Beyond Here Lies Nothing

Captains Log - East Farhold Pt 1

Our trip from Wooden Point to East Farhold started out with a literal bang. In the center of the water between the two continents we sighted a merchant vessel riding low in the water; its hold was obviously full of valuable trade goods. We altered our path to intercept them. Mr. Corsair took the helm, the Magister barked orders that no one listened to, and I readied the boarding party. In the end it wasn’t necessary – the wind was with us and we caught them fairly quickly. Corsair fired a shot into their masses, killing many, and as soon as the ships were close enough I leapt aboard onto their dock, bringing my blade down through the front of a man as I did so. The rest of the merchant crew was unwilling to attack after that, and I called it a victory.

Some small change was found in the hold of the ship in addition to a plethora of trade goods that would be worth a small fortune should we find a buyer. The opposing captain – I never did catch his name – put up slight resistance when I told him to empty him person of the wealth on his person, including the baubles he wore ’round fingers and neck. He claimed one of the rings – a large white gold ring with a wreath of emeralds – would not come off, that his fingers were simple too fat. So I took a hatchet to his hand and removed the offending digits. I sent him to the brig and asked the rest of the crew if they wanted to join me; none refused.

I sent Odin with the newly renamed ship – The Dragon’s Horde – to meet us in the smugglers cove we oft frequented. The other men at sea knew him as my pawn; none would attack or raid him lest they wish to draw the wrath of the Arrogance down upon them.

Unfortunately, our trip across East Farhold did not go so well. We opted to explore the land; the travelling was slower, but we covered more ground to discover what the continent might hold. Perhaps this notion was misguided on my end. We didn’t need to come to this isle; the idea was mine and mine alone, and so the blood and loss that resulted because of my decision is a burden I must bear alone.

The first night within the jungle of East Farhold destruction sank its claws into our ranks. I set out with six men plus myself: The Magister, Mr. Corsair, Scout, Vargas, Keller, and Seax. Scout and Vargas (The Hatchet) have been with me for years. They have lived and breathed my orders. But these were the first two to die for the cause. I must have been more tired than I imagined to not hear the sound of Vargas being dragged off into the woods. By the time my attention was grabbed by a low snarl it was too late to do anything for Scout, for a monstrous black cat had buried its teeth deep in the man’s chest. Corsair, the Magister, and myself had a difficult time dispatching of the beast; it was quick as a whip, and as soon as I thought we had gained the upper hand it took off into the woods. We attempted to follow but the poor light did little to aid us. In the end all we could do was bury Scout and search for Vargas when the sun rose. We found his hatchet sometime later. This worried me, of course – the man slept with it. If he had abandoned his hatchet, his namesake, then his wounds must have been dire indeed. I can only hope that we find him in our subsequent exploration.

Our trip did not improve in the coming time. From there we ran into quick sand and a tribe of cannibals, easily dispatched (and with a map), and then we came across a family of ugly brutes. The stench around their cave dwelling was appalling; they seemed to be lying in their own filth and discarded meals. They were shaggy and horned, and the only word that came to mind was “troll.” The two little trolls retreated into the cave while the larger – the male – took an aggressive stance. Luckily combat was not initiated and we passed without a hitch.

And then the plant. The monstrous plant that first grabbed the Magister – always first on the scene – and yanked him in up to the waist. Other tentacles found my throat and took Corsair in hand; the battle was long and bloody, with the Magister retaining the worst of the wounds. He lost a lot of blood, his leg was poisoned, and for a few moments there we considered the option of taking it off. We settled down to allow him to rest for the night and the next day…and discovered that we were sitting atop a colony of giant ants. Do the horrors of this place not end? We escaped the area before they could seek vengeance for the leg I apparently ripped off one of their kind with a trap I set (whoops) and found our way to the shore and the ship marked off on the map from the cannibals. Another map and some gold was within the chest on board, but it appeared as if no one else was around. I sent Keller and Seax back to the ship.

The Magister, Corsair, and I have made camp near what appears to be an old temple. Our wounds have healed and we have decided to explore it. Still no sight of Vargas or the demon-cats that took him. I will find him. If he is dead his body will be returned to the sea, and I will make it a point to skin one of the beasts and wear its fur as a cloak. Perhaps a pair of boots.

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In The Hip Pocket

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On Magic and Admiralties
The Journal of Jon Corsair

Tuesday, Eighth Day of Kindling, Year 1133 of the Common Era, 9 of the reign of King Boaz Adaer I

Wooden Point is not what you’d call a glorious and cosmopolitan city. So named after the peninsular motte and bailey stronghold of House Isan, the protectors of the town, it’s mostly dependent on ship repairs and some small trade with the southern lords ever since its status at entrepot for East Farhold was cut off by the revolution there. But it does make a good resupply for our voyage, and as I found out our beloved Captain had other reasons for dropping anchor there as well.

