Presidente of Isla del Tropico
posted March 02, 2006 11:27 PM
From the personal log of Wotark Beroxx of the Dragoncrest clan
24th of the second month, 940 YSD
Today is the first day of the rest of my military career. I’ve been captain for six weeks now, yet today I got my first assignment as such. It is only a patrol of the southern border, still it is the first mission in command. I never had the habit or urge to keep a personal log, even now, while I’m writing, I don’t know why I am doing this. Strangely enough it satisfies me.
The “Wrath’s Blade”, the ship I will be captaining is moored at the docks, the crew, my new crew is preparing it for the journey . We will set sail tomorrow, in the morning. I am nervous, I’ll admit that. It will not be the first time I mess up an assignment. The catastrophe in the mangroves of Miroa springs to mind……… I must ban these thoughts of doubt. I will have enough trouble sleeping without them.
I must stop writing now, my ink has ran dry.
25th of the second month, 940 YSD
Today was filled with two portents: one good and one bad. I was below decks doing a final inventory when I heard a crashing from above. I rushed up deck to find that someone on the ship end of the loading beam had not brought it down carefully and it had crashed into the main mast, snapping several ropes in the process. The mariner who was scrambling the quickest I decided was the culprit. I waited until he had gotten a hold on the situation and then demanded of him his name.
"Taigord Gaddurakal of the Rayseeker clan, Captain" he responded
"What has just occurred?" I asked.
He then told me of the problems with the loading beam. As I listened to him though I heard something extremely odd. His accent was southern Jugand, the land from which we were departing. Yet hiding behind that accent was another accent, as if he were deliberately trying to mask it. And as he went with his description the other accent started to slink away until by the time he got to the snapping of the ropes and the hitting of the mainstay it was entirely absent. What was the meaning of this? My mind started reeling with possibilities. Was this a saboteur…a spy? Did he bungle this deliberately or was this a gift from Fugarass: the revealing of a traitor in my midst. Or was this just a common sailor who had lived in two different places…and then decided it was important to hide one of those places… unlikely. I ordered him to do two consecutive watches as punishment for his clumsiness but the episode wouldn't leave my mind and caused me more anxiety than any other single event that day. I decided to question him later. Right now though I had to prepare for the Izzodarach, the sending off ceremony.
It was not too long afterwards that the crew had assembled on the main deck. The Third Admiral met me on the gangplank and handed me the whip that was to serve as my symbol of authority for the remainder of the trip. Now came the important part. I dipped the whip in spirits and lit it on fire. I tossed it onto the deck in front of me and issued a loud challenge from the bottom of my gut: "Is there ANYBODY HERE who should be CAPTAIN?" If someone decided to take the challenge they had to reach down and grab the whip in front of me. This put them at a tremendous disadvantage and it was very rare when this happened. Nobody moved. I then reached down into the bottom of my gut again. "Is there anybody here who believes I SHOULD BE CAPTAIN"? Everybody was supposed to shout in their full exuberance "Aye, only you shall be captain!" This was really a test though to see who truly believed what they were saying. Many a captain told me in the academy that the first hint of a mutiny was always right there on the very first day, when a sailor or a group of sailors who didn't want to imbue the phrase with its full meaning decided to give a lacklustre response. I detected nothing amiss and then continued with the dramatic part of the ceremony. I grabbed the flaming whip handle and lashed it across the air to the left, striking a loud report in the air. I stepped back, just like I'd been trained, brought my right foot far out and hammered an equally loud report in the air to my right. The fire sizzled and popped in the morning air. And then bending my entire back into the forward lash of the whip I spun it over my head and brought it down with a thunderous crack on the planking of the ship, putting it out in the process, which was a good portent. Just like I'd been trained in the academy I also watched the crew to see who jumped. The ones that jumped were the ones who were inexperienced, had no guts, or both. (Unfortunately I had neglected to see where Taigord was standing and was thus unable to study his reaction). To finish this part of the ceremony I drew a dagger and walked to the mast. I held the whip against the mast, drove the dagger through the handle of the whip and into the wood. For the third time I drew my voice from my gut and bellowed louder then the other two times: "As long as this whip remains attached to this frigate, I am in COMMAND. ANYONE, who disagrees with MY POSITION, I dare you to remove this whip."
The dockworkers, military attaches, and family members who had assembled for the ceremony let a mighty roar:
"Tec’ Con Aredut Je'go Carrash!" The language was archaic but the meaning was still the same: Come back dead or come back a hero!
The crew raised their arms and shouted in unison:
"Ehhh…Carrash": A HERO!!
The sacrificial swordfish on the ceremonial pyre exploded in flames as the ship rocked with the release of the stays. My entire body was suffused with pride and the doubts that had occupied my mind the previous day were far from my mind. How utterly magnificent. And this was just the Captains send-off. I paused to wonder what the fleet commanders’ send-off might be like. There might come a day. I relished my fantasies for a few more minutes as I thought about my mate. Her father, the chieftain of our clan, required her assistance in Tor'Karth. Nevertheless it was a magnificent send-off, despite her absence. I stood on the foredeck and watched the plume of smoke from the sacrificial pyre dwindle in the distance. And then I turned and faced the water. Tomorrow my assignment truly starts, may Fugarass aid me.
