"Captain, Wreckage dead ahead Sir!" called the sailor in the crows nest.
The XO glanced at Captain Irontoe, a Dwarf, who nodded approval of action. "Reef in the mainsails, all watches on deck. Keep an eye out for survivors and salvage."
A dozen crew scrambled into the rigging around the ship to keep watch as ordered. As several large floating crates came into view, the various watchers began calling out what they were seeing. The ships purser was recording all the observations for the ships log and manifest should there be anything salvageable.
When the spotted items came within range, the XO ordered the longboat dropped and recovery crews begin bringing the salvage in for inspection. One of the upper lookouts called down, "Body floating to the port quarter, sharks sighted nearby.
"AHOY Longboat, head to port, search for body, sharks in sight!" called the XO through a funnel megaphone.
The officer on the boat waved back with his single flag, message received. The rowers turned the boat and quickly moved there small vessel in the indicated direction. A few minutes of hard rowing and the spotter in the bow reported he could see the body in question. "Floating on its back it is sir, and has barrels tied on."
"Close in fast, may still alive then." The boat arrived to pick up what they hoped was a survivor.
"Sir, it's a woman, Elven from the looks sir."
"Is she living?"
"Can't tell yet sir, need to get to her, and hurry about it, sharks closing in."
"Row harder you lot, harder!" yelled the lieutenant in charge.
He knew this was a race they dare not lose if she was still among living. As the boat pulled beside her, the lookout called back, "She's still alive sir, she saw us before passing out."
"Get her aboard now, hurry." As he said that, one of the rowers smacked a shark with his oar as it closed in to bite. The lookout and a rower grabbed her by the ropes around her chest and quickly pulled her soaked body into the boat. "Back to the Far Journey now boys, we need to find out whom she is. Also what ship that was and why they were out here."
The rowers pulled hard and quickly returned to the Journey. The Captain was glad to have even one survivor from a Skyfall wreck. The ship medic looked her over, "How long was she in the water Sir?"
"It took us a day to reach the wreck site, so at least that long. She shouldn't be in to bad a way from such a short time in the drink."
"Sir she is bruised over her entire body, like she was hammered all at once. I think she was caught by the wave. That she survived the wreck, then that says something about her."
"Yeah, she has to be the luckiest Elven ever to have lived."
The XO, a Kerran (Think a cat in human form. This one a grey tabby in color.) "Sir we will have the floating crates on board shortly."
"Well, that is something."
"Aye sir. Has she come around yet?"
"Not yet, Sawbones thinks she will in the next hour or so. She has been able to take water and keep it down so she should survive." He did notice what a wave the size of the one they had ridden out could do to a body in the water. She was totally bruised and beaten looking.
"I hope she does soon sir. We need to know why a boat like that was out this way, so far from the normal shipping lanes. I understand our reason, going to Brother Island and all, but them?"
Both started as a new voice spoke, "We had to dump a piece a deadly cargo in the deepest known area of the Tears, where am I? Last I recall was the wall of water and jumping overboard."
"Well lass, you're awake, good. Who are you and what was that about dumping cargo?"
Tamalain looked around and saw she was on a smaller vessel and it was crewed by several races, including one she had never seen before, at rat walking upright. She could tell by the rank, the Dwarf was the Captain and the Kerran was the XO. The rest she saw were Human, Halfling and gnomes, and one she had read about, an Ogre. The rat person was a mystery to her. That could wait for later though.
"Captain, I am Captain Tamalain Arrowmark of the City of the Upper Glenns, in North Eastern Butcherblock Mountains. As to the cargo, now that it is safely out of reach, it was a chest encased in twenty five tons of lead. The cargo happened to be a full suit of Drakota Scale Armor, with the spirit intact. It was totally insane and near to indestructible by mortal means.'
"Drakota Scale? That would be a wonderful thing to see, except as you said, insane. That explains why you are out here, the question is now what I am to do with you. I am not headed in the direction of your home, so you are stuck."
"Could you use another deck hand Captain, I did get a fair amount of time learning before we sailed and assisted when needed on the Bottomless."
"Junior seaman rates and general gofer duties," said the XO. "We always need help in those areas."
"Yes sir. That I can do," said Tamalain in reply.
"Sir," said the XO, "Refugee is in this general direction, we could drop her there, and snag a few days to properly fix the damage in the rigging in a safe harbor."
"Now that XO is an excellent idea, two birds with one stone. We are what, about four days out?"
