess then, though I never saw her eat a thing the whole trip.

    The seventh night it was the crow, and that's when the passengers started to get itchy. But by that night, the woman was in my bed when the scraggled black crow landed on the deck, vomited up a small puddle of blood - blood so red it was black - and fell dead. By then it was too late. The songs of sirens could not have reached my ears.

    How fast it happened, I do not know. How many fell beneath dark waves; how many were straggled by an erring, unshored rope? How many truely escaped? All or none, I say. All or none."

    The man was standing now. He was a dark preacher, lauding heaven and blasting the damned from his fiery pulpit. But, now the light seemed to leak from him. Now, he was deflated and beaten. He sat slowly, like an old man under bad weather.

    "It was her that took them. I know that. When my ship found harbor again, there were only us two on its decks. Its all a fog now, my friends, one long red-black haze of pleasure and terror. It was her."

    Captain Farrel hadn't met the gaze of a single man that night. Now, he found each eye with his own, and every man decided that hell was not a cave of sulphur and a lake of lava, but a cold ocean filled with ships that had no captain or passenger. Ships that rode the chop with silent, windswept decks with hulls full of impenetrable darkness. Hell was cold and the man's eyes were the hollow from which that cold wind blew.

    "She loved me. She held me in her white arms and told me that she loved me. That was all I heard. And I know that it was her-" Farrel looked out the window, in the direction of the sea and he wore the face of man seeing the Devil whip off his godly mask - "Her that took them all. And her that spared me. It was the woman."

    Silence rang like church bells. The man was done, spent, collapsed against the table. Heckers suddenly felt the tingling in his arm. He was still holding the mug and it felt so heavy now. He sat it down and realized he was thristy. The thirst no more than presented itself than he felt his throat contract and shrivel and he nearly gagged. He filled the mug he'd just sat down and slugged it. He felt cold, wet air brush his arm like the stray hair on a woman's head.

    Captain Farrel was gone.
  20. PlotDeviceManager

    PlotDeviceManager Member

    Sep 24, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Something Dreadful

    The girl couldn’t have been more than thirty; twenty-five in a kind light. She was smiling and had sweet, blonde hair. It was fuzzy and curly and tied up in a bit of string, like an over attended doll. She wore loose pants and shirt and fine black boots. She was an utter beacon in the dirty bar; an unwelcome, eye-watering beacon. She seemed oblivious to the accosted stares of thirty-ish crusty seadogs.

    She was looking around, as if trying to find a friendly face in this grimy sea of lecherous disgust. Her eye stopped on the Captain’s Table, which sat in the bay window, next to the stove; the most desired and comfortable spot in any seaside tavern south of Hampshire. Her smile, full of big, friendly teeth, grew even wider. She walked across the bar floor looking almost relieved. Even the bald bartender watched her go and he never looked up for less than the Captain of the Guard. What succor had this mad maiden found at the Table, currently occupied by seven of the most weather beaten bastard sons of the sea that frequented the Raven?

    She stepped up, on the “flag deck”, a half step stage just big enough for a Table full of Captains. The Captains eyed her even harder. She smiled even softer. And by whatever chance, there were seven men and eight chairs.

    “Hello, gentleman. I was told I could find a free drink here.”

    They all laughed, like she’d pulled the string on some hell-bent child’s toy. She smiled at them as they laughed, as if she were not a very young girl in the middle of a crowd of godless pirates.

    “Free drink is for Captains only. Whores pay here, love.” Said Doo-Da, a man who was much more vile than his name implied.

    She smiled sunnily at him and pulled out the eighth chair. She was about to open her mouth, perhaps even explain her audacious comedy routine, when a Captain named Fuller spoke up.

    “Listen to me young lady.”

    She was in mid sit, and his voice froze her, one arm still steadying the back of the chair. Her smile never left her.

    Fuller was not a humorless man, or a hot headed man, but he brooked no bullshit. Ever.