26th of the second month 940 YSD
The First-Mate, Quaboch Clotrag of the Seavulture clan, woke me this morning. He informed me the crew was ready for inspection. Not fully awake, I fell out of my hammock and hit my head on the floor. Unpleasant as it was, it did wake me up fully. After I got dressed, I walked up the stairs leading to the helmdeck of the ship. As I turned to face the crew, the First-Mate pounded his chest in salute and said in a loud voice: "The crew is ready for inspection, Captain," I merely nodded. It was no large crew, besides the thirty Mariners, the crew consisted of twelve Lancethrowers, four Raiders, their Ashwolves and my three officers; the First-Mate, the Navigator and at my special request a priest. Still, it should be enough for this patrol. As I raised my voice, I noticed that the most of my crew were, like the First-Mate, members of the Seavulture clan. The distinctive black feathers in the collar of their jackets gave that away. "Crew, as you already know, we will patrol the South-East border. From Jugand to Akrowtosh. There have been reports of activity of the Deathlords in this region, so every member will have their weapons with them, at all times." I paused and searched for movement in the ranks. All kept perfectly still. "Failure to obey this simple command will be punished, with four lashes. In public." A few shivered and I noticed I didn't see Taigord among the ranks. "I will be planning our course with the Navigator, so all problems are to be reported to the First-Mate until we are finished" After this I left with the Navigator to plan the course.
When I was nearly done, the First-Mate came in. “Anything to report, Mr. Clotrag?” I asked. “No, Captain, nothin’ like that,” he responded. I could hear he was an experienced sailor. The scar on his left cheek also told me that he was an experienced warrior. “It was just that the lads an’ I were wonderin’ what kind of captain ye were?” “What do you mean,” I asked. “Well, some captains are men of action; they rush into battle ahead of the crew and will set an example for the other fighters. Others are more focused on the thinkin’ aspects of captaining and will have the rest of the crew do the battlin’. There are also captains who act like a Warlord in battle. While they do fight along with the crew, they spend most of their time guiding the battle.” “I believe I am most of the latter, Mr. Clotrag. Now return to your duties, we’re almost done here,” I responded. “Aye, Captain,” and with that he left. The rest of the day went as planned. I’ll think about Taigord another time, probably tomorrow.
27th of the second month 940 YSD
Today I made the rounds, checked over Clotrag's duty lists and confirmed our current course for the Western Juekesh Current. We still had a while to go until we reached the current so I took the opportunity to summon Taigord into my quarters.
A moment later he came in and sat down opposite me.
"Why weren't you present, when I inspected the crew ?" I started.
"I was feeling very ill yesterday. I reported this to the First-mate and he said I should rest untill I felt better"
"And now you feel well again ?"
"Well enough to work today."
"Tell me of your career Taigord" I said.
He sat up with military precision and began. "I began in Ashafugara on Jugand as a day-work dock worker. Eventually though I was hired by Vihg Charentin of the Waverider Clan I've never heard of this clanand his half-breed brother to work in his sailhouse. Charentin is a low-order merchant at Ashafugara as far as I knew I still hung around the docks though and eventually I picked up enough that he assigned me to one of his ships. I worked that for one season and then when I heard Captain Gingar was planning his first trip into the Outer Juekesh I signed up for it.
This interested me greatly, for Captain Gingar is famous for exploratory travels. I hadn't heard too much about his earlier years though.
"How far did you get?"
"Not very far, we hit a tempest and lost about half our stores a month out. We continued further and were knocked about by another tempest. Captain Gingar the Traveller decided to return and try again in another season."
"Did you find any Sirenes out there?"
"No, and from what I hear I can thank Fugarass for that."
"Then I went back to work for Charentin for 3 seasons. I decided by this time that I wanted to enlist in the Marine services so I took my basic combat training at Fort Vordum" a fort very close to our port of leave
"After the training though I got lucky and I got an offer to work four seasons on a private rig out of Laren-Chu'ud." which there would be no way to corroborate"The pay was excellent and it was enough for me to pay of my downpayments for my house in Ashafugara."
I paused to consider that and he continued without my asking.
"When I got back here, I finally enlisted. This was my first assignment"
"Why did you leave the Laren Chu'ud assignment?"
"Boredom mainly. I would see my mates and they'd always have great stories to tell me in the tavern."
"You've spent all your life here in South Jugand"
I decided to just spring it on him
"Yet you don't speak like a South Jugandese, or like a Tor'Karthian for that matter"
"Well, the three years that I spent on the private rig, almost the entire crew was Mergesh"
smooth. He had anticipated my question. and rehearsed perhaps
"You've had a lot of dock work, how is it that someone so experienced such as yourself could bungle a simple stores transferance."
"I was a new member of the team. I wasn't ready for the tempo that the rest of the crew was working at.I looked him straight in the eye to see if I could find anything in his countenance would betray his words. I didn't.
He turned to leave and I ruminated on his answers. So far he had said nothing that would arouse my suspicions. Still though, my mind wouldn't rest. I decided that the next time we were placed under stress I was going to be close to him to examine his actions. Meanwhile I was going to try to gather any information I could about Laren Chu'ud, the Mergesh, the Waverider clan and the merchant captain he worked for.
We finally reached the Western Juekesh current at the 3rd afternoon workshift.The wind is weak against us here but the current is strongly with us so I had Clotrag reef the sails and organize the men into rowing shifts.I've been in the current once before and it's a remarkable sensation. The wind carries with it a panoply of scents, fruits and flowers, many of which are completely foreign to us. It is an amazing sensation and many mariners speak fondly of the experience. Today though it smelled different than my first time. I stood on the foredeck for a long time trying to identify what it was, until I finally realized what it was I was smelling…decay. The reports were true it seems, not just rumors.
1st of the third month 940 YSD
Thank Fugarass we are moving with the current. The wind has deserted us and without the current the men would be exhausted, a condition that would
hinder us in even more peril than I already fear. The scent of decay is increasing every hour, and the morale of the crew is diminishing with every
Mariner Taigord although suspicious has proven himself as a strong rower, as well as a humorous storyteller, providing distraction from the eminent danger.