Two other rogues were at anchor in the bay; one, the Ocean’s Damnation, we’d tangled with before, to Tobias the so-called Widowmaker’s great displeasure. The other I took to be the Golden Blade, recently rechristened the “Revolution’s Thunder” and in service to the navy of the Senate of East Farhold.Tom Blackmark was her master, styling himself “admiral” of their navy. He agreed to let us slip by in return for some forged letters of marque from The Magister. What he intends to do with them I’m not rightly sure, but he’s a fool if he thinks Levas will give him a pass based on a marque. My old lord has little love for the throne at Stonesage and loves taking prizes on the seas from the gun deck of his Kraken. May they kill each other.

But I get ahead of myself. After taking refreshment at the Young Sparrow (which took half a lifetime) and taking in a fight in the alley beside the tavern, I set out to find again the Captain and Magister. Apparently the Captain is looking for family again. I suppose I, of all people in this world, should understand the longing for kin. Some shim bastard name of Goann Risio was stirring up the people of the Point against a dryad or naiad of some kind, but we managed to pursue the nymph into the forest before the mob could set out in earnest.

Curse that whoreson in the Redshore that put a ball through my leg. I was limping slowly enough that I let the other two go on ahead so I could distract the mob as they fanned out through the trees to bushwhack for the poor girl. Superstitious cravens, they were. A single flare and a shouted threat in Classical Arximian and they were running back for the Point, screaming to the Patrons to protect them. Set the forest on fire, though. Shame, that.

The Captain and Magister I caught up to at Isan’s Rock in the middle of the forest, an old stone circle built by the Ones that came before men. I’m no mage and no fey, but I am a nobleman of House Holyoake and know the ancient laws of hospitality as well as any. I stripped myself of my weapons and walked into the circle, announcing myself and my innocent intentions in the name of the stars, earth and sea. It worked; a young girl (human, I should add) poked her head out from a crevice in the rock, and agreed to follow us back to the Arrogance. She claimed to be a mere curious devotee of the dryad. I thought more might be at work and said as much, and she admitted she’d been given a gift by the spirit; a seed which grew miraculously into a flower at a moment’s touch. Old magic indeed. We went back to the henge the next morning at dawn.

It was… difficult to describe. A fog of monarch butterflies that settled on every surface of the rock, whispering in a language none could speak but the trees and creeks of Arxim. It seemed they lingered and murmured for hours, but it couldn’t have been more than a few minutes at the very most. The captain remained to meditate on what she’d seen, while the Magister and I escorted the child back to port. She vanished partway through the city with a mocking smile; we’d found our dryad after all.

The Magister seemed perturbed, but I merely lit my pipe and shrugged. Magic is old and dying in our world; I put my trust in other things. I’ve always admired the words of House Hiller in that regard; Steel and Powder. Practical indeed. We shall need every ounce of our practicality and intelligence when we arrive in the wilds of Farhold. Aye, and perhaps a dash of magic besides.

(at the bottom, in pencil)

Helena hasn’t yet responded to my letters. I know it’s only been a few days since I sent the last but I worry all the same. Knight watch and protect her and her family.

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Captains Log - Wooden Point

Wooden Point. No time to write a proper log, the waters are choppy and my ink pot threatens to spill with every swell of the waves. So just the basics, then.

Ocean’s Damnation in port when we docked. Tobias the Widowmaker is in town – I do hope he stays on his side of the fence, I’d hate to deprive him of all his crew. He fancies himself my rival, but to be true he is nothing more than an up-jumped rat playing amongst the lions.

Linaelus Auve – a scholar of sorts, one who studies fey – is easy to find. After we retired to his home he informs me of the recent developments within the city, namely that one Goann Risio – the town ruffian, I gather – is behind a hunt on the “monster in the woods.” This is bad news. He needed to be eliminated.

A brief meeting between myself, the Magister, and Mr. Corsair took place aboard the Arrogance, where we decided to take Risio into custody. We’d put the sword to him and find out what he knew about the dryad he hunted. At this point Mr. Corsair requested aid from the Magister with some documents he needed drawn up for a ship. Something about marks from the kingdom for the rebels on East Farhold so our trip over there would be smooth. I admit that I find myself mildly perturbed that he did not bother consulting me about this – I’ll need to speak to him later.

We arrived back in town just in time to see a mob forming up to hunt the dryad. Corsair distracted the men while the Magister and I tracked her through the forest, eventually stumbling across Isan’s Rock, an incredibly magical place. We found a young girl that was searching for the dryad as well; she mentioned a flower but did not extrapolate. We returned to the ship for the evening and were back to Isan’s Rock by sunup.