    “The house rule is the Captain’s shot is paid with a story. You will either get up and get your ass out of this bar,” he poured a shot in his own glass and set it in the middle of the table, “Or you will tell me the story of how you’re the Captain of anything,” he pointed a gloveless finger at her, “And I’d better believe it.”

    Fuller was not an evil man, either and he did not say it as if to threaten, but as a Father telling his daughter that an explanation was all that stood between his belt and her backside.

    Everyone in the bar was looking at her now. She finally sat, and sighed just little, as if in sweet relief. The bartender expected lip out of her now; all the brash ones lipped when they got cornered and got their strapping for it.

    The girl nodded her head in a way that suggested the delicate curtsey of a maid at court.

    “Yes, sir.”


    Her name was Penny. She was a hillbilly princess if ever those words had been true. She was barefoot until she was too old to play and wore pants so she could climb trees. She had dogs; more dogs than her mother ever allowed. They lived in the high green hills of Tennessee. Her father had a saw mill and he was a respected man. And thus, Penny was pampered and petted the only way her father knew how. He let her run free.

    Penny finally got old enough however, that her mother started insisting on shoes and dresses. The shoes pinched and the skirts made her feel naked, but Penny bit her lip. It was just as well, Penny thought. The other children had begun to notice the girl too wild to be home by supper. She curbed and calmed her ways to avoid the stares, the jokes, and later, the sticks and the stones.

    That was the beginning of the end. Soon the shoes were too pinched and boots became the next best thing to barefoot. She wore breeches under her skirts so that she could run in the woods and then appear neat and clean when she arrived at home in time for supper.

    When Penny was barely twenty, she left home. She did, what she believed, was the only proper thing to do in a family of such repute. She ran away. She left a note promising she would refrain from getting injured or killed, hoping to balm her family’s sorrows. It was a promise Penny intended to keep.

    Penny headed straight for the ocean. She’d only heard of its open grey-green-blue expanse; as wide and indifferent as a desert. As temperamental as any bad princess.

    She found it. It was everything she’d dreamed.

    She started crawling the docks, at first only listening. She would watch the sailors tie knots and haul freight. She was a chased off as much as she was ignored, but she prowled like cat patrolling for sea rats. She did it for days. Eating was never a problem. What she couldn’t fish up, some old, kindly church folk would provide, as long as she washed her face and hands and smiled the way her mother taught her. Sleeping was not a problem, either. She’d slept outside more than in and a bed was an unwelcome comfort.

    After a month, winter started to brood on the horizon. Penny watched and waited. Finally she started asking.

    At first, she was laughed at. Then, the chasing-away started in earnest. Penny kept on. Winter finally came and it was the first of the evil nights; the nights that could kill a man left to their icy fingers. Penny was still crawling the docks, asking, in a coat and new boots the church had lent on promise of a dollar payment. November neared its end.

    A Captain named Biggs took so much aggravation and pity on her that he did not even wait for her to ask him the four hundredth time. She was walking up the docks, eyes sweeping, looking for the faces of the Captains she now knew by name. Biggs leaned over the railing of his ship, the Something Dreadful.

    “Get on this boat and report to Stern. You’ll cut bait and you’ll work til I say you stop. And if you value your hands, you’ll learn to cut right the first fucking time.”

    Penny cut bait. At first she was slow, and the man Stern (a pig eyed, pig hearted old wretch) would fuss and fit until he was screaming in Penny’s ear at full blast. He was bound and determined to reduce the girl to a jabbering, sobbing wreck the first day. But, Penny took her time. A sailor needed her hands. Penny cut bait until Biggs said she could stop. Biggs did not bat an eyelash when she signed a four year contract nor did he speak. He rolled it up and threw it in the fire when she left his cabin. Then she was rewarded with cold sausage gravy and a hammock on the coldest, lowest deck. She slept soundly, the empty blue-blackness of the ocean beneath her like a mattress.