I've sent two albatrosses today. One to Jugand to give word of our findings to my superiors and update them of our progress. The second I've sent to Tor'Karth, to my mate. Carrying a personal letter to her and a note to her father asking for information about Laren Chu'ud, the Mergesh, the Waverider clan and Vihg Charentin. I still don't understand why human sailors fear these intelligent birds, still I shouldn't complain as they can destroy the morale onboard human vessels, a fact that has saved many lives in battle.
I am placated somewhat by the presence of priest Mur'Fass. I called him into my quarters this evening and was comforted by his calm manner and staunch faith. I had summoned him after a Mariner detected smoke billowing from a small island just outside the border, a sign that needed further interpretation. Mur'Fass spoke of a fire burning from the heart of Tor'Kin, as the island was named, its magma flowing with the love of Fugarass and extending the island to near-habitable proportions. His globe shimmered red as he spoke, the fire in his eyes flickering with each word. After many years serving with priests, this was the first time one had looked me in the eye, and I was humbled.
I digress… Mur'Fass reassured me that fire was a damaging weapon against the undead, and that the odour of putrid flesh would fuel our bloodlust as we
destroyed the enemy. I reassured him that we were only here on a patrolling mission.
I'll talk to Clotrag tomorow about not reporting Taigord's sickness a few days earlier. I should also find a way to raise the morale of the crew, or find a way to mask the horrible stench the Deathlords left behind.
2nd day of the third month 940 YSD
It seems Sylath and Fugarass are having a fight with each other. The wind has been against us since last evening. What’s even worse is that this cursed wind enhances the Deathlords stench. Mur’Fass was right about one thing, the smell makes the crew want to battle the Deathlords, just to make the smell stop.
This morning Clotrag came with more bad news. I was just eating my morning meal when he came in.
“Captain Beroxx, I’m sorry to be disturbin’ your meal, but I feel I have to tell ye this”
“That’s fine, I can hardly eat with this putrid smell anyway,” I said.
“That’s exactly the problem, captain. Ye’re not the only one. The lads say the same thing and the Ashwolves downright refuse to eat. We have to do something about it, captain”
“I know, I know. I have been thinking about that all morning. Any suggestions, Mr Clotrag?”
“We could plug our noses” he said carefully.
“No, that won’t help very much. Some of the men tried that yesterday, when they were on rowing duty. Unfortunately they fell of their benches, gasping for air, not long afterwards.”
“Perhaps we should light a large fire on the frontdeck. That’ll mask the smell and it’ll also please the Volcano Lord”
“We could, but we only have enough oil for half a day to light such a fire,” I replied.
“Aye, hadn’t thought of that and we can’t use the tar either. We need that for emergency leak repair”
“Exactly and we would also be an easy target at night. The only thing we could do, is soak our heads regularly with seawater. That will mask the sent a bit”
“We’ll look like fools and we’ll smell salty fer weeks, but ye’re right, captain. It’s our only option,” Clotrag sighed and turned to leave.
“One more thing, Mr Clotrag. Try to remember to report to me, when a Mariner is sick”
“ Aye Captain, I will,” then he tilted his head a little and asked, “why do ye ask?”
“Apparently, mariner Gaddurakal was sick the first day. Yet I received no notion of you”
“I’m sorry, captain. I didn’t think it was important and I wanted to save him form the shame”
“Which shame are you talking about?” I asked.
“It’s rather embarrassing t’be hit in the head by some fallen rigging on your first real voyage. Will that be all, captain Beroxx?”
“Yes, dismissed”First real voyage ? I wonder what Arkata and her father can find out about him
Late in the afternoon Sylath’s gale brought rain. While the rain masked the stench better then the seawater, it didn’t make the sailing any easier. Neither did it improve the morale of the crew. I’ve persuaded Mur’Fass to give a sermon tomorrow. That should improve the spirit of the men, just as it did a few days ago.
Once more I think of Miroa. We were lucky that day, we could have starved. I’m also glad my Navigator is an experienced helmsman. I wouldn’t want to run the ship over a reef, again. It seems that every time I am in charge of something important, it turns into a disaster. Miroa, Barracuda reef, the transport incident, all examples of my incapability. Arkata, my mate, you told me that the Grand-Admiral saw something in me, just like your father. You told me that was the reasons why he made me an officer in the first place. Yet you never told me what it was.
I must stop torturing myself like this. It’s not Arkata’s fault, I doubt myself. It’s no one’s fault but my own. I must stop writing now and have a nightcap.
3rd day of the third month 940 YSD
We've reached the point where the Juekesh current starts to disperse into the Southern Juekesh and lose it's force. Clotrag measured the stars this morning and also confirmed that we've slowed down a great deal since yesterday. And the wind has suddenly turned fickle. For a few minutes it will fill our sails and drive us forward, and then suddenly it will push us to the side or seemingly blow in circles. The sailors struggling with the sails are having a real time of it so I have decided to rely primarily on the rowers to keep us going forward.
On the upside Mur'fass gave an astonishing speech today on the foredeck. I was expecting merely a morale boost but it turned into something much greater. I will try to recreate it here to the best of my ability.
"Fellow mariners. Yesterday, when the stench of the dead was at it's strongest. I made my prayers to Fugarass but he did not answer me. This didn't surprise me for sometimes he is silent for a reason.