About that sir, shall I have the Helm set course for Refugee sir?"
"Make it so XO Talas."
Talas went to handle that, and Captain Irontoe turned his attention back to Tamalain. "I am sure you are wondering what that was about. There is an island about midway between Qeynos and the Common Lands. It is a dumping ground for folk found at sea, like you. They keep you on until it is determined where you can go from there. Now, your first duty is to take care of some of the rats that came aboard at our last stop. Brother Island is awash with them." He handed her a large club and pointed at one of the small rodents running around the crates.
"What of the one walking around in the vest sir?"
"What, no Rotanga in your lands? He is a crewman, no beating him up, or I will toss you over the side."
Tamalain headed down to the cargo decks and quickly began bashing in the brains of the rats running around the holds. The large sack she had was soon full to bursting, so she went back topside and reported to the XO. "My goodness Elven, are there any left?" after she looked in the sack.
"All too many sir, I just need a new sack, what can I do with these."
"Empty the sack overboard, then get some more water and take a break, you are still looking weak."
"Thanks, I'll do that."
She went to the stern and emptied the sack of dead rats. She saw she had bites on her arms, fleabites from the looks. Quickly she dropped the sack and began casting her healing spell and a simple cure disease. No telling what she might be infected with from the bites. She felt something burning on her arms and saw that the two spells had countered something, so she felt she was safe for the moment.
Tamalain looked out over the rough sea's and saw more bits of what was once the Bottomless. It had completed its mission, but why did the crew have to die, they had done no wrong in this, she was the guilty party in this situation. If she had personally seen to the total destruction of the corpse herself, none of this would have happened. Admittedly, Jordan might still have gone off the deep end, but not in such a grand manner.
Well, there was nothing she could do about any of that now. It was her past, and she could never go back to undue the damage done. She could only go forwards and make her future on the path she had seen in the mirror. That would be her new future. Sitting and sipping a little water, a Halfling sat next to her.
"So miss, where you from," he inquired.
She looked at him for a second, and then she decided the truth would due for now. "I was born and raised in the Upper Pass Village in the Greater Faydark. I was at school when the calamity hit. I don't really have a home anymore."
"You mean the Skyfall?"
"Yes. A large stone crushed my village; I lost everybody I loved that day." She choked and tears came unbidden to her eyes as the pain she had deigned all these years finally came forth.
"I'm sorry miss; I didn't mean no harm in asking."
"It's not your fault, I have ... Oh, gods, why did I lose them all, even my little brother. He had so much potential. He would have been me without the darkness and pain. No, not your fault, I have had a hard life. The fire, the fall, then the madness I suffered. Then the Drakota Lord and all the suffering that brought. The destruction of a great leader, and the insanity of an evil woman stealing the life of the heir to the Fay." Tamalain covered her face and cried. Great wracking sobs that brought sadness to all that heard. "Mistemoore and his plots, the damage he did to me as a child. Then Luclin." She looked at the Halfling, she could see tears in his eyes as well.
"Miss, I know saying I am sorry will be of no help, but you live and you have a future ahead of you. The island of Refuge will help you get back on your feet and to determine where you go, Freeport or Qeynos. As to the rats, leave them for now, the XO lost her cap to the wind, and it landed in the crates, I have to find it."
"Want some help with that?"
"Sure, if you think you are up to climbing around the pile of wood on the deck."
Sniffing back more tears, "Yes, I think I am up to that. Let's find the missing cap."
The two of them spent the next hour climbing in and out of the openings between the freight on the deck. Tamalain was about to give up when she saw something yellow down in a gap she could not reach into. She called the Halfling over, "What is your name?" she asked.
"Oh, seaman Greenbrier miss. Did you find it?"
"I found something, but I can't reach it. The opening is too small for me. You might fit though."
"Show me then."
She did, "That is it, ugly yellow thing it is. You have good eyes Miss Arrowmark. Let's see if I can squeeze far enough in to reach it." He crawled down until only his feet remained in sight, hairy toes wriggling. "Got it," he called out, "Pull me up if you would be so kind."
Tamalain grabbed his ankles and pulled. He popped right out and had a nasty yellow cap in hand. "Come on Miss Arrowmark, let return this to the kitty."
"I heard that you little twit, now give me my cap," said the XO. "Now, the both of you, back to work. The decks need swabbing after all that salt water was brought up this morning."