    By the time Penny had cut bait for four months, Captain Biggs had had enough. Penny was put to baiting and setting lines. She was even better at this, for what does a hillbilly princess do in her free time but fish and climb? Seven months and she was hauling up lines, standing at the end of three other men, who towered over her. She seemed always one slow reaction from an errant elbow and a watery, wintery death. Penny, however, had taken good care of her hands, so she never lost her grip. And she had promised her father. After three more months of pulling lines, Stern was in her place and Biggs was showing her the intricacies of navigation and shoal hunting. And here, Penny hit a snag.

    She was not a learned girl; books didn’t survive the rigors of woodland living. Numbers bigger than her own age confused her to no end and maps were inkblots on huge papers you could never refold. Biggs wasn’t a patient man. Penny was back to cutting bait before she had even begun to learn what the magical sextant was.

    So, Penny went back to cutting bait. Sterns was a meeker, mildier man now.

    “Get your hands off your cock and pull, Mr. Sturgis! Greg, boy, if you don’t get that deck clean I’ll cut you for bait myself. Bait? Bait! Bait, damn it girl, bring me the bucket already. Hoss your frieght, you dozy sons a' whores! Mind your step all of you, or that dunder-cap Greg will have you slipping on fish guts and feedin’ our catch!”

    Penny worked in a slimy, stench soaked chaos of cold, wild ocean and no mercy for three full years. Her heart was as peaceful as an empty blue-black ocean. Those at the docks knew her now. She was given the honor of being universally ignored.

    Three years and eight months in; something went bad. Penny didn’t know what, but when she came up to the deck amidst smoke and storm and screaming, she didn’t need to know. The fire was in the Captain’s quarters, but he was on the bucket line himself, and Stern was hauling the buckets up from the ocean. Penny knew from experience that you didn’t go running around the woods searching for water whilst your pant leg was on fire.
    Penny grabbed blankets and by the time she had them all together, the sea had soaked them through. She threw them over the flames, one by one, smothering the fire, wading in like it was a high tide. She was, however, a bit to overzealous in her efforts to save her ship and mates.

    She threw one blanket down, over the now smoldering timbers. The ship pitched. Penny lost her footing. She fell and hit the deck before she had a chance to fall properly. Her knee and her chin hit at the same time, there was a moment of weightlessness and a view of the thrashing waves, and when she was able to regain her brain, she was head first in the ocean, up to her torso, her right leg caught in a rigging line. Holding one’s breath is a hard enough without the ocean roaring up your nose and into your throat and Penny was floundering before she was even oriented. Her hands flailed. They gripped and grabbed at nothingness, then slimy, nail-ripping boards, then nothingness again. She vomited up saltwater and choked her last time.

    A hand found hers and pulled. She vomited again and this time, harsh white-cold air shot through her heavy lungs. The sea pitched, shaking its prey in its teeth. The arm holding her hand bounced, pulled away. But, Penny held on. She had good hands; and she had a promise. How long she held that hand, she didn’t know for any thought was dashed by the howling, gyrating sea. She slipped into blackness twice, and each time she woke with glass shards slamming into every nerve as she was dashed against the rough side of the boat. She slipped into blackness again and remembered nothing afterward except a single moment when she was rolled over the port rail and the rigging tugged her shattered right leg. She woke only long enough to scream and let go of Captain Biggs’s hand.

    There was nothing but darkness for a long time. Sterns sat up with her many nights, while she slept a thin, pained sleep. It was universally decided by the crew that the boy Greg was not allowed on the same deck as Penny, for fear he might bring more pain or fever to her by his very presence.

    Finally, she woke the last time. She was in a hospital, in port. The Something Dreadful was already at sea again, fishing and cutting bait. Greg had been left to attend to her affairs under strict orders by the crew that he not bother her overmuch. Her leg was mended but it had been burnt in the fire and caught in so many hooks and sinks from the rigging that it would always resemble a tortured candle; melted, torn open, and shredded.

    When the Something Dreadful came back to port, Penny was standing at the dock, waiting. Greg stood beside her, twitching and looking very well fed. She tied the rope to the dock head and met Captain Biggs at end of the ship ramp.