So I decided to do the rites of Iush. I took the mud-hen and fed it the first 8 budding seeds of the Iushmeg plant. I waited until the hour of the dead and then I cut it open to look at how many of the shells had cracked and what color the inner seeds were. When I took the knife and cut the belly of the bird open to study the seeds however I became utterly astonished. There was no stomach in the bird! The seeds too had completely vanished! What could this mean? I've studied to be a priest all my life and this has never happened before. I sat down to ponder the meaning and was suddenly gripped with a fever. My self-doubts multiplied until I could do nothing more than lie down and try to understand if I had somehow offended him. I could not sleep though and was continually racked with a fever. In the third quarter of the night, my fever still had not abated and I drifted into an uncomfortable sleep. But I see now that all things happen for a purpose, for when I was sleeping Fugarass came to me in a dream, and he said:
"Mur'fass. Wake up and listen.
I have watched over your people for 30 generations now. At the very beginning when you were slaves, who's only destiny in life was to march onto the battlefield and die, I wept at the injustice. My tears boiled hot under the earth until the earth could contain them no more.You know this, as do all of your people.
You also know that I was the one that gave your people the courage they needed to rise against your masters. When you went against the Masters of the Powerfull Arts, I lent to you my righteous fury so that they would be unable to trick you with their illusions. And when you went against the Lords of War with their highly refined weapons and war machines, I was the one that gave you the courage to keep fighting when all seemed lost. And finally when you won your hard fought freedom, I was the one that led you here to these islands, which were formed from the tears of my righteous anger.
Mur'fass, I want you to tell your people that your struggles haven't ended. The oppressors your ancestors knew will be replaced with oppressors of a different kind. In the coming years and generations many of you will die. But always I will be with you. I made a promise long ago that as long as you call my name when you raise your weapons in battle I would never allow you to become slaves again. And I will keep that promise. For when you die, and your enemy will seek to make you his unwilling servant, I will send my fire to you and bring you onto me and your enemy will be denied.
This is my gift to your people Mur'fass. Tell them."
So now I stand before you today to tell you this. You know how these Deathlords are and what they do to you if you succumb to their wickedness. I do not need to tell you this at all. But I can now tell you that no longer will you need to fear being animated into a hideous mockery of your former self. No longer will you be denied the rest that you have earned from your valor on the battlefield. No longer will you be made to kill your friends, family, and clanmembers, or travel to unknown lands to fight peoples whom you have never met, or march endlessly with no idea of joy or brotherhood or the gift of freedom. From this day henceforth, as you go into battle with the name of Fugarass on your lips, you shall know one thing and one thing only. Glory! Fugarass has spoken!"
At this point he began to sing eh Egrehk , the song of our ancestors.
During the civil war the song fell out of favor, but all Orcs know it and the effect was electrifying when combined with the speech. The crew was silent during the first part of the song, the slow chant-like dirge that represented the era of bondage. Then everybody joined in when it came to the rousing choral part that represented the liberation and journey to freedom. ( At this point I was worried because of the different versions of the song that exist. We have several different clans on our boat and if Mur'fass picked a version that sleighted one of the clans then it could cause trouble. Fortunately he picked an obscure version. The effect was a little bit discordant but it was highly diplomatic.)
I didn't join in the singing but instead pondered over what Mur'fass had said. If what he said was true, then this was a truly a turning point in our struggles on the southern border. On the other hand Mur'fass has (in addition to his reputation for being headstrong) a reputation for being imaginative. Whatever the case may be the effect was electrifying on our ships moral. For three days now we've been rowing in the ill wind of the Deathlords without so much as a glimpse. After the speech though I thought I saw both the rowers and the sailors who were struggling with the sails carry a new lightness in their motions.
My hand is tired now so I will rest for the night. I just checked with Clotrag and we still have another five days to go before we reach the hidden base at Bol Grin. If the Deathlords still to refuse to show themselves I am going to try to gather my thoughts and record the circumstances under which I came to be a naval officer and in command my own boat.
4th of the third month
One of the albatrosses returned today, the one I had sent to Jugand. It didn’t say much, as I expected. Apart from the usually military rambling, all it said was “Carry on” and “Send a second report when you have reached Bol Grin”. When I was done reading the albatross was still sitting on my table and he looked at me as if he was saying: ”Aren’t you going to feed me after this long voyage ?” I couldn’t help laughing and gave the bird a chuck of fish. While the albatross was eating, my mind wandered back home. That albatross had reminded me of my Ashwolf, Gristork. I got that wolf as a pup, when I was still in the cavalry. Life was a lot simpler back in the cavalry. I didn’t have to give orders then, just obey them. All I had to worry about was how to keep Gristork at peak health and not to leave my helmet in the tavern at night. As I sunk deeper in my daydream, I could almost see Gristork’s emerald eyes and feel his shaggy grey fur. It was the albatross that woke me from my daydream. The bird apparently had walked into his cage and was squawking and pecking at his cover. I covered his cage to give him the rest he deserved.
It was probably because of this daydream but I had the sudden urge to inspect the raiders. The part of the cargo hold where the Ashwolves were kept, was dark and smelled very earthy. This was to resemble the burrows where the Ashwolves lived in as pups, which kept them from growing restless during the long ocean voyages. As I approached I could see the four Ashwolves were sleeping and that three of the raiders were up on the decks. The fourth raider was sitting near the wolves on a box of cargo. When I came near them I saw the raider tense and move his arm , probably towards his hatchet.
“Al’s clear, raider. I’ve come to inspect the wolves,” I said.I said this to calm him, raiders had a tendency to be rather jumpy
“Aye, captain. Be sure to watch for the piece of rope that’s lying around there somewhere, or you might trip,” he visibly relaxed while he said this.
“I will, how are the wolves? Will they be ready for battle once we spot the Deathlords ?”
“Aye, captain. Now we’re out of the smell, they started eating again”
As we were talking, one of the Ashwolves woke up and moved towards me. When it was near, it sniffed me in my neck and started nudging me with its head. I scratched it behind its ear, which it seemingly liked.
“Bladefang seems to like you captain. Usually, he doesn’t like to touched by strangers,” the raider said.