Tamalain and Greenbrier went to the storage bin and got out the mops and buckets. Water was a serious issue on board as it took fresh water to wash the salt off the planking. Greenbrier showed her how to cover the most deck using the least amount of water. This activity, even with half a dozen others helping took the rest of the afternoon. The evening meal was a thin soup and stale bread.
"Is this all you have on board for food?" Tamalain asked one of the other deck hands.
"We are the lowest on the totem pole here, so we get the worst of it. If you are more senior and ranking, you get better food and accommodations. Have you drawn your blanket yet?"
"I wasn't told I needed to do so."
"Better do it now or you will be really cold up here on deck tonight."
Tamalain decided getting a blanket would be a good idea. She headed of to the purser who happened to be on deck at the time.
"How may I assist you Miss Arrowmark?" he asked as she approached.
"I was told I needed to see you about a blanket since I will be sleeping on the deck."
"Ah yes, I don't understand why you are bothering though."
Tamalain got a sneaky feeling she was not going to like what he was about to say. "And why is that?"
"Well, you must understand, we have been at sea for two months now with no descent port of calls for R&R. You are the first approachable female in all that time. You will have plenty of company, whether you want it or not."
"Purser, or what ever you are called," she stared down into his eyes and hers took on the green glow that tended to frighten people into running for their lives, and her hair began to take on the deadly flame look. "If one of you even so much as touch's me, the Doc will be very busy all night fixing broken bones and heads."
"Like a skinny thing like you could resist the bigger folk here."
Now she was in full battle mode, her hair was now lighting the deck with a glow from hells own depths and her eyes caused fear as she looked at him. "I am a battle trained Ranger of the Trueshot school and am blooded in battle and death. Try it and you will..."
She stopped, looked at the sorry little man who had just peed himself. Her hair and eyes shut down. With a sigh, she engaged Camouflage and vanished from sight. Making sure nobody would see the disturbance, she climbed the rigging and settled into the top most Crows nest for the night.
Back on deck, things did not settle down for some time. The deck hands were demanding he tell them where she went. They didn't believe him that she had just vanished. Then one came up with the brilliant idea the Captain snatched her up for himself. Sword wielding officers and the Captain quickly put down the crews attempted mutiny.
"Now what in the blazing hells is going on out here," yelled Captain Irontoe.
"You took the Elven bitch for yourself is what," screamed one of the deck hands.
""You think that you flea bitten rat, well I have news for you, I don't take Elven, I prefer my women short and bearded, so shut your gob."
The Rotanga slipped over to the XO and whispered something nobody else could hear. "She did? Good for her. Ok you worthless dogs, back to sleep now, she could easily kill the entire lot of you and then head off to sleep without a single worry."
With much grumbling, they returned to their blankets and lay down for the night. The Rotanga on the other hand slipped up the rigging to the highest point where Tamalain had settled in.
Before trying to reached over the rim of the basket, he whispered, "May I join you for a bit to talk?"
"You the Rotanga fellow?"
"That would be me, call me Cheezits. That's what the humans call me anyways."
"Come on in Cheezits. I hope you don't have fleas, I had enough of them earlier from the rat killing. I hope that doesn't bother you by the way."
"No on fleas, I hate them, and no, killing those nasty little rodents is a good thing."
"Good, I was worried you would be angry at me for killing a related species."
"Naw, we separated from that line ages ago. Our towns are as overrun as any other by them. I just have trouble with dogs believe it or not."
"Never cared for those either, so what did you come up here to talk about."
"We are talking about it already, I figured you could use some company that isn't going to try and rape you at first chance."
Tamalain looked at him and smiled. "Your right Cheezits, I could use some company. I am more alone now than at any other time in my life. I can't even use escape to return home. I am out of range of my bind point and don't have one set in the Tears.'
"That does suck badly, but you are a survivor, I can see it in you."
"Oh you have no idea what I have survived since I was a child. How I am sane is a miracle really. You know they stripped a year of my memory to return me to sanity, I didn't have clue. Oh have it all back now thanks to the Drakota armor spirit."
"That is against the laws everywhere as I understand it and your own people raped your mind to save your sanity?"
"HA! What they did is nothing compared to what happened when I was nine. Mayong Mistemoore set a trap in my mind to kill the headmaster of the Trueshot academy when I went there. Well that plan backfired badly when he showed up in my village one day and sprung it before I had the power to use it. He tried to kill me, tried to control me, I wrecked him for his efforts. Sent him crawling back to his coffin to sleep for six full years it turned out. That is mind rape."