    She refused her wages, saying she had never finished her contract, having only sailed three years and nine months on the Something Dreadful. Stern laid into her like a man lays into his dog for shitting the bed. Penny humbly accepted the wages. She then left.

    Totaled with her hospital bill and what she owed the church, the money was only enough to get her back to Tennessee with a fresh set of clothes.


    “I bought a mud-skiff instead.” She finished, in as sweet and measured a way as she’d told the entire tale.

    A mud-skiff was a raft, built like a Frankenstein from the corpses of old boats. They were mostly the vessels of water bums and the stray, enterprising traveler. No man who steered one dared call himself a Captain.

    Penny stood up.

    “Young lady-“ whatever admonishment it was, died in Fuller’s throat.

    She set one foot on the table and pulled up her pant leg. There was a long, waxy looking chunk that looked like pulled taffy on the bottom of one’s shoe; black and flesh colored. Every man who had ever pulled rigging could see the tell tale scars of the double hooks catching wayward flesh. The cuts turned outward and curved like the bent line a painter uses to depict birds in faraway skies. There was one long, snake like smoothness wrapping through this chaos of mangled flesh. It was the long, shiny scar of a very severe rope burn. Many a man in the Raven had one.

    The Captains looked at the girl’s face and no one could hold back his shock, and his heartbreak, when they say the tears standing in her eyes.

    “I had to buy the skiff. I can’t go home, ya see. I broke my promise. I promised I wouldn’t get hurt. So now, I’ve got a boat,” she sat at the table and looked at them, “I’m Captain Penny Dreadful.”

    She held out a hand, not for her free drink, but to shake. Every man at the Captain’s Table shook her hand and introduced himself.

    When the winter nights turned evil, there was always a chair waiting for Captain Penny at the Captain’s table, right next to the stove, for it eased the weather pains in her bad knee.
  21. cswillson

    cswillson Member

    Apr 17, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Used-to-be-Space Coast, Florida
    Sarah’s Smile made good time southbound on the Intercoastal Waterway. At Ft. Lauderdale Mel left the waterway, headed out the inlet on a slack tide, pointed the bow southeast and opened her up for a solo night run across to Freeport.

    “Mel, let me take the helm. Splashing the boat always makes for a stressful day. Let me take it for a couple of hours while you catch a few winks.”
    The moon glinted off the waves of the jet black sea. Mel shook his head and continued to stare into the dark. He had the air conditioner set at seventy-two. The GPS held the course to the degree. The illuminated needles on the gauges were so steady they seemed painted on the dials. A slight rock in long, easy swells lifted the boat in the gentle movement sailors absorb and consider motionless, the kind that makes them sway when they stand on land again.

    In a quiet voice, “Beer, Mel?”
    Mel looked at Nate for the first time in hours. “No, thanks. Iced tea. I’ll get it.”

    Nate nodded but stepped to the refrigerator before Mel could get out of the chair. While Nate sat out his beer and ripped open the carton with the tea Mel pointed to the table.
    “Where the hell did you get that magazine, out of a dumpster?”

    Nate handed up the cold can, then took the well worn, coverless, dog-eared glossy magazine, folded open to an article, and held it up.

    “This is Noah’s Daughter. This is what I’m going after.”

    Mel sat the tea in the cupholder, turned on the reading light above his head and thumbed a couple of pages.

    “Nice boat, Noah. You have better taste than I gave you credit for. Looks like an Alden.”

    “Herreshoff. Updated the rig after some rough weather.”

    “Same builder?”

    “Same boat, Mel. That is Noah’s Daughter. I rechristened her when I registered her.”

    “Your boat was the feature story in Wooden Boat magazine? That’s impressive.” Mel turned the pages back and forth for a minute. “Why’d your wife steal her? Revenge?”

    “No, don’t think so. She loves her, too. They’re incredible, together, Mel. Can’t describe it. Serai made fun of me before we married because of the way I treated the boat and called her my daughter.” Nate looked out at the sea, pointed to the moonlight on the water.