“I didn’t know that. I do know that my own wolf asks to be scratched in the exact same way”
“You were a raider before, captain?”
“No, I was a cavalrist for five years. So I know my way around Ashwolves,” I responded.
The raider nodded. At that moment the wolf jerked its head away and started growling towards the door. A moment later the door swung open. “Captain, be ye in here ?” It was Clotrag.
“Yes, I’m here. What is it, Mr. Clotrag?”
“We got us a bit of a problem, captain”
“What kind of problem ?”
“I think it’d be best if you saw it yourself, captain”
I followed Clotrag up to the deck. Once my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw what problem Clotrag was talking about.
“Aye, and those saboteurs are doin’ what they do best. Attackin’ our oars”
Technically black dolphins aren’t dolphins, they’re aquatic reptiles but they look a lot like dolphins. They’re known well for their aggression, they will attack anything that’s bigger then a young goat. Especially when they’re swimming in schools. It seems the dolphins had chosen our oars to be their next lunch and were attacking our oars as they came into the water.
“I’ve seen this a dozen o’ times. They won’t stop until all our oars are broken,” Clotrag said.
“I’ve never seen them attack oars before and I can’t think of a reason why they would”
“I can, captain. There’s probably no prey for them near here, so they came to us when they heard the splashing of our oars. They think it’s fish that makes the splashes”
“I see. Mr Clotrag, get me three of our Lancethrowers and tell them to tie lines to their lances”
When Clotrag came back a few moments later, he summoned the Lancethrowers as I ordered.
I told them my plan.
“Alright men, I’ve been observing the black dolphins and every time our oars hit the water one of them attacks the oars. I want you three to throw your lances at the attacking black dolphin and haul him onboard, so we can kill these pests. If my theory is correct these cowards will flee as soon as we start to fight back”
My plan worked as a charm, as soon as we hauled the third onboard the remaining black dolphins scattered. When my battle hammer had crushed the skull of the third dolphin, I continued with my plans.
“Mr Clotrag, go down to the rowing deck and make sure that the broken oars are repaired. After you have done that, I want you to summon priest Kazragore as we are going to sacrifice this dolphin to Fugarass,” I said while pointing to the skinniest of the three dolphins. “The other two will be our meal for tonight. Aside from being very healthy, it will be the first thing fresh we eat since the start of the journey”
When the sun was setting we sacrificed the remaining black dolphin. the other two were surprisingly tasty All crewmembers that weren’t on duty were present at this ceremony. As captain it was my duty to lead this ceremony along with Mur’Fass, who was wearing his ceremonial robes. Mur’Fass started.
“Great Fugarass, Lord of Volcanoes, Father of orcish Freedom, we humble sailors call upon you. We wish to give the Master of Flame a token of our gratitude. With this gift we also pray you, Great Dragon, to continue to watch over us”
At that point Mur’Fass handed me an unlit torch. And continued.
“Let the might of Fugarass spark this sacrifice”
Then Mur’Fass’ eyes and the orb on his staff started to blaze. A blink of an eye later the torch that was handed to me, erupted in flames and set itself alight. This signalled my part. I walked over to the fire brazier, where the body of the black dolphin lay in a small puddle of oil.
“With this torch, I will set alight this animal of sacrifice. May the fire of our Lord consume this beast, as we did it brothers.” With those words I set alight the oil and as the fire started to burn the dolphin, I said solemnly: “We pray that this sacrifice will please our Lord, so he will continue to grant us his favour,” I raised my battle hammer into the sky, “and let our weapons be the avatar of Fugarass’ anger, as we battle his and our enemies. May his fire vaporize the chilled bones of the Deathlords, as we slay them in the name of the Volcano Lord”
With that Mur’Fass once more took the word.
“Most of all, let the Patron of the Orcs keep us from premature death and let us return to our beloved ones. With that he will show that his might surpasses that of any other Dragon, for Fugarass knows when he should serve justice and when to show mercy. So he, and we with him, shall achieve the Highest Honour !” After these words everyone onboard bellowed in unison.
“For only the Orcs, the Children of Fugarass, are worthy of such Honour! So we will please our Dragongod !”
As we all silenced the pyre erupted in flames and consumed the black dolphin in mere moments.
With that everyone returned to their duties.
And with this written I retire for the night.
5th of the third month.
To Arkata: After looking over this entry in my log I realized that I wrote the second half of it for you.
Since nothing has occurred yet today I will take the opportunity to describe the circumstances of my life and how I came to be Captain of my own vessel. I was birthed in the year 910 YSD but I consider my life to have begun in 917. This was three years after my mother Axxea died from a sickness and 2 months after my father's ship was lost in a battle. After the sudden and cumulative death of my two parents I understood that our fates rest with a higher power and that all I could do is put myself in the hands of Fugarass and trust that he will guide me to my most fulfilling destiny. It is this philosophy which has guided me for the rest of my life.
I felt it was the hand of Fugarass which led me to enlist in the navy the first time. You must remember the story that I told you, about how I took a wrong turn one day and came to the ocean just in time to see the return of the fleet lit up in the full blaze of the morning sun. Seeing that glorious spectacle was what caused me to join the navy the first time.(and also perhaps the memory of my father) I didn't regret joining for a moment, for the short time that I spent there was valuable to me in learning the complex code of discipline and independence, despite the fact that I never saw combat. I also felt Fugarass was watching over me later on when I left the navy and was designated as an assistant to my grandfather, the Chieftain of the Lobsterclaw clan. Of all the times in my life that was perhaps the most enjoyable. I got to know many high ranking Chieftains and officers during this time, one of which of course led to meeting you. (although I also feel a great deal of regret during this time that I wasn't sharing the risk that many of the mariners on duty were going through). When my grandfather Frugath resigned from his Chieftainship I decided to resume my previous life's course and rejoined the Navy, where I found after a few years that I made a better Ashwolf rider than I did a strict Mariner. It was this realisation I think that enabled me to make such rapid progress towards the rank of lieutenant. I think my life would have progressed very well after that if it were not for the unfortunate Miroa incident.