Cheezits looked at her in awe, "You have met the Vampire of Vampires? My race once served him, but we fled that land forever."
"That must have been a long time ago then Cheezits. The Elven have no stories of your race. How did you leave the continent without being seen?"
"The Underfoot tunnels of Brell. They covered all of Norrath at one time. They are gone how though. The sundering collapsed them and split the lands several centuries ago. Then throw in the Skyfall and you have a total calamity. All the races are lucky to be alive at all right now. Until recently the Luclinite dust was killing everybody everywhere. It just stopped all at once and nobody knows why."
"I may have an answer for you on the Luclinite. Veeshan went off when she found out how deadly that stuff was. She made Luclin come down in person, in astral form to clean it up. The stuff is still nasty, but not kill you in an hour deadly."
"That will be of interest to many of the temples I think. But I will leave that telling to you. Now as to what to do about you for the next three days. The Captain will order them to leave you alone, but those lowlifes will make your life hell on deck."
"How about I get a small water barrel, some food and just stay up here."
"Sorry, no can do. The day watch will be up here just before sunrise, so you will need to be elsewhere by then."
"How about those big crates on the Forecastle, I could hide in there easily."
Cheezits looked down at where she was pointing, "That would work I think. Just stay quiet at night and the bums will never find you. Now I need to go and get a bit of sleep myself. See you in the morning Miss Arrowmark."
"You and call me Tam, Cheezits."
He smiled at that, "Thanks, not many folks give me that privilege."
He slid down one of the many lines that held the mast in place then vanished down a hatch to the cabins below. Tamalain watched the movements on the deck below as several of the men continued to search for her. None seemed to think to look up, not that they would see much in the pitch black outside the lanterns on the deck. She settled in and dropped off to a sound sleep. She was still sore and very tired from the ordeal of being smashed by the wave that finished off the Bottomless.
Just before sunrise, at first nautical light, Tamalain woke and heard voices calling for morning meal and all stations to be manned by sun up. She reactivated her Camo and carefully climbed down a set of ropes that allowed her to reach the stern. From there, she reappeared and went to get breakfast. One other matter bothered, she had to find a toilet, or as they call them on board ships, the head. When she spotted the XO, she went and asked about that and explained that she would kill any crewman that tried anything with her.
"Use the small one next to my quarters, that way those animals don't get an eyeful and tempted to make a grab at you."
Tamalain quickly found the officer head and took care of her morning needs, keeping this in mind for later. Breakfast was a cold gruel and stale bread. This just did not seem right in Tamalains mind. Had something happened she was unaware of? The food should be far better than this, even on a small freighter like this. She spotted Cheezits and went over and sat next to him as he ate.
"What is with the food, did something happen to ruin the better supplies?"
"Nope, this is as goods as it gets with that hairy bastard in command. Complaining to the office doesn't help either. Save a gold here and there is their moto, even if the crew starves."
"What company owns this ship?"
"Far Sea's freight, part of the Far Sea's Trading Company. Now to be honest, I don't know the conditions on other ships, but this one is the least popular to serve on as crew."
"I guess I am lucky then getting off at this Refugee Island."
"If you say so." Cheezits seemed a bit depressed at the thought.
"Can anybody go there, say if you jump ship?"
"No, crews are known and not allowed to go outside the walls, so that idea is out."
"I'm sorry to hear that, I wouldn't mind your company."
"Ha, like that could ever happen. The reason I am on ship is I am wanted as a thief, ok? A pickpocket and street thief, so no, I am a bad choice as a companion. And before you ask, both Freeport and Qeynos want my tail on the gibbet."
"I guess you made your choices, and now suffer for them. We all do that."
As that sat talking, several of the larger crewmen noticed her and waited for the Rat to leave. "I am staying here to keep them away from you so you can eat in peace. In a few minutes you are going to be fighting for your life and virtue."
"Cheezits my friend, have you ever seen a Wood Elven Ranger in Battle mode?"
"Noooo, can't say that I have. Is that a good thing?"
"Depends on whether you are a friend, or an enemy."
"I think I will just stay back here, out of the way as it were."
Tamalain rose and went to the center of the main deck and waited for the first idiot of the day to make his move. The largest human she had seen on deck closed in, "You hid real good girl, now you belong to me." He lunged for her only to find him, self flying face first at the main mast. He managed to get one arm up to take the impact, but it shattered in a number of places, not hurting the ship in the least. His head did hit hard enough to knock him out but not kill him.