    “One night, kinda like this one, we were on an offshore passage out of Ponce going back up to Savannah. Perfect night, Mel, just perfect. Twenty knot offshore breeze, gentle seas, full moon —gorgeous. We had up every sail she would carry, rail down, bone in her teeth. She was humming, Mel, almost quivering, like a woman those last few seconds before you’ve done all you can do for her. Know what I mean? I stretched out on the leeward cushions and fell asleep with Serai at the helm.”

    Nate turned, motioned toward Mel with his beer. “You ever have one of those times when you don’t know if you were asleep and now awake or you were awake and now dreaming? Happened to me that night. Serai was on the windward side, feet braced against the binnacle, almost standing up because we were heeled over so far, one hand on the wheel, one on the bulwark to steady her, looking up at the telltales on the lower spreader. The moon was on her face. I get goosebumps, Mel, ten years later and I still get goosebumps. She saw me move and said, ‘Nathaniel Noah, I’ll never make fun of you about this boat, again. I love her, I absolutely love her. She’s like my sister, Nate. I just love her.”

    Mel handed back the magazine. “I hope you get her back. I hope you get them both back. I’m going to have to change the way I feel about you, you damn rummy.”

    “Thanks, Mel. That’s the nicest thing you’ve said to me.”

    “Don’t get too hung up on it. It won’t be a habit.” Mel swiveled the seat back to the wheel. A minute later Mel swung back around. “If you had to choose between them, what would it be?”

    “I’d put a match to the boat in a heartbeat.”

    “Yeah, Noah, I’m going to have to change my opinion of you.”
  22. Shandeh

    Shandeh Active Member

    Jun 3, 2013
    Likes Received:
    "I always thought I'd go down with my ship."

    The men already sitting at the table turned to stare at the newcomer.

    "Now, don't look at me like that - like I'm crazy. That ship was everything important to me. She was my wife, my daughter, my sister, my mother. She was all I had left. And now she's gone."

    He was young, but he stood ramrod-straight and had the air of a Naval Officer about him, though he wasn't in uniform. This was a man with rank and status, to be respected.

    "Ah, how rude of me. I've forgotten to introduce myself. Three years ago, when all of this happened, I was a Captain. Now I'm Rear-Admiral Maxwell Halifax. One promotion, but it's changed everything. This story, the story of the loss of my beloved UNSC Spire of Heaven, is the story of the moment that changed my life forever.

    "It was a jump just like any other. The Heaven didn't so much jump into slipspace as... slip. She was an incredibly smooth vessel to captain, and fast. The pride of the fleet. It was about halfway through the intended jump that the troubles started..."

    The deck jolted so hard that Max was flung out of his Captain's chair and sent sprawling across the floor. His bridge Lieutenants didn't fare much better.

    "What happened?" he demanded of the room as a whole, getting back into his chair with as much dignity as he could muster.

    "I am unsure," the shipboard AI, Emerald Sky, replied. Her voice, as with most 'smart' AIs, was distinctly human, and right then, it held a disturbed note to it. "We have dropped out of slipspace. Working... as best I can determine, we were pulled."

    "Bring the ship up to Combat Alert Alpha. I want everyone at their positions!"

    "Yes, Captain."

    It was unusual to call a full combat alert without having made contact with the enemy, but Captain Halifax believed it was better to be safe than sorry, especially in situations like this one.

    The faint sound of alarm klaxons made its way through the walls; Combat Alert alarms didn't sound on the bridge because they could drown out other, potentially more critical alerts. The deck shuddered and one such critical alert sent Max to his feet. In a heartbeat, he had his hands at the main control panel. "Report!"

    "Hull breach in Section Delta, sir!"

    "We've lost missile control! Torpedoes, too!"

    "Losing power! Sir, sensors in the main reactor are reporting overload!"

    "Switching to backup generators," Sky said, her voice the only calm port in a sea of panic. "Shutting down main reactor. Diverting all power to weapons, control and command systems and life support."