It is late afternoon now and it has continued to be an uneventfull day today so I will record this incident and give my thoughts on it. Before I continue though you should realize that while the Sand Goblins are currently occupied with the trouble that they stirred up with the humans that was not the situation when I was a lieutenant in the cavalry. During that time period they were highly active on our northern borders and almost all of their depredations were originating from a set of islands that are situated half way between the Tears and the Lunisian peninsula.
There is a large island called Oghgrate and several outlying islands. Our strategy was to surprise the sand goblins by dividing our forces into two. One attack would be against the main settlement on Oghgrate and the second attack would be on a secondary settlement on the island of Miroa. If we could destroy them both, all of the other settlements would be forced to evacuate or face their piecemeal destruction.
Now it is common knowledge that when dealing with the Sand Goblins it is foolish to try to come at them from the sea. The usual procedure which has worked very well in the past is to make a surprise attack from land during their semi-annual arts and crafts festival. Our own Captain decided to split our forces into three for reasons of stealth and speed. We were to meet up near a certain rock fixture and then proceed en masse towards the landward side of the sand goblin's settlement. Unfortunately during the reconnaissance almost all of our scouts went missing. The result of which was that we were running into the interior of Miroa pretty much blind.
The crew that I was designated to lead was the second largest. Despite the lack of scouting reports though we got off to a good start. About one and a half suncycles into the marchhowever we got hit hard by a thunderstorm. That was bad enough but our luck finally ran out several hours later when we were hit by a mudslide and then buried in a quickly developing gash of quicksand. Our losses were substantial and due to the time spent recovering we were unable to make the rendezvous with the rest of our forces. It is difficult to say whether this had an even larger effect on the attempts to wrest control of Oghgrate and Miroa from the goblins. The attack on the Miroa settlement failed, because our forces were missing from the attack, but the goblins eventually evacuated anyway, so the effect was the same.
Later on, during the great court-debate that occurred on the flagship Swordarm, I was cleared of the accusation of incompetence. However I hid a fact that was overlooked and would have made me look bad, which is that on the way I had seen several Kogszhis birds that had gone to ground.
I need to explain now that when I was growing up I had a neighbor who kept several of these birds. They are somewhat rare in the southern climates so I was interested in them. The neighbor mentioned that they go to ground whenever there is a thunderstorm approaching, and indeed I witnessed this several times. They are uncanny in their ability to predict thunderstorms.
During the march into the interior I noticed several of these birds making their burrows. I realized that there was a thunderstorm approaching however I didn't complete the square and realize that the interior was about to become mired in quicksand from all the excess water. If I had figured things out sooner I would have led the troupe on an overnight march up to the stony cliffs that deck the western side of Miroa. Unfortunately I didn't and as a consequence we got hit by the mudslide and then buried in the quicksand which cost us 2 suncycles, not to mention 8 ashwolves, 3 mariners, and almost all our supplies. Over the years I have berated myself numerous time for this oversight but at the time of the Swordarm debate I didn't feel the courage necessary to add to my own small plight.
Having written all this down for the first time I feel greatly relieved. Arkata I also feel blessed that I had already met you by the time of this debacle, for it was your support that carried me through when I most wanted to leave the Navy. If someone else finds this journal after I am dead I hope they realize that I have set out with a purpose in life to prove my worth and through my valourous deeds to counterbalance the horrible mistake that occurred at Miroa.
It is three days before Bol Grin.
6th of the third month, 940 YSD
A day of firsts it was today. It was the first time I had to punish someone. One of the Lancethrowers had failed to obey the first command on the ship, to carry their weapons with them at all times. I spotted him during my inspection of the nightshift I am not even sure if I should write this in today’s entry, since the border between days is vague during the night. As I walked up the deck, I saw he wasn’t carrying his lancequiver. I gently walked up to him, he was not facing my way until I was very close to him.
“Where are your weapons, soldier ?” I asked ironically gently.
He turned around he faced me now, I could now see it was the leader of the Lancethrowers and saluted me.
“I am sorry, Captain. I deserve to be punished, for I forgot to take them with me”
“Indeed,” I replied and I had Clotrag summon the entire crew. A few moments later the entire crew, save Priest Kazragore apparently he was in trance and could and should not be woken up was up on deck and had formed a small circle around the central mast. The Lancethrower stood near the mast, strained he awaited his punishment. I took the dagger I drove through the whip out of the mast and picked up the black whip before it hit the ground. It seemed the rain of the days before had not washed of the soot that clung to the whip. I raised my voice, as I did that first day.
“Today, this soldier failed to obey a simple command. He forgot to carry his weapons. For this negligence he shall be punished,” I bellowed.
As all Lancethrowers, he was bare-chested, which saved him the humiliation to take of his clothes. I took a deep breath and lashed the whip across his back. Each time the whip bit the flesh of the Lancethrower he flinched, but he didn’t utter a single cry. After the fourth lash, I could see the Lancethrower was gritting his teeth in pain. I raised my voice again.
“Let this soldier be an example to you all. Even though he has been punished, he bears his punishment whit Honour and Pride. He has not made up any excuses for his negligence, NO, he said himself that he deserved to be punished. This Orc is a living example of how a true warrior accepts his faults. As of now, the punishment for failing to carry your weapons is raised to six lashes and it will be raised every time I have to punish someone for failing this simple task”
I walked back to the mast to put the whip back, my eyes locked with those of the Lancethrower. I could see he was still in pain, but he seemed to be thankful for the praise I had given him.