This was where the magic happened; this is what I had been waiting for. A dark cloud descended upon us as the sun rose, and when it came close enough we could see that the cloud was hundreds – thousands – of butterflies flying together in formation. They alighted on the rocks of the monument and one was so bold as to crawl over my shoulder and neck. We all heard the dryad’s laughter in the air, but none of us saw her. When the butterflies cleared we saw a seed, and it bloomed as soon as I plucked it from the earth into a beautiful red, orange, and green flower, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. The girl told me it was the dryad’s calling card; she had been given a similar one some two years ago.

I cannot begin to find the words for what happened next. As I mediated between the stones of Isan’s Rock I felt a presence within my mind. I knew it was the dryad. I will not transcribe the events that followed, only to say that it was nothing like anything I’d experienced before. I did receive the information I wanted.

And now, out at sea on my way to East Farhold, I am struck by an idea. It has occurred to me that the men I am bringing with me – the majority of whom are pirates – are more suited to a life at sea than on land. If we are to conquer these unknown lands in the name of the king – or, more aptly, in the name of Tamatyrus Dremal – we will need men who are familiar with navigating across strange lands. It is definitely something worth looking into.

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Letters of Marque and Lessons of Men
The Journal of Jon Corsair

Saturday, Fifth Day of Kindling, Year 1133 of the Common Era, 9 of the reign of King Boaz Adaer I

Opportunities in my chosen profession universally come with a great deal of risk. This I have learned from years at my task and it took some time for me to develop an understanding of how best to ameliorate those risks without forgoing the opportunities. All the same, sometimes things end poorly. Explosively, one might say.

When The Magister arrived I frankly didn’t know whether to shake his hand or push him overboard. But a letter of marque from the Palace at Stonesage should not be hastily refused. King Boaz seems to want someone, anyone, to push into the little-known lands to the North to chart and claim them in the name of Arxim. Naturally he has the all-too-recent conflicts with Par Fess and Lillerland on his mind, and to be sure the Toying With Arrogance is one of the most celebrated (if infamous) ships of the Six Seas of Arxim. But all royal gifts are poisoned. Adaer only wants us to claim these lands so he knows who he’ll be shelling and hanging when accounts are settled. Much easier than going in blind and risking expensive warships. Smart. The captain was much more enthusiastic than I’d have otherwise anticipated. She senses an angle here, and I suspect I might know what it is. But enough speculation on that.

We landed at the Redshore at sunrise yesterday and after provisioning the Arrogance I gave the crew a liberty for the evening. The Magister tried to jolly me along on the waterfront, he obviously thinks my noble blood inspires me to some form of kinship with the man. Perhaps it would, were his beloved King not still trying to shed my blood in vengeance. Do you pet the hounds of your family’s hated foe? I made my own modest purchases, paper and ink, a few books and spirits for the journey. The captain wants us first to investigate the southern half of the rebel province of East Farhold. She suspects someone there might be able to help direct us in the North. I think otherwise, but she is master of the ship and so her order stands.

I asked around and heard that a few salts from the Giant’s Bane were due dance to the hangman’s tune on the morrow. The Bane was well regarded as a terror on the seas and her men, once I met them, passed my muster for recruitment to the Arrogance. I made sure to say all of this loudly and repeatedly in the proximity of the Magister to see if he’d tip off the guard. He did. Useful to know, although it did complicate the evening’s events.

The jailbreak proceeded without too-terrible incident until the actual “springing” (to use common parlance) took place. Then every thief, lout and tanner-sack of the Shore busted loose to run for the docks. Irritating, especially with the guard on heightened alert. I consider myself the acme of restraint for not painting the cobbles with the Magister’s brains right then and there. I rousted our men at the Hag, a wine-sink of considerable ill-repute, and had begun to think all might go without major distraction.

Then the front of the damned building blew in.

The Magister took it worse than I did, struck deaf and dazed by the blast. I got behind the bar in time to take only minor wounds. The man striding through the smoke was looking for me. “Jon Corsair, you shall not escape the King’s Justice!” he cried. I answered back and challenged him to draw his pistol. And he put a ball right through my leg. Incredible shot, considering the circumstances, and I almost crumbled then and there. But I fired back and caught him in the shoulder. Gouting blood, he retreated, cursing me and swearing “they” would find me again. I limped back to the Arrogance, firing my flare gun and ensuring all crew was aboard before I pulled up the gangway.

We were pursued, briefly, by The Infinity of the royal navy, but a quick volley from the main broadside saw them off fairly effectively. The Magister bound up my leg, and now here I sit. The captain is in a black mood about the whole affair, and I don’t entirely blame her. I started the exercise mostly to test the Magister’s loyalty, and in that I suppose I succeeded. Beyond that the evening was something of a fiasco, I fear.

Ah, well. Opportunities and risks. The nature of our trade. And none of our crew dead and the baucans waves still above the mast. I must leave this, now, and finish the log. Two new crew to enter and a small expenditure of powder and round shot to record. And I must finish that letter to Helena…

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