    The lights went out - all of them, even the running lights - and the bridge was plunged into blackness. The only light was the dim glow from the various control panels. Curiously, Captain Maxwell Halifax found the darkness almost calming.

    The deck shuddered again; Max almost lost his balance.

    "Sir! Firing control for the main cannon is offline!"

    "Hull breach in Section Bravo!"

    "Ship's superstructure integrity is less than fifty percent!"

    He hit the button for the ship's PA. "Attention all personnel. This is Captain Halifax speaking. We have been pulled from slipspace well within UNSC territory and are now taking damage from an unknown source. Your orders are as follows: remain calm and make your way to the lifeboats. Do not leave until each is fully loaded. The bridge crew will remain at their posts until ordered otherwise."


    "Enemy is approximately forty degrees to starboard." That was Sky. "Wait - I have a reading, at last. Thirty-eight-point-oh-four degrees, distance of one-thousand-fifty-three miles. Calculating firing vectors."

    "Arm all available weapons. Stand by for firing vectors," Max barked.

    "We're f*cking dead!"

    "Have some courage, soldier! Face your death with dignity!"


    "Firing vectors calculated."


    The deck jolted again, with the combined force of recoil from every intact weapon in the ship's arsenal and a hefty hit to the stern. Captain Halifax staggered, then rushed to the small projector above which Emerald Sky's holographic form floated. "We're getting you off this ship, Sky."

    The AI nodded, then disappeared. "Yank me."

    "Lieutenant Imahara, take Sky and get the hell off this ship!" He ejected the AI's data crystal and handed it to Imahara, then slammed his hand down on the PA button agan. "All personnel, abandon ship!"

    There was no time to watch his men leave. Captain Halifax bolted around the bridge, pausing at consoles to wipe their respective databanks. If the enemy ever gained access to this information, everything humanity stood for was finished. The navigation data was especially important. If they found Earth...

    The main control panel beeped at him. All the lifeboats had been launched, bar one. His men would not question his authority, so he knew it was empty.

    He set the Heaven on a collision course with the strange hostile vessel and ran.

    "I didn't get out by much. I launched the last boat just moments before the Heaven hit that enemy ship. I'm still not sure what made me leave, in the end. Duty, perhaps? A knowledge that I could still do a lot of good for the war? I don't know. But I'm glad I did..." he trailed off, pulling his new wife close.
  23. Erasmus B. Dragon

    Erasmus B. Dragon Member

    Jun 20, 2013
    Likes Received:
    The man looked very out of place as he took a seat among the most raucous and gaudy men the galaxy had on offer. Unlike them he did not wear his wealth for all to see. Simple clothes of quality cloth and cut made him stand out among the brocades, feathers, and gold braids of his companions. Where the men that flanked him were loud and demanding, he was quiet and polite. When the barmaid came to refill the drinks the others pinched her bum and flirted, he only said, “Thank you,” and gave her a silver coin.

    But perhaps his most striking feature were the vivid red ropes of scar tissue that ringed each of his wrists.

    He sat, quietly listening, as each of the men and women around the Captain’s Table told their tales. He was the last to speak.

    “My name is Karzaran Toal. I am the captain of the Razor’s Edge. Let me tell you how that came to be.”

    “Never mind that, friend,” the large red-bearded Molarin to Karzaran’s left rumbled. He pinned Karzaran’s hand to the table and pushed up his sleeve to display the scars so all could see. I want to know how you came by slave’s marks, and yet sit here a free man.”

    Karzaran did not flinch or struggle. He seemed to make no objection to the Molarin’s rough handling. He simply said, “Those stories are one and the same.”
    He waited for the Molarin to release him, and when his hand was free he reached for his mug and took a long sip before continuing.

    The captains, rough men and women all, grew quiet and leaned in like younglings at a bard’s feet.

    “I spit on a rich man’s shoes.”

    “I didn’t do it on purpose, and certainly with no insult intended. I’d been unloading a lev-trailer full of garsprite ore, and I’m sure you all know how dusty and nasty that job can be. My mouth was full of the fine powder, and I hawked and spit. Only before the gob could hit the dirt a fine gold-brocaded slipper appeared in the very spot.