Later that night I had a most peculiar dream. I will write down what I remember before I forget it, it might mean something. The first thing I remember is the sea, it was covered everything as far as I could see. Out of the sea rose a giant, bone tipped spear. As soon as the spear was out of the water it imploded and formed a black sphere. The sphere the started to tremble and eventually exploded. Where the sphere hovered before, now hung an obsidian axe head. The Sea was very violent during these events. As the axe head hung there the sea calmed and when the sea was entirely calm again the axe head erupted in flames. Out of nowhere then came a transparent dragon, which devoured the flaming axe. The Dragon turned grey and eventually became black. The black dragon then tries to evaporate the sea with its breath of fire. As hard as the dragon tries, every time it evaporates a part of the sea, the column of steam that is caused by it’s breath turns into a rain cloud and rains into the sea. After what seemed like days of trying, the dragon fall exhausted into the sea. As the dragon sinks into the sea, the axe head burns trough the body of the dragon. Again the axe head hovers above the sea. It hangs there for some time, just smouldering. Then it’s flames suddenly erupt again. After that I woke up. I do not know if this dream is important or if it means something, still I have the feeling I should write down this dream. I hope that this feeling will reside now I’ve written this down.
Today we’ve also seen the first “living” sign of the Deathlords. Not long after midday the lookout spotted the vessel. As commanded, the lookout blew the foghorn as soon as he saw it. Before I could give the command, the crew rushed up to the deck, dressed for battle. I gave the Navigator to turn the ship to pursue the vessel. A few moments later the Raiders came from below decks, as did Mur’Fass. It was obvious that the men were eager to fight.
“What kind of vessel do you see !” I shouted to the lookout.
“No large one, that’s for sure Captain. Fugarass may burn my soul if more then seven men are aboard,” he replied.
I gave the order for the Raiders and the Lancethrowers to stand down. As we got closer to the boat, we could see the lookout was right. The ship was no larger then a five-man escape raft although it had a small sail, so it could not be more then a scout.
“Bah, this dinghy is not worth our effort, we should turn the ship around again to pursue their master !” Mur’Fass said, overzealous as ever.
“They might have information of the plans of the Deathlords, I say we should capture this boat and see what they are carrying,” Clotrag said.
“You are much mistaking, when you exterminate termites, it does not matter if a few workers get away, as long as you kill the queen of their nest. The halfdead are no different,” Mur’Fass replied.
“Aside from insulting termites by comparing them with these abominations, it is you who is making the mistake….”
While I left my two senior officers to their bickering, I signalled the Navigator the turn the broadside of our ship to the boat when we get near. When we drew even closer, we all could see there were four skeletons manning the small vessel and that were lightly armed.
“Ready three grapples, haul that vessel in !” I ordered. “Unsheathe your cutlasses, they might offer some resistance”
When the grapples hit the boat, the skeletons jerked upward, as if they had been oblivious to us the whole time. By the time they had pulled out their flimsy axes, their boat was already alongside ours and five mariners had jumped on their vessel. Two of the Mariners had aimed their jump poorly and landed on top of two of the skeletons, instead of right next to them to putt them out of battle quickly whit a swift slash of their cutlass. Despite the matter the battle was over before it had actually begun. A few moment later two skeletons were “dead” and the two who were landed upon were standing on our deck, unarmed and restrained.
“What should we do with these, Captain ?” one of the Mariners asked.
“Trying to interrogate them would be a waste of time. Bind their arms behind their back, bind their legs to their arms and drop them over the rail. They won’t cause any harm, when they lie bound on the on the ocean floor,” I said. I called two other mariners to me.
“Search the halfdead’s boat, take every thing of value or use and make me a list of your findings”
I turned around just in time to seem the skeletons dropped overboard, their sickly green glowing eyes showed no emotion. I also saw that Clotrag and Mur’Fass were still arguing. I walked up to them, I had to split them up before the would start a fight.
“Both of you, be quiet !” I called, “I will not have my two senior officers fighting with each other. Return to your duties before I have you lashed !”
Mur’Fass turned around, snarled and walked to his hut. Clotrag opened his mouth to say something but I was faster.
“Not a word, Mr. Clotrag, get back to your work”
He also walked away. Two officers fight could possibly wreck the morale of the crew and start an inner war. That is not going to happen if I have anything to say about it. Apart from the fact the Clotrag and Mur’Fass were avoiding and ignoring each other, the rest of the day was without anything worth reporting. The day after tomorrow we should reach Bol Grin.
7th of the third month, 940 YSD
two Albatrosses were recovered today, however one was haggard and thin and the other was still healthy and bouyant with energy. It was clear that even though we received them both at the same time they were dispatched several days from each other.
The first was from my mate. Interestingly this one carried more pertinent military information than the official military message. It seems that several friends of hers were waiting for their mates to return from duty on the northern borders. However their boats were not ordered to port but we're instead directed south. This set my heart racing because it meant that some broader plan is being enacted in our field of war.
In regards to my other questions concerning Taigord and his past it appears that my mate has gone all out in an effort to recover the answers.
Vihg Charentin, the merchant who (possibly) hired Taigord for four seasons was accused of war profiteering several years ago. There aren't many records of that though because not too long after the accusation it was dropped without a so much as whisper. This isn't a terribly unusual occurrence however.
Laren Chu'ud is one of the Eastern tears, though it is actually not too distant from South Jugand. The western parts of the tear are very beautifull and in times of peace, Chieftains and other affluent men will occasionally journey there to visit the ruined temples and try their luck at finding some treasures in the "sunken colonies" as the submerged ruins are called. When Taigord mentioned that he was working for a private rig, he could have meant the private boat of one of these affluent men, or the boat of one of the treasure hunters, or perhaps the Captain of a private militia that provides security for the affluent. I doubt the latter though because he would have had some stories to tell in the tavern for sure if he had been doing this. My guess is that it was a private boat (if his story is true_. Irregardless, my mate has a few high friends, and they have even higher friends, and all inquiries in this matter have turned up nothing in regards to Taigords four years at Laren Chu'ud.
Concerning the Mergesh accent that he claimed to have picked up, I knew that the Mergesh were a Northestern Clan, though didn't know too much else about them. They are somewhat independent and only participate in larger Orc efforts when it seems they have something to gain, although they resent this slur. My mate, bless her fiery heart, actually went to Lingstrohm where there is a sizable Mergesh colony. (even when they mix with other Orcs they still seem to keep to themselves.) She is still making inquiries but so far she hasn't been able to find any information about any Mergesh working in Laren Chu'ud, which is how Taigord claimed to have picked up his accent.
So far all inquiries either point to Taigord lying or working with scoundrels. I've realized now that there is the possibility of an enemy within as well as an enemy without, although I've racked my brains to try and figure out what the possible motivation is for putting a spy on my boat. I took the fresh albatross and sent him back to the Tears with a message requesting my mate to detail anything she knows about the enemies of the Dragoncrest clan, (her native clan and my adoptive clan).
The second "official" military message said that our patrol duties were being curtailed. We were to report to Bol Grin as usual but we were going to receive fresh instructions once there. I found this be a bit of a contradiction because while I was in the ashwolf cavalry our commander almost always shared with us the broad objectives that we were trying to achieve. Currently, however, even though I am in the command structure I am being kept in the dark. I brought this up with both Mur'fass and Clotrag but they could make no sense out of it either.
8th of the third month 940 YSD
Thanks to a preferable wind last night, the Wrath’s Blade made Bol Grin in the early morning. Ariving early according to the schedule is a good thing, it gives us time to make a few minor repairs to the hull, time to replace the few oars we lost and time to take aboard extra supplies. As we moored at the docks I ordered the Raiders to take their Ashwolves through a hard exercise, it will do them good as they have been “locked up” on the ship for about two weeks. I left Clotrag in charge of the work on the ship, I wanted to the see the ranking officer of the base. As I walked down the docks, a young Orcish sailor bumped into me. As I had more bulk then this youngling, he stumbled a few paces back.
“Are you Captain Beroxx of the Wrath’s Blade ?” The sailor asked, while glancing at my crested helmet.
“I am,” I responded.
“The Camp Governor wishes to see you. His office is…”as I expected
“I know the way,” I said before he could finish his sentence. ”And next time, salute a superior officer before you address him”
With that I walked away, leaving the young sailor a little dazed. Before I could entered the complex, I was bothered by the Dockmaster of Bol Grin. I had no time for the usual paperwork and procedures, so I told the Dockmaster to go to my First Mate with his business and shoved him aside to unblock my path. I knew where the Camp Governor office was, I’ve been to Bol Grin before, thought not as Captain. On my way there I passed several other Orcs, but I was in to much of a hurry to take notice of them. The two guards saluted me when I roughly opened the doors to the office. The Camp Governor, Wilbar Harkot, was sitting in the back of the room behind a large table. His head jerked up when I entered the room.
“You’re supposed to let the guards announce you, before entering my office, Captain Beroxx” Harkot said hastily. Harkot was very “by the book” and well known for that. I’m glad that I’m equal in rank, so I, at least, didn’t have to play along. While I, like almost every other officer, see the use of the regulations, I do not follow them to the rune. Unlike Harkot.
“I don’t have the time for ceremony, Harkot. So just give me the new orders, so I can get back to work,” I said.
Harkot sounded a small bell and one of the guards entered the room. The guard saluted Harkot first and me second and loudly proclaimed he awaited his orders.
“Get the sealed letter that came last morning, Decurion,” Harkot said.
The Decurion saluted again and left the room.
“Don’t say you haven’t red the orders yet,” I sighed
“I haven’t, I am supposed to open it in you presence, before I brief you for your next mission. As regulations states, WE do things by the book here,” Harkot replied.
“All twenty-six volumes,” I whispered annoyed “How long is this going to take? I have better things to do, then to listen to you read from the Navalcode.”
“This shouldn’t take long, Captain Beroxx. You will probably receive reinforcements from the Bol Grin garrison so I need to know what you’re supposed to receive,” I hate the way Harkot talks about his troops as if they were mere things, instead of persons
While Harkot was talking the guard re-entered the office and after he saluted us, he handed the sealed parchment to Harkot.
“Dismissed, Decurion” Harkot said. He waited until the Decurion had left the room, before he opened the orders. He read the entire parchment literally out-loud. Summarised it said that the Deathlords presence was greater then anticipated, I was to receive twenty extra mariners, eight extra Lancethrowers, four extra Raiders and a Seige Turtle. I am supposed leave tomorrow, to meet four other ships just south of Brakeroth, so we, together, could wipe out the Deathlords. Afterwards we are to return directly to Tor’Karth to report to the Grand-Admiral in person.
As soon as Harkot was finished, I grabbed my orders and left. Knowing Harkot, he would send me a list of my reinforcements in triplicate as soon as he had handpicked them, if I had asked him or not.
I went back to the docks, to inform my own officers. After I was finished I retreated to my quarters with the Navigator to plan our new course. The triple list came late in the afternoon and the reinforcements came just before sunset. We left that night, we are ahead of schedule and I plan to stay that way.
Iron from Ice.