    “I was a poor laborer. All I asked for was an honest day’s work for an honest wage. But Ikthar has some of the most draconian debtor’s laws in the galaxy. I could not afford to replace those fine slippers on a lumper’s pay, and so I was sold for the price of a pair of shoes.”

    A grumble of outrage made its way around the table, as spacers are lovers of freedom, but none spoke out of turn, and Karzaran continued.

    “I was taken to the slave markets at Borukhan where I was purchased by a mine agent. One moment of incaution had sentenced me to a life of mining garsprite ore on Kalyadan Five. I worked in the mines for five years, and that’s how I came by these.” He rubbed the scars on his wrists. “When that seam of ore played out we were to be moved to another mine. I was placed aboard a transport freighter with a large group of other healthy slaves with strong backs.

    “What I did not know, what none of us knew but the man himself, is that among that batch of slaves was Micrux Gorlan, the infamous thief and smuggler. He told me later that he had been caught cheating at pong gai, and didn’t have the cash on him to repay the men he’d fleeced. Of course he gave the courts a false name, lest his other crimes lead to a harsher sentence.

    “He’d been in the mines for only a few months, among the last of the transportees to Kalyadan before the mines closed, and he was not as broken as most of us had become. I can look back on it and say that without shame. I was a broken man then. My lungs were full of garsprite dust, and I may have had a few more years left in me, but not too many.

    “Micrux, though… that man had a spirit like no other. He could bow and scrape to our overseers, but there was a steel in his spine that never left him. When we boarded the transport he saw what the rest of us had given up on ever finding. An opportunity.

    “Once the transport left orbit and we were on our way to wherever it was we were going, Micrux began to foam at the mouth. He jerked and spit and raved until the overseers came to see what the problem was.

    “Medical care is expensive, and the lives of slaves are cheap. There was no doctor aboard. The overseers took Micrux by his armpits and dragged him toward the airlock. Now, you recall that he was a thief, and like most he got his start on the streets of Ikthar City as a pickpocket. He lifted two items from the overseers. A vibro-blade, and the control for the shock-cuffs we all wore. He triggered the release for the cuffs and set us all free. Once the cuffs fell from his wrists, he used the blade on one of the overseers. Unfortunately, the second overseer was quick on his feet, and got out of range before Micrux could slit his throat as well.

    “I was nearby when this happened, and, while the others around me moved away from the commotion I moved in to help. I had done the math. If I did nothing I would spend my remaining years slowly choking to death on garsprite dust. If I helped Micrux and his play went wrong, I would spend only a few moments choking on vacuum. If it succeeded I would have my life back to live. I saw no downside to helping him.

    “My arms had been made strong by many years mining, and it was no effort at all to snap the neck of the overseer. The only thing that had kept me from doing it years earlier had been the shock-cuffs, and they were gone.

    “Once the overseers in the slave deck were gone, it took very little time to take the ship. Micrux was a skilled pilot, and he was able to unlock the controls and change our course for the Milinar system, where slavery is outlawed. The transport was provisioned for a much shorter trip, and rations were thin for the thirty of us. Angry, hungry men tend to make poor decisions, and when tempers flared things could get very ugly. Unfortunately, not all of us survived to see freedom, but in that crucible I learned something new about myself. I was a natural peacemaker and leader. Micrux saw it in me as well, and when we finally reached Milinar he made me an offer. He needed help to reclaim his ship and assemble a new crew, and if I would help him he would make me his first mate.

    “It took a couple of years to find his ship and reclaim it, and in that time we became fast friends.

    “He taught me all there was to know about flying a ship, navigating, smuggling, and surviving. After he was killed during a pirate raid, I found a letter among his things. He left the Razor’s Edge to me, and he wrote that a man who is willing to act when all others cower is a great man indeed.

    “I don’t believe that I’m a great man. Just a lucky one.